Up-Front Newbie Calls on Rap Gods

    B.o.B.
    The Adventures of Bobby Ray
    Atlantic Records

    Bo.B. may have hit his claim to fame stringing together niceties about a gal who pays her taxes and keeps a gangster’s eye from wandering, but instead of filling debut The Adventures of Bobby Ray with likeminded good-guy tracks, newcomer Bobby Ray Simmons pulls a 180 with a genre-straddling album that packs more juice than we ever would have imagined.

    B.o.B’s devotion to home-hitting topics like hope for fame, success and love won’t have hip-hop’s big dogs rehashing their battle raps to keep up anytime soon, though. When B.o.B busts out his best Kanye impression alongside Jay-Z on the Top 40, it only serves to expose the 21-year-old’s relative inexperience.

    It even happens on his own album. Hitmaker Eminem injects a gold-clinching rage that cripples B.o.B’s comparatively flimsy verse on “Airplanes, Part II,” while T.I.’s rapid-fire cameo guns down the new guy’s self-conscious ego trip on “Bet I.”

    Bobby Ray may play up the pauper-to-prince angle to cringeworthy extremes, but the beats on bottom make up for every second. “Don’t Let Me Fall” showcases an appreciation for rock ‘n’ roll, as B.o.B pleads for advice from the screaming cords of an electric guitar.

    Throw in a shout-out to indie chart-toppers Vampire Weekend on “The Kids” and the beautiful pain of Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams on “Airplanes,” and it’s obvious that the rapper isn’t feeling pressured to find a niche — yet isn’t overrreaching either, a la Lil Wayne’s latest hard-rock endeavor.

    While the excitable sense of variety is certainly admirable, it does occasionally come across as schizophrenic. But the boy’s got guts — and the game always rewards those willing to lead the pack.

    B.o.B. will perform live at the Sun God Festival on May 14.

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