ALBUM REVIEW: B.O.B. – The Adventures of Bobby Ray
by Marcus K. Dowling
B.O.B. feat Janelle Monae – The Kids
B.O.B. feat Eminem and Hayley Williams – Airplanes Part 2
Let’s all hope and pray that Atlanta’s Bobby Ray Simmons never changes. With a disarming charm and wit and wholesome nature that makes every word he speaks sound honest and heartfelt, let’s all welcome the rising prince of emo hop to the table. In just over 46 minutes, the Atlanta born and bred emcee creates 2010’s first pop masterpiece, his debut album The Adventures of Bobby Ray signaling to every other emo emcee that there’s fun, color, and happiness to blend with all the pain, and that happy days are to be had to balance all of the apparent sadness in the universe. It’s a pop music silver lining of an album at play here, one that elevates the spirit as well as is a perpetual listening good time, quotable and memorable hooks, brilliant melodies and nearly note perfect production allowing for B.o.B. to shine as bright as humanly possible on his debut.
The key element that makes this album a success is that B.o.B. never lets us see him sweat. As at home with Hayley Williams of Paramore or Rivers Cuomo of Weezer as he is with frequent collaborator Playboy Tre and his Grand Hustle label head T.I., the lengths that the artist is willing to extend himself to for the goal of his artistic expression are quite evident. This album is a pop album steeped in hip hop sensibilities. It’s one of the first of it’s kind in quite some time, as on a major label release, what so many independent artists have attempted and succeeded in doing on a smaller level is explored and successful on an international stage. “Airplanes,” both the duet with the waif-like and cute Paramore lead singer and especially with her and hip hop legend Eminem is the front-runner for song of the year. A hopeful, yearning pop song about changing your stars and making it out of your situation is the front runner for “Song of the Year” consideration. Eminem on the remix is a brilliant turn, as between 8 Mile and “Lose Yourself,” he’s the best known arbiter of the hopeful dreamer that succeeded archetype in hip hop today.
That’s not the only hit here. Newcomers The Smeezington’s production “Nothing on You” is a platinum single for a reason. It has a gigantic hook, and B.o.B. is perfectly comfortable in the role of lovelorn lothario. B.o.B. also takes a stab at becoming the next David Banner, a southern emcee as comfortable behind the boards as he is spitting bars. His three productions, album opener “Don’t Let Me Fall,” “Ghost In the Machine,” and “Lovelier than You” are sparse instrumental pieces barren of electronic handicraft that are definite winners. Katy Perry and Ke$ha’s best friend Dr. Luke produces blaring, Hot Topic hipster aimed synth pop number “Magic,” with Rivers Cuomo of Weezer on the hook, as yes, the same man who once said “If you want to destroy my sweater, pull this thread as I walk away,”attempts more pop opulence with “when I hit the floor the girls come snappin’ at me,” but certainly falls woefully short, Weezer’s various attempts at hitching their wagons to 21st century popular culture as of late making them once again financially viable, but not necessarily doing their legacy any favors.
In final, what separates B.o.B.from the Drakes and Kid Cudis of the world is an intense refusal to have any modicum of self awareness. The second that Drake and Cudi stopped crying and started popping bottles, their innocence and vulnerability was gone,and so went a great deal of their ability to craft a direction for their rap careers. Drake and Cudi were made from celebrating a fleeting hopefulness in the face of the unspeakable weight of the 21st century reality. As soon as they made it to the mainstream, they seemingly became unencumbered of this pressure, and ave not been as focused or quite the same to their legions of fans. B.o.B. appears to be exactly what he is. Humble, happy and wanting to express a slightly different reality and existence. In not choosing to be effortlessly positive in the face of the pitiable nature of humankind, he has allowed himself the freedom to craft a successful vision of a career. The Adventures of Bobby Ray, in culling together all of the brief snapshots of joy, even in the face of pain, may indeed be the best album of 2010.