Published Apr 27, 2010"Isn't it a little early in B.o.B's career for him to be straying away from raps?" This question, raised by a blogger, is directed at the multi-talented Bobby Ray Simmons, Georgia's next singing/rapping/producing hip-hop star. On his awaited, T.I.-approved debut, the 21-year-old ATLien invites Andre 3000 comparisons by belting out his own hooks, harmonizing the bridge then getting intricate with his fluid raps. (Heck, even Big Boi shows up on the remix of B.o.B's ubiquitous single, "Nothin' on You.") Well-versed in the mixtape trade, B.o.B uses his official LP to fire at mass appeal, recruiting a rainbow of A-list cameos, from Eminem to Rivers Cuomo. From the double-time spit of "Bet I Bust" (featuring T.I. and Playboy Tre) to the hopeful education system lament "The Kids" (with Janelle Monae), Bobby's Choose Your Own Adventures caters to all tastes. Still, you'd need a serious sweet tooth to appreciate the Weezer-juiced "Magic." This is what happens when Speakerboxxx and The Love Below collide and wormhole seven years into a singles-celebrated future. These are glossy, upbeat rap tunes made for FM waves and rolled-down windows. There'll be time to explore topics and emotions further on future records. This one is a summer album built for blastoff. B.o.B's first record arrives on time, after all.
Did you ever take formal singing lessons?
I did take singing lessons for a little bit. But I have to be careful with that because sometimes your soul [can get compromised]. Earlier, I wasn't really singing correctly, but I was singing with soul. I hadn't learned proper technique. But sometimes if you over think the technique, it'll take away from the soulful singing. So I took lessons for a little bit and then moved on.
Who's your inspiration when it comes to singing?
Gnarls Barkley. Every singer, they have this voice in their head. And for some reason, Cee-Lo's voice is in my head when I think about what singing should sound like.
On "The Kids," you rap about how you spent time in high school detention. Were you actually diagnosed with attention-deficit-disorder?
I wasn't diagnosed with ADD, but I think that defining that [restless] characteristic as ADD kills that creativity. My lack of attention in what [teachers] were saying was because I wasn't into what I was being taught. But I feel like if the school system finds a way to entertain that creativity in kids instead of labelling it "ADD," we'd have a lot more creativity around. (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)