Jared Leingang, Reporter
The career of artist Bobby Ray Simmons, aka B.o.B, has had plenty of success. From his breakout debut project, The Adventures of Bobby Ray, which went double platinum in 2010 (for sales of two million copies) to his 2013 release Underground Luxury, which some say was a flop. B.o.B has always written songs that blend the genres of pop and rap with tracks like Airplanes or So Good and even releasing a mix tape titled No Genre, but he seems to have never found his own sound.
B.o.B’s 2017 studio album, titled Ether, is his first since 2013 and fourth overall. This album is different in that it’s his first independent release. After claiming his label, Atlantic Records, was suppressing him, B.o.B broke away and created the whole album himself.
The first track, titled FanMail is him reciting the various comments and mail he has received from fans over the years, and it isn’t positive feedback from fans.
One line that stood out was, “We don’t wanna hear your conspiracies and we don’t wanna hear your political views about extraterrestrial activity.”
B.o.B has made news the past few years for his controversial views, from his claim that the moon landing was staged to being labeled a conspiracy theorist by others. B.o.B has also become an activist against GMOs and Monsanto, participating in a march against Monsanto that occurred in Seattle last May. It seems some fans don’t like when he incorporates his views into his music.
The song is a decent intro track that shows how some fans view the artist today.
The second track titled E.T. has an outer space-type feel to it with B.o.B singing on the hook, “I feel like I don’t belong, like I don’t belong, like an extraterrestrial.” The instrumental is smooth and the song has a feature from artist Lil Wayne.
The verse from Wayne is one of strongest verses in years from him and he and B.o.B complement each other well. Wayne raps, “I fear what I don’t understand and that would be my own self, and they don’t understand me, I know I don’t belong here.”
The song talks about how both artists don’t feel welcome in the world. It’s one of the best songs on the album both production and lyrically wise.
The third song on the album is called Middle Man, which is a song about B.o.B leaving his label and now having full control over what music he makes. This song illustrates how underrated B.o.B is in mixing catchy harmonies with his raps. The hook is catchy and showcases some of his best rap talent in this song.
The song Piece Piece is the first and only song in the album that is politically charged and features a nice verse from fellow southern artist Big K.R.I.T. The song addresses various issues that affect minorities and specifically the problems around being black in America.
B.o.B comes right out of the gates with this theme saying in his first lines, “Yeah, they say let’s make America great again, except for the slavery and genocide, when we killed all the natives and steal their tribes and the time we denied the women’s rights.”
B.o.B also says later in his verse, “The last words a man should ever hear, should never be ‘get on the ground,’” referencing the police brutality that has surfaced the past few years.
B.o.B ends his verse paying homage to Eric Garner, a man who was killed as a result of police brutality by saying “But just remember you can’t spell America without Eric.”
Big K.R.I.T. also delivers on his verse. He talks about the flawed prison system when he raps “Prison walls nowadays big biz, give us dope then lock us up to get riches, then send us out to a job we can’t get.”
This song is the best song on the album message wise, and each artist delivers with a verse that will have the listener thinking about the state of the country.
The next four songs, titled Finesse, Xantastic, Tweakin and 4 Lit, prove B.o.B can still make catchy hits that could garner some radio play.
In the song Tweakin, B.o.B references some conspiracy theories. He raps, “Landing footage from Apollo looks like amateur night down at the Apollo, and they say in space it’s four thousand degrees, but there’s only seven elements available that can withstand that much heat.”
Out of all the songs to do so, it was a weird choice for him to voice his views on this track. The instrumental was trap influenced with a heavy bass and his verse didn’t connect with the meaning of the song or the other verses on it.
One of the most self-reflective songs on the album is Avalanche. In the song, B.o.B reflects on his career and the demons he has faced throughout his life.
“I got a new confession. I battle with depression. I got a lot of trust issues. I guess I feel neglected,” is what B.o.B sings in his first verse. The song is well produced and B.o.B shows off his vocal talents by singing the majority of the song. During the final minute of the song the instrumental transitions to a real smooth jazz beat featuring a saxophone sample that really brings the song together.
The final song of the album, Big Kids, is a nice ending to the album. Usher and CeeLo Green lend their voices to the song that serves as an anthem about how people never stop growing up and learning. The song has a nice piano sample as the instrumental and each artist in the song delivers.
Overall, B.o.B displays the ability to still create a wide array of music, from potential radio hits, party songs and political tracks to songs that can connect to the listener on a personal level. For his first album in a few years, B.o.B still has the connections and talent to bring popular artists to feature on his tracks like Wayne, Usher and T.I.
Although it isn’t his best album, it’s still a decent piece of work that showcases B.o.B’s overall musical ability. It seems the artist who made the 2010 hit Airplanes seems to still be soaring high.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost
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