Interview: B.o.B — From "Nothin' On You" to rhyming with Eminem and T.I.
Tue, 06 Apr 2010 08:34:59
B.o.B could've been a filmmaker.
Over the course of his raucous and rule-breaking rollercoaster of a debut, The Adventures of Bobby Ray [4/27/2010], the Atlanta rapper tells all kinds of tales with razor sharp rhymes and clever quips, making cinematic hip hop with no boundaries. This is the most refreshing and unique hip hop offering since Outkast's Aquemini.
The songs seamlessly flow together with enigmatic narration a la Quentin Tarantino, and it's a blast just to do in the passenger seat with B.o.B behind the wheel. "Nothin' On You" is the perfect introduction to the record with its unshakable chorus and hilarious asides. Few rappers can talking about freezing "like an N64" and get away with it, B.o.B does because he's that goddamn smooth. "Bet I" with T.I. is a super-charged collaboration that shows B.o.B's got the gusto to roll with the big dawgs. All across the board, hip hop needs to go on more Adventures like these.
B.o.B sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about what makes The Adventures of Bobby Ray different, rocking with T.I. and Eminem, some favorite movies and why Final Fantasy is so enthralling…
Do you feel like you're telling some vivid stories on these songs?
Definitely! I always say that the album is cinematic. Even the cover looks like a movie poster. I'm really influenced by movies, especially in terms of the look and how everything comes together. The songs on the album could work over a film. If I made a movie, this would be the soundtrack to it.
If you were to compare The Adventures of Bobby Ray to a movie, what would you compare it to?
It would have to be a Quentin Tarantino-type movie [Laughs]. I love Pulp Fiction! It'd be a Grindhouse-style movie—real kick ass with a little pit of playfulness.
Similar to Tarantino, the music's fun but you have something to say.
Exactly! Sometimes, I get really serious and frank, but I still match it with playfulness and a little bit of romance for the ladies. Just a little bit [Laughs].
What's the story behind "Nothin' On You?"
I'm still young, but in the song I'm reflecting on my younger days when I was all about chasing girls. I was a hopeless romantic and made a lot of stupid decisions. It's about those days. I'm compiling my observations of myself and putting them on a record. I feel like it was a happy marriage between the lyrics that Bruno sang and what I'm doing because he pretty much summed it up and I just had to elaborate on it in my way. I switched up my vocal inflection. It's different; a lot of B.o.B. fans didn't notice it was me on first listen.
It's a great introduction to your sound because it's really boundless. It seems like "anything goes" in a B.o.B. song.
I was just thinking about that! When Picasso first started out, for the first 15 or 20 years, he was just doing landscapes, portraits, objects and structures. Towards the end of his career, he switched it up. He started putting noses on ears and foreheads. That's what he's really known for, when he switched it up in an anything-goes way. That's the direction the industry is going in. Even if you want to do just rap or just R&B, anything that you want to do is possible. It's free for your expression.
Hip hop doesn't have a set blueprint anymore.
Exactly, I think people are really wising up to the formula. It's getting pretty bad when your little sister can make a beat, and it can be on the radio [Laughs]. You know what I mean?
Your sound also has a futuristic bent.
At points, it is. I don't want the music to ever get predictable. With the times we're in, everybody's making something "futuristic." Even that is going to turn into the past. Cyborgs and electrons are going to get old. When you look at the movies from the '80s like Back to the Future and they give a depiction of what the future is like, it's nothing like that now [Laughs]. That was what they thought the future would be though!
How has "Bet I" changed from the mixtape to the album version?
Obviously, it's got T.I.'s verse on it. We remixed it and mastered it. It was never mastered before [Laughs]. We tightened up everything, gave it a little more bump and made it sound better. We actually shot a video for it as well, and that'll add more life to the song. It's definitely my Decatur song; it's my down-south club song. On the actual main 12 tracks, it's the only song on the album that's like that. I feel like I've got to revisit the "Haterz" type of scene. It's something that came naturally. I really got bored just doing traditional cliché down-south club music. It really just came out of me when I was recording. The attitude that you feel when you hear it is what I feel like. I was laughing and getting hyped all by myself. That's what you have to channel when you make music. Whatever you feel when you're making it is what the listener is going to feel.
So did you have a blast working with Eminem on "Airplanes 2?"
He's just ridiculous! It's just ridiculous how long he's been doing it, and he's still ahead by so much [Laughs]. Where he's at with what he can do with words and sounds, sonically, it's amazing to hear. Even if you've never heard of Eminem in your life, when you hear his vocal presence, you find you've really got step your game up [Laughs]. For "Airplanes 2," I feel like our stories growing up are very similar—really kind of being in an unfortunate situation. It's like, "Okay, here's your situation…There are a million stories like it but what are you going to do with it? Are you going to amount to something or just be another failure or another bomb?" That's something that motivated our obsessive compulsive behavior with lyrics and music—writing and writing and writing. I feel like we both did that. On the hand, it's good to meet your childhood icon, but to actually work with him, that's something that doesn't happen every day. I'm constantly trying to get better. I work the best when I act on whatever comes to me naturally as opposed to trying to force everything. Sometimes in the industry as an artist, you'll face a lot of opportunities and possibilities, but the best thing that'll be the most creative and original is what you do naturally. When I was coming up, it was told to me, "You shouldn't do this music. There really aren't any opportunities. I know you want a deal but it really doesn't happen." I was like, "Fuck this. It doesn't matter how long it takes. If it takes two years, five years or ten years, I'm going to get there." The point is that I'm going to get there. That's the mentality I have.
So given the N64 line in "Nothin' On You," were you a big Nintendo fan growing up?
Man, I was all about Sega Genesis [Laughs]—Street Fighter. Final Fantasy 7 for PS1 was the shit! I was like, "Oh my God, this game is awesome!" With games now, if I have time I'll play them, if not, cool. Back then, with Final Fantasy, while you're playing it you think, "Man, this is magical!" You're standing up two feet away from the screen, staring at it with your mouth open just playing [Laughs]. That's what I was into.
That game's a classic!
You know what I'm saying [Laughs]. Even the shape of the characters was real abstract. The world and the music were amazing. You could do so much shit in the game. If you wanted to stop in a city and go gamble, you could! I remember the bird you had to race with. That game was awesome [Laughs].
Are you hip to B.o.B. yet?