Review Summary: Alternative hip-hop for the masses. But above all, this is really a concrete testament to the diversity in, and the morphability of, hip-hop...or is it?
It's been long overdue. Seeing as B.o.B generated some serious hype in '08, he's been due to explode for quite awhile now. A solid all around artist, B.o.B is not only a rapper and a singer, but a multi-instrumentalist and mixer. After a postponement that spanned the course of five months, his debut album is here. After being exalted by several of my school's senior sh*tty music correspondents, I expected this to be just another sappy, multi-platinum, radio-rap release. Boy, was I dead
wrong. B.o.B. is, essentially, the mainstream's one man version of The Roots. Needless to say, he's not as good, less thoughtful, and more pop-influenced, but the comparison stands to serve.
Despite being a newbie under the southern regime that employ crunk, snap rap, and pop-hop as the triad of platinum-driving subgenres, B.o.B. is really unique considering what region he hails from. If first impressions counted for anything, one would believe this is a techno-influenced, alternative hip-hop album in the lieu of Kid Cudi. After all, the cover artwork screams out "thoughtful" and "electronica" amongst other things, and the first song, "Don't Let Me Fall," is sci-fi pop with tinges of acoustic rock. But that's not right at all. The next track, "Nothin' On You," displays strong R&B influences. Still not right, let's skim through some more. "Past My Shades" is infused with bouncy, bluesy soul, "Airplanes" is tinged with emotional pop, and "Bet I" is your typical southern beat fare, pumped full of heavy electronics and bumping bass . I don't know if B.o.B was just trying to craft a musical portfolio with a diverse blend of sounds and styles, but this album seems to weigh itself down with an identity crisis. Despite being instrumentally good, the overall musical aspect is sporadic and shapeshifting, and that makes for an uncomfortable, less-than-flawless album flow.
So what common themes does
it have? B.o.B. delivers some some good lyrics that is essentially a combination of smarts, feelings, and pop sensibilities. Regardless of the fact that his lyrics incorporate hulking pop elements, they're still deep. (Well, that is, with taking into account the standards of the mainstream.) However, B.o.B. does a great job of portraying himself as a hipster. Regardless of whether or not he actually is, his donning of sleek, modernist glasses in the video for "Nothin' On You" and casual wielding of guitars in multiple photographs, compliment his hipster look so well, it's disturbing. But I digress. Along with his indie-like image, he has a knack for creating pop appeal. With guests like Hayley Williams, Eminem, and Rivers Cuomo (of Weezer) representing his pop sensibilities, and guests like Lupe Fiasco representing his 'alternative' side, it's clear that B.o.B. has the best of both worlds.
He sings (well, and without autotune, thank you very much,) he plays (multiple instruments) and he raps (in a literate, barely uptempo fashion.) B.o.B. is your go-to one man band. Unhindered by the trifecta of plagues that beleaguers the image of the south. In a region that reeks of amateurism, materialism, and unoriginality, B.o.B. is something fresh, original, and talented. I was impressed by his debut, and can only hope he expounds on the potential he displays on ...The Adventures of Bobby Ray