B.o.B: Southern Graduate

Within the realms of Hip Hop there are tons of beat makers, rappers and flat out illiterate sounding assholes, but you rarely hear about musicianship. That’s why it was a surprising pleasure to find out about B.O.B (born Bobby Ray Simmons), an Atlanta based rapper-musician-producer that’s just been inked to Grand Hustle.

Featured on the cover of XXL’s Hip Hop Class of ‘09 (with other newcomers like Wale, Charles Hamilton and Asher Roth), B.o.B’s music gained momentum with a hand-full of guest slots as well as being featured on tons of end years list when he does release a song. But after EPs and mixtapes (with his latest mix being B.o.B aka Bobby Ray: May 25th) in preparation for his new album, he still has something to prove. People still need to know who B.o.B is, simple and plain.

In-between cities on a promotional tour, the 21 year old rapper met me at a down home blues restaurant in downtown Columbia for a southern fried lunch and sit down. When he arrived (after sitting with members of his entourage including manager and local label reps) I didn’t know what to expect.

Before I wanted to get into any questions, the kid was antsy. Looking at the stage of the restaurant called Mac’s On Main, the stage with full-working P.A. system was tempting to the young artists.

“That stage makes me want to grab my guitar and my trumpet right now and start playing.

I have my in. I ask him about his history of live instrumentation…

“My dad really was the one that influenced me to be a musician. He got me a trumpet and showed it to me and said ‘If you get straight As, you can play this,’ then he hid it away. But that’s how I learned how to play music and musical conception, vibrations, notes and things like that. It was something because no one in my family was really musical. It sort of started with me.”

Being into music, B.O.B has roots in a place where southern black folks usually get their start: The church.

“My father was a preacher but gave us a lot of religious freedom. He never imposed anything and gave us freedom to explore. We were always in church and it influenced my music. If you think about it, a preacher is like a musician, they’re performing, southern preachers when they preach is like a performance.”

Those traits seemed to have trickled down as B.O.B got an early interest from labels since age 17 and then finally settling with T.I.’s imprint Grand Hustle. The buzz has been going on for quite sometime but the album kept getting pushed back. Not to be broken, B.O.B sounds positive about the future.

Handling 80 percent of the production duties for his project and some guest slots that’ll move some units (with names that I was sworn to secrecy as to not fuck up anything that’s in the works), B.O.B has an understanding of how music industry operates.

“I know that people have been waiting for the album for a long time but the time wasn’t wasted. A lot more has developed. You have to be in touch with the people and keep the fan-base and attention. Sometimes things are overly accessible as it’s designed to keep artists feeding the machine. In the digital age, it’s even scary how quick things can happen. I remember I was doing something and was on Ustream, and in that short period of time two people found out where I was at and met me there. It was crazy.”

Following in the footsteps of southern mecca’s elite, B.O.B aims to carry the tradition of his southern counterparts. He understands the huge Adidas he has to fill.

“I was fortunate enough to be around the Atlanta movement as it started before I was born. First rap song I heard was an Outkast song.The south as a sound. There’s such a thing as a Hip Hop-Rap-Southern record. It proved that we can do it too. Southern artists now embody those Hip Hop elements and pushed things further with the production and lyrical ability. I’d like to think that I’m a part of that.”

–Preach Jacobs

Photography by Chris Phelps.

SoulCulture.TV: B.O.B interview in London on the subject of new album, quality mixtapes + T.I.

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