When asked about his collaboration with pop-punk vocalist Hayley Williams, Atlanta-based alternative hip-hop artist B.o.B responded “Paramore is the sh*t,” instantly driving away the hip-hop purists. He went on to declare that the audience for Williams’ band was the same audience for Lupe Fiasco, Common, and himself. That’s the rapper/producer/songwriter’s attitude in a nutshell, and it’s also the genre-free, music-loving, and even starry-eyed attitude of his debut album, The Adventures of Bobby Ray, a reference to the B.o.B’s real name, Bobby Ray Simmons. “Airplanes” is the Coldplay-sized, emo-rap track with Williams that brings reminders of the Dido/Eminem collaboration “Stan,” at least when it comes to rock-solid hooks, since the sentiment here is much more hopeful. The uncrushable B.o.B is always filled with positive vibes and he isn’t above pouring on the sweetness as he courts the ladies with hitmaker for hire Bruno Mars on “Nothin’ on You,” a song that’s perfectly packaged for some Hollywood romantic comedy. Add to that “Lovelier Than You,” where B.o.B sounds like Wyclef when he plays it sparse, and you’ve got the poptacular moments, but the street tracks and backpacker material works just as well, with the T.I. feature “Bet I” being Hotlanta at its hottest while “Don’t Let Me Fall” is the “where I’m from” track at its best. The chart-friendly side of indie rock shows its influence in the Vampire Weekend-sampling “The Kids” with Janelle Monáe plus the retro-electro “Magic” with Rivers Cuomo, which becomes B.o.B’s theme song once he drops “I break all the rules like Evil Knievel/I put on a spectacular show because my heart pumps diesel.” Even if B.o.B had a couple years of mixtape training before releasing his debut, the most startling thing is how effortless he makes all this genre-juggling seem, especially on repeat listens as the album evolves from a high-caliber collection of singles to a unified body of work. There’s little evidence here that this would even be possible without the work of André 3000, Kanye, and Drake, and B.o.B definitely loves new ideas more than he generates them. Still, he’s an amazing ringmaster for the age of mash-ups and wonky pop, and for his debut album he’s equally thrilling as the main attraction.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries