Album Review: B.O.B Presents The Adventures of Bobby Ray

The characteristics of “Hip Hop” have undergone several changes over the years. The genre has become associated with many new trends; one of which is the rappers themselves accompanying their verses with their own singing (Biz Markie made it humorous, Ja Rule suffocated the style). Andre 3000 took on this format some six years ago and to this day his Love Below album is still held in high regard. The next ATL superstar who hopes to follow in the same path is B.O.B.

Possessing a fiery Southern delivery, Bobby Ray also lays claim to an impressive falsetto voice, which has flooded over many mixtapes and guest collaborations. But when it comes to his first solo outing, which of his skills will triumph; the harmonic soul star or the brazen lyricist?

The Adventures of Bobby Ray is a Funk, Blues and Hip Hop mesh which opens impressively with “5th Dimension”. Supplied with the vocal talents of Ricco Barrino, B.O.B’s space-wrapped raps are out of this world, but precise enough to understand his content. The follow up track then shifts Bobby Ray’s talents to that of belting out harmonic choruses as a crooner. “Don’t Let Me Fall” is a formula made up of B.o.B’s rugged and emotive lines, soft piano keys and a hard rock riff, creating an atmospheric ballad which works well.

One of B.o.B’s strongest assets is that the music bumps fantastically and his verses aren’t of cliched, recycled pimp odes. On the horn accompanied “Fame,” he dissects all the different definitions and levels of fame; something not everyone is destined to achieve. Infectious single “Airplanes,” featuring Paramore‘s Hayley Williams (and Eminem on “Airplanes, Part II”), is an emotive tale of wishing upon a star or two.

But as the album moves along, the more we hear B.O.B’s falsetto voice – and the more tired it becomes. Tracks like “Satellite” and “Letters From Vietnam” sit firmly in the middle of being either “nice” or “meh”, accolades which songs should stay away from at all costs.

When returning to rapping on the bass blasting “I See Ya” (which is far from the best track), it makes for a welcome change from the bluesy-pop songs and the truly forgettable “Magic” featuring Rivers Cuomo of Weezer. Breaking from a number of generic pop songs, one particular highlight is “Bet I”, featuring his mentor T.I.

Amidst a few forgettable tracks is some of the most moving and invigorating music to be produced in some time. “Nothin’ on You” is a sweetly performed Hip-Pop tune which steers clear of cheese without being devoid of romance, as previous Hip Hop love longs have been. “Lovelier Than You”, another love-filled melody, whistfully drifts through softening bongos and easing guitar strokes whilst Bob delivers a memorable performance which could be held in comparison to some of Mr 3000’s works on The Love Below.

B.o.B impresses with his warm, catchy and emotive choruses and singing abilities – but also by unleashing much lyrical ferocity on the album; particularly over the southern fried productions. However, in coming to the end of B.o.B’s debut Adventures, the overall prognosis of the album is that it is undoubtedly safe. At times, songs are predictable and lack a spark or a wow factor which many (including me) felt he should have accomplished with ease – but at 21 years of age, to produce an album where signs of musical maturity are apparent is only encouraging. Judging from this outing, expect B.o.B’s next odyssey to take us to a place far away from the rest of the pack.

–Henry Yanney

B.o.B presents The Adventures Of Bobby Ray is out now on Grand Hustle/Atlantic Records.