A touch of lyricism in hip-hop
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia—US hip-hop artist and record producer Bobby Ray Simmons, professionally known as B.o.B, is wrapping up work on his fourth studio album. Even after 13 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100—all in the Top 20—he said the thrill of making new music hasn’t diminished.
“I think this is going to be a great year,” B.o.B told Southeast Asian journalists during a press con, just hours before regaling 10,000 revelers who had trooped to the recent “MTV World Stage: Live in Malaysia 2014” held at the Sunway Lagoon amusement park.
“I love visiting the other side of the planet, and see that I’m getting so much love and support [from there, too],” he added.
The 25-year-old rapper from Georgia state shot to fame in 2010 when his song, “Nothin’ on You,” featuring Bruno Mars, topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and received three Grammy nominations, including Record of the Year. His debut album “B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray”—which spawned two more Top 10 hits—also topped the Billboard 200 chart.
Like “Nothin’ On You,” his next biggest hit, “Airplanes,” recorded with Hayley Williams of punk-rock band Paramore, has a catchy pop chorus. Asked if he thought this was an important ingredient of his music, B.o.B told the Inquirer that it was in the nature of the genre, but not necessarily imperative.
He explained, “It kind of works for me because I dabble in everything—but not all the time. I miss the rap hooks. Not everything can be sung. Hip-hop samples a lot of soul; someone would be singing.”
For a while, B.o.B became too closely identified with his hit songs and nothing else. He didn’t mind. “I’m like, ‘I’m B.o.B’ Some people will say, ‘Who’s that?’ And I’ll go sing, ‘Beautiful girls, all over the world…’ I just continue to introduce people to other [facets] of my music.”
Excerpts from the interview:
What’s with the fascination with female booty in rap?
Because it’s so… round. The Earth is round and that’s where life is!
What’s been keeping you busy?
Aside from work on my new album, I started my own label, No Genre. It’s called such because, well, I do it all.
You were from the underground hip-hop scene. How is it doing?
There’s been a huge explosion of lyrical artists. I’ve been seeing a lot of talented kids, one of whom is Jake Lambo, [whom] I’ve signed up. He’s just 16, but [his] lyrical finesse is impressive.
If you could have any of your song lyrics for a tattoo, what would it be?
I’ll certainly pick the shortest one! That would probably be “I’ll Be in the Sky.” It is timeless, and speaks for everything in my entire career.
What is it like, collaborating with different artists?
Everyone’s different. T-Pain is hilarious. If I went to school with him, I’d probably be in trouble all the time. With Pharrell Williams, there’s never a dull moment; the music simply flows. I enjoyed working with him the most, and he told me things I needed to hear.
What did you learn from him?
We talked about… staying true to oneself musically and just letting things come up, regardless of how it sounds. He told me that he has kept doing the type of music that he wanted, even if it wasn’t popular at a given time. And he said you have to stick to your guns, even if things are looking grim, because something beautiful may just be around the corner.
What makes a good mix?
Sonically, everything has to fit together—the snare, vocals, bass, etc. should be where they are supposed to be. You should hear everything clearly. A good producer is technically a good mixer and engineer.
(“MTV World Stage: Live in Malaysia 2014” airs on MTV Pinoy today, 3 p.m.; and Sept. 7 at 2 p.m.)
(E-mail [email protected])
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.