Monday, April 20, 2015
WHO'S B.O.B. WHEN B.O.B.'S AT HOME?
Like Gucci before the cone tat and Cosby without the Quaaludes, it's hard to go back to a time when B.o.B wasn't synonymous with the crassest kind of pop-rap. Lest you seedlings get it twisted, there was a time when B.o.B. was gettin hype outside the Meredith Vieira demographic. Thanks to "Haterz Everywhere" and "Cloud 9," he was even bein painted as a drugonaut for a hot minute. "Haterz" was "just MADE to be listened to on pills" gushed a pre-Murdoch Vice, and B.o.B. himself supplied the loathsome moniker trance-hop. Thanks to my peoples in the Thug Mansion up in the sky (a/k/a Heavan) fuh not lettin that shit catch on. Wide-eyed, the interviewer reports that rappers in Atlanta are starting to take "E" and "Ecstasy." In these post-Molly dayz it's easy to clown the article's golly, gee! tone, but drug use beyond weed was actually somewhat notable in '07. After years of coke-rap's straitlaced strictly business ethos, I was ready for the BayTL cross-culture experiment to fly the freak flag.
Instead, B.o.B. went pop in the the most throwback sellout since will.i.am discovered harem pants. A year or two later Future did the whole zooted sonic voyager thing way better, while B.o.B. drifted further into his role as the kind of stock rapper Target might call if they needed someone to dance around in a socks ad.
Who is the real B.o.B.? He was initially presented as a genre-hopper, even tho Clef should've made rap weirdoes totin acoustic guitars forever suspect. It quickly became clear, however, that his eclecticism was of the "I like everything from Coldplay to John Mayer!" variety, his collaborations with Hayley Williams and Bruno Mars less a get-money scheme than a misguided understanding of experimentation. As a rapper he was never better than good, nowhere more evident than when Boosie merked him on his best song.
Seven or eight years after his first appearance on the market, it seems B.o.B.'s brief period of critical acclaim was less about his music than it was a reflection of the rap audience's own unfulfilled desires. He was never the artist we thought he was, never the eccentric or eclectic weirdo found later in Young Thug, Lil B, or even Tree. There was a demand for a certain kind of artist and B.o.B. seemed to fit the bill, so people filled in the blanks until his later choices refuted that characterization empirically by making the worst shit ever. B.o.B. auditioned for a prestige role he didn't want, then went off and made a boatload doing the musical equivalent of Transformers II.
B.o.B. was never all that interesting until he became a pop-star. How many artists who hit #1 later recorded a song about an AIDs conspiracy? If he can keep his most VH1 tendencies to himself, he could rebrand himself as a credible pop-rapper and maybe occasionally indulge in the grating OMG ALIENS! side he refuses to relinquish. I know I'd rather hear B.o.B. get his Infowars on than any Wale ever. Whether he cares about anything but mainstream success remains to be seen. Judging from the way he's kept up with the times, B.o.B. will stay in the picture whether we like it or not.