Bobby Ray Simmons, the 21-year-old, genre-bending rapper known as B.o.B, has impressively built himself a large reputation in the hip-hop community without ever selling a full-length album. He signed with Atlantic Records while he was still in high school and has released a series of successful mix tapes, but only now, after several years of recording, he will release his debut, “B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray.”
The large-scale ambitions from B.o.B. are apparent from the opener, “Don’t Let Me Fall,” which takes the gentle elements of a Coldplay chorus, dreamy vocals and interweaving pianos, with a thumping bass beat. However, the waves of noise and sliding synths sounds like a post-rock band snuck into the recording studio for the chorus, which previews the eclecticism and nuanced production that shines throughout the album.
The techno fuzz, simple piano notes and toe-tapping but unobtrusive beat follow on the instantly catchy hit, “Nothin’ on You.” The contrast between the smooth vocals of the chorus (seemingly untainted with auto-tune) and the Outkast-esque verses sustains listeners’ interest for the duration of the song; there should be no skipping midway through this single.
Dropping the booming drum beat on “The Kids,” B.o.B brings in a reggae chorus that mourns the inability of children to overcome unfair obstacles. Soulful vocals from Janelle Monáe and the funky bass are curveballs that make this relatively straightforward song more interesting, along with B.o.B’s humorous wit within his narrative, “Always in detention for the lack of my attention / You could call it deficit, really I just didn’t listen.” The album is full of these production embellishments, like the bongos on “Lovelier Than You” that broaden the album sonically and even culturally.
Weezer fans might blush when hearing Rivers Cuomo’s chorus on “Magic,” but the band has proven more than willing to embrace hip-hop after their recent collaboration with Lil’ Wayne. This attempt proves much more successful than the band’s previous endeavor, as clean and fuzzy guitars duel during the verses while the poppy simplicity of the chorus sounds fun and carefree.
Although it will inevitably be termed hip-hop, guitars are prominent throughout the album, often blending funky elements with free flow verses, combining rock and rap naturally without overemphasizing either.
Some songs do not meet expectations, such as the coarseness of “Bet I Bust” seems out of place, while the quivering vocals from Paramore’s Hayley Williams begin the successful single, “Airplanes,” awkwardly. However, Eminem’s frenetic rapping on the second version of the song redeems the excessive emotions of the chorus.
Overall, the album is perfect for those who look for a medium between abrasive rap and the haughtiness of mainstream hip-hop. B.o.B brings back the glory of Outkast; unlimited by genre boundaries and, therefore, unlimited in potential, the compositionally diverse “Adventures” is as ambitious and well-rounded as its title suggests.
Kevin Stevens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org