B.o.B. spent much of last year transitioning from a mixtape machine to the mainstream artist responsible for such hits as Airplane and Nothin’ On You. His first album The Ballad of Bobby Ray was a crossover success freaturing guest spots from Haley Williams of Paramore and Bruno Mars of the Teen Choice Awards. Bobby Ray sold over a 500,000 records and was certified gold. The question remains can B.o.B go back to the sound that won him his first fans, the sound that can’t relay on doo-woping emo crooners to hook the pre-teens.
The first song EPIC (featuring Playboy Tre and Meek Mill) begins with a muddled, underwaterbeat and a building synth string line that lives up to the epic theme. Bobby Ray sounds solid as a rock on the first verse. Meek Mill finishes off the last verse well. The problem comes with Playboy Tre. His wordplays are so basic. He manages to spout off lines that are just off:
Foolish as Will Ferrell/ But I ain’t got no step brother/ I’ll fuck your step mother
I’m getting bread/ I put my dick up in your face/ Your face’ll look like Stewie’s head
He even makes sure to promote himself with his upcoming album Patron & Instrumental. Can’t help but think he hurt his sales figures with these sixteen. Bobby Ray needs to drop this guy quick.
The criticism of B.o.B. has been his repitive flow, ba da dada ba ba da da da ba ba da da da da dadadada. All of his lines are short and almost never incorporate multiple sllyable rhymes. The flow only changes to go double time for a few beats every couple of measures. This begins to create a stale sound after a few songs. The one thing B.o.B. does to combat this is to try his hat at singing. This is evident on the track What Are We Doing. B.o.B sings the chorus and he sounds great. Hitting the notes just perfectly. I have a hard time thinking of a artist that can rap and sing both at such a high level as Bobby Ray.
The unique thing B.o.B does that other artists struggle with, is finding a balance between the agressive street style and soft poppy choruses. This is no better seen than on the track Perfect Symmetry featuring 2 Chainz. The song uses a sample from Machester Orchestra for the chorus. The juxtaposition between the beat and the indie rock guitar rifts add nicely to the motif. B.o.B seems to sound at home on a track featuring artists from all spectra of music genres. Would not be suprised to see songs on his next album showing up with songs with anyone from Lady Gaga to Gym Class Heroes.
5 on the Kush brings the true highlight of the album, featuring Bun B and Big Krit. A southern tinged, club afterthought featuring a sample from the Five Stairways classic We Must Be in Love. It’s got a really sick, downturned chorus:
5 on the Kush 20 on the drink/ So loaded in the club that a nigga can’t think.
Bobby Ray transitions from rapping to singing like he does so well in the opening verse. Bun B is straight in the clutch on this, comfortable with the subject and his cemented position in southern music. Big KRIT sounds great as well and makes it even more evident how well he compliments B. They need to do a colab album like no one else, a veritable passing of the torch. A man can dream.
EPIC ends up being a great mixtape. B.o.B brings a great mix of variety to keep the listener interested throughout the 15 tracks. While B.o.B’s flow gets repetitive at times the quality of the guest spots and the samples more than makes up for this. This is definitely a tape with staying power and will be heard throughout the holiday season. B.o.B’s next endeavor will be the anticipated album Strange Clouds which is expected to be released in March of 2012.
Top Tracks: Wrong, Perfect Symmetry, 5 on the Kush, Fucked Up
Direct Download: B.o.B. – EPIC: Every Play is Crucial