Rating: 4/5 stars
Pros: Sounds like a mix of Andre 3000, Kid Cudi and T.I.
Cons: B.o.B is still figuring out what he wants to say.
Bottom Line: A promising debut album from a young rapper with unlimited potential.
Airplanes, Part II
Most rappers' first albums revolve around their lives before music. They usually don't become disillusioned with the fame until albums two or three. The Adventures of Bobby Ray accelerates this process; it's the debut of a 21-year old rapper who somehow already sounds jaded and world-weary.
An Atlanta rapper named for the Outkast single "Bombs over Baghdad", he was signed to a record label soon after finishing high school at age 17. He made a name for himself on the mix-tape circuit and landed a cover of XXL, but remained in label purgatory for years. This despite frequent comparisons to Andre 3000, with whom he shares a similar eclectic musical taste and the ability to carry a tune.
But, as he laments, it takes more than talent to succeed: "Somebody take me back to the days / Back when I was rapping for the hell of it / Can I get a wish to end the politics / and get back to the music that started this." While the existential angst of stardom is hardly a new topic for musicians, it's rather rare for a musician not yet a star.
The Adventures of Bobby Ray, with the #1 single "Nothing on You", could change that. It's similar to Andre 3000's The Love Below, with B.o.B going back forth smoothly between singing and rapping over a diverse array of instruments, from guitars to pianos and synthesizers. He has both a natural ear for melodies and the ability to rap with big-name guests like Lupe Fiasco ("Past My Shades"), Eminem ("Airplanes, Part II") and label boss T.I. ("Bet I").
Throughout, he showcases a layer of introspection and self-doubt unusual for a rapper. He pleads on the intro "that what comes up must come down/ so don't let me fall." On "Airplanes", he compares airplanes to shooting stars and wishes upon them that "everyone know my name / and everywhere I go people want to hear me sing / And I just dropped my new album / on my first week did 500,000."
In this climate, no rapper is guaranteed even a second album anymore, not even someone as talented as B.o.B.