If you are what old people insist we call people 35 years old and younger, a millennial [shudders], then you likely can remember the reign of B.o.B. [pronounced Bob, for the uninitiated]. From 2010’s “Nothin on You,” to, arguably, his guest verse on Ty Dolla Sign’s “Paranoid” in 2013, B.o.B. was a ubiquitous presence on commercial hip-hop and pop records and radio. From casual clubs and bars to middle school dances, B.o.B. made songs that even the school’s principle could sing along too. His music was an essential part in pushing hip hop music further into the middle American pop music mainstream.
“It was really something I started in high school” says B.o.B., about his music, “When I was a kid living in the south, that was a real dope time, that was a time when it was not only expected to be different, but you could have a lucrative career being different.”
B.o.B. cultivated his uniqueness in the industry by being open to working and collaborating with anybody and everybody in the music industry, from trap music godfather T.I., to the popular emo rock band Paramore, whose lead singer, Hayley Williams, sung the chorus on “Airplanes”, one of B.o.B.’s biggest and longest lasting singles. The songs sentimental schmaltziness won crossover appeal from pop and rock radio stations, and freshmen college dorms across the country, but B.o.B. is perfectly comfortable with being called a popstar.
“I look at myself as a producer, I like to put things together, I like to present things, I am a presenter,” he says, “like I always wanted to do a song with Paramore. When I got signed to Atlantic [Records] I was like I want to do a song with Paramore, and no rapper at the time was trying to do a song with Paramore… I just love collaborating with so many people who influenced the world and inspired millions of people, and you work with em, and see the magic in that person, it’s amazing because, I think to myself I’ll never be able to experience myself, like experience my music for the first time, or experience my show… the juxtaposition of working with another artist and being able to work under their greatness is the closest thing.”
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B.o.B. went on to work with Rivers Cuomo of the rock band Weezer, pop hitmaker Bruno Mars, rapper Lupe Fiasco, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, 2Chainz, and even Future, on subsequent albums and singles. B.o.B. kept busy collaborating and working with everyone and anybody, embracing the full spectrum of popular music, even teasing a B.o.B. rock album that he says he’s still working on, but nothing matched the initial success of “Nothin on You” and “Airplanes,” until in 2016, B.o.B. released “Flatline,” a song describing B.o.B. belief that not only is the earth flat, not spherical, but that science is a “cult,” and that B.o.B.’s listeners should “do their research” on noted racist, anti-semite, Adolf Hitler admirer, and Holocaust denier David Irving, among other vile and downright absurd conspiracy theories mentioned in the song.
The shock of B.o.B.'s controversial song caused a surge of media attention, ridicule, and gaping amazement, that rapper had never experienced.
When asked whether or not “Flatline” and his subsequent mixtape E.A.R.T.H. (Educational Avatar Reality Training Habitat), which goes on to expand on the themes presented in “Flatline,” hurt his career, B.o.B. said, “Absolutely not… Someone said B.o.B. should make a song called "Flatline," and I was like, you’re right! Art is art, at the end of the day whatever emotion it evokes in people is successful, if it doesn’t cause any emotion, or any kind of reverberation, or ripples or waves, it’s not intended… My art is supposed to jump out at you and evoke some type of feeling or thought, whether you’re the protagonist or the antagonist, it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.”
B.o.B. will be performing September 3 at the Queen Marry’s WET Carnival festival in Long Beach. For full info and tickets, click here.