A quick glance at the track list for B.o.B’s debut album, B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray, might seem as if the Decatur, Ga., rapper was simply using his widespread connections in an attempt to increase sales.
The record features prominent mainstream artists — T.I., Lupe Fiasco, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Hayley Williams of Paramore and Eminem — with B.o.B, born Bobby Ray Simmons, performing only four solo songs.
After listening to all the tracks, however, it becomes apparent that B.o.B has more than enough talent to succeed on his own and could even reach the same level of status as some of the featured artists. The guest spots almost seem like afterthoughts compared to B.o.B’s impressive rhyming, singing and lyrical abilities.
B.o.B has often been compared to fellow Georgian rapper Andre 3000 of Outkast because of his similar voice and flow delivery. But from the album’s opener, “Don’t Let Me Fall,” B.o.B proves that he’s a unique artist. He seamlessly switches between melodic singing and quick-fire rapping, a trend that stays consistent throughout much of the album. The 21-year-old artist also plays guitar and keyboards on many of the songs, further demonstrating his versatility and boldness as a performer.
While The Adventures of Bobby Ray pushes the boundaries of hip-hop by creating a unique blend of genres, some of his songs lean toward the cheesy side of the popular music spectrum.
For instance, the chorus of “Airplanes,” sung by Williams, sounds as if it could easily fit on the soundtrack of a lower-rate Disney television musical. Despite the corny nature of the song, B.o.B still manages to provide thought-provoking lyricism about what his life would be like without the rap genre.
Further demonstrating B.o.B’s incredible versatility is the more boastful “Bet I,” featuring fellow Atlanta rappers T.I. and Playboy Tre.
This song — in addition to the uncontrollably catchy “Nothin’ On You” and the aforementioned “Airplanes” — is one of B.o.B’s songs that has been receiving heavy radio play lately.
The fact that these three singles are almost equally as popular but vary so greatly in style is yet another testament to B.o.B’s musical abilities.
“Nothin’ On You” is a love song with a smooth, soaring R&B hook; “Airplanes” is a mid-tempo, emotional song; and “Bet I” is a Southern rap anthem. Despite their differences, the songs are all highlighted by B.o.B’s recognizable rhymes and ability to craft catchy, enjoyable songs.
B.o.B’s ability is also apparent on many of the album’s less familiar songs. On “The Kids,” a song that features a Vampire Weekend sample, he shows his serious side with lyrics such as We’re trapped inside a matrix / Forced to play our hands / We’re filled with so much hatred / The kids don’t stand a chance.
In addition to “The Kids,” songs such as “Magic” featuring Rivers Cuomo, “Past My Shades” featuring Lupe Fiasco and “Fame” are all nearly as catchy as the album’s first three singles and could easily be future hits.
On songs like “Ghost In the Machine” and “Lovelier Than You,” however, B.o.B drops his rapping almost completely in an attempt to demonstrate his guitar and vocal abilities. There’s no question that B.o.B is a talented singer, but his primarily vocal songs are not nearly as impressive as the songs in which he shows off his natural rhyming abilities. “Ghost In The Machine,” a nearly five-minute-long ballad, gets a bit repetitive and boring about halfway through. Similarly, the lyrics on “Lovelier Than You” sound far too similar to “Nothin’ On You” and B.o.B’s acoustic strumming is not that impressive.
Overall, B.o.B establishes himself as an incredibly talented artist on The Adventures of Bobby Ray. The songs greatly vary in style and content, and though his debut album may be filled with popular artists and unavoidably catchy singles, B.o.B has proven that he’ll be able to succeed on his own in the future.