If you’ve read anything I’ve posted since joining this glorious site back in September, you’ve probably seen a couple mentions of how excited I was (am) about B.o.B. His official debut album dropped on Tuesday and I went to good ol’ Best Buy, my local independent record store, to pick up a copy for 8 bucks. I’m always wary when I anticipate a release as much as this one, so I was cautiously optimistic, which is the same feeling I’ve had for the last 3-4 Outkast albums (and that I’ll have for Big Boi’s solo if that ever comes out).
Anyway, I know Trav has done some reviews in the past after a first listen, so I decided to go Ice Cube and go jackin’ for posts. Below are the grades I’ve given to every song with some description.
1 – Don’t Let Me Fall – This track comes in with B.o.B singing the chorus and he comes in kicking a quick flow. It’s a piano heavy track produced by Bobby Ray himself. It’s a real nice start to the album. He spits rhymes about his life and making music. Overall, a real nice track. Grade: A
2 – Nothin’ On You (feat. Bruno Mars) – One of a couple tracks on the album about some lovey dovey type stuff, but it works. Basically, the lyrics are that there are a lot of girls, but they don’t have ‘Nothin’ On You’. The chorus is handled by Bruno Mars and is nice. Production is handled by The Smeezingtons, which appears to be Bruno Mars and a producing partner. I’d be surprised if this first single didn’t blow up. Grade: A (So far a real nice start.)
3 – Past My Shades (feat. Lupe Fiasco) – This song has the potential to be the next single off of the album. Another B.o.B produced song with some heavy drums and a little guitar. It’s a real nice collaboration and it has me waiting for that next Lupe LP. Lyrically it’s random, but nice. Grade: B
4 – Airplanes (feat. Hayley Williams of Paramore) – This is more likely to be the next single from the LP. Well, probably the version on track 12. What would you do to take your shot at stardom, or something you really want, seems to be the theme of the song. The chorus is handled by Hayley Williams, and I can’t say I know a damn thing about her group, other than what I’ve skimmed in magazines. She has a nice voice and does a more than servicible job on the chorus. Produced by Alex Da Kid. Grade: B+
5 – Bet I (feat. T.I. and Playboy Tre) – Well, he is signed to T.I.’s Grand Hustle label, so here’s your obligatory “southern” rap song. All 3 MC’s are spitting some quick flows and the beats okay (Prod. Kuttah). Grade: C
6 – Ghost in the Machine – Again, B.o.B starts out by singing. I tend to shy away from R&B and hip-hop mixed together, but his singing style is more that of an indie pop/rock band. This is another Bobby Ray produced beat and it’s pretty synthetic sounding, but decent. He doesn’t really rap on this track. Grade: B-
7 – The Kids (feat. Janelle Monae) - There’s a Vampire Weekend interpolation of “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance”, and that’s actually how the track starts off. Bobby sings the chorus to start, the kicks a verse and the second verse is handled by Monae, which is alright. The songs okay, but it loses points, but not too many, for using a Vampire Weekend song (a group I dig). Grade: C+
8 – Magic (feat. Rivers Cuomo) – Yeah, that dude. The Weezer front man is featured on the chorus and it’s odd, but I like it. The beat is from Dr. Luke and is slightly reminiscent of some 80′s new wave, more so over the chorus. B.o.B kicks some all-over-the-place lyrics, but it’s just a happy song, for whatever reason. So, that means it’s probably about nuclear war or genocide or something, but I’m just not deep enough to get it. I don’t know why, but I like this song. Grade: B+
9 – Fame – Produced by The Knux. This might be the most generic song on the album. It’s not entirely skippable, but it doesn’t stand out to me. If you can’t tell from the title it’s about being fame, being famous, wanting to gain fame, all that jazz. Grade: C-
10 – Lovlier Than You – Bobby Ray comes back on the production tip (and the “I Love You Girl” tip). The track starts with an acoustic guitar and some drums. It’s a love song that I can see B.o.B taking a break in his set to sit on a stool and play the guitar and sing/rap. It’s a solid track, despite what I might make it sound like. Grade: B
11 – 5th Dimension (feat. Ricco Barrino) – This song is produced by T.I. and Lil’ C (another Lil’! Awesome.). I do like the beat though, it’s pretty decent and as B.o.B stated in “Generation Lost” previously “So, I’m goin’ plat my guitar, rap about aliens and sing about stars” and he does that here pretty much, at least the stars. I’m not a huge fan of the dude singing the chorus. Grade: B-
12 – Airplanes, Part II (feat. Eminem and Hayley of Paramore) – This could be the break out track, thanks to Eminem. Both Em and B.o.B rap about “what ifs”. What if B.o.B blew up in 1998 and he sold 500k in his first week (I’m thinking this is a verse about being Eminem to some part) and (in the second verse) he talks about what if he didn’t dream of being a rap star and making that dream come true. Then, Eminem comes in for the third verse and raps about not making his career happen, not writing rhymes, having a stable family and being lazy. It’s an alternative world where Em is on food stamps and might not even be alive. Grade: A
Without trying to actually come up with the average of the grades above, I’d have to go with a B+ that leans a little more towards a B at this point. Overall, it’s a pretty solid album, and as some albums go, it could possibly go up or down in the next couple months as I really let it sink in. Although, I suspect it won’t fall any lower than a B. I really did hope there would be a couple tracks like “Generation Lost” and “I’ll Be in the Sky” tagged on the end, but 12 brand new songs is cool with me.
I’m most definitely looking forward to future releases from Bobby Ray. Hopefully, with less guests (a pet peeve of mine in hip-hop).