Maintaining one’s artistic integrity in the music industry is a feat few are able to accomplish. Yet from the looks of things, however, up-and-coming Grand Hustle signee Bobby Ray, also known as B.o.B, is doing just that. The guitar-slinging rapper released his B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray mixtape with DJ Green Lantern and Don Cannon earlier this year to critical acclaim, and with 2010 finding him releasing his highly anticipated debut album, he aims to keep the ball rolling forward. B.o.B spoke to DX about his personal creativity and how the alien he played in the video for “I’ll Be in the Sky” is a role that didn’t end after the cameras stopped rolling.
“I try to be more personal than try to be different,” explained B.o.B. “I saw a comment [online] the other day. It said, ‘Hey B.o.B, just keep being different because it’s working.’ [Laughs] I guess for some people, it appears I constantly try to be different, but it’s actually just me being myself, and that’s why I try to be more personable, because I don’t want people to lose the message.”
He later added, “I definitely feel like I’m someone who realizes that he’s an alien in the rap industry. I guess I just come from a very different place and it’s really unique. but truly, everybody has their own uniqueness, it’s just how I express it is very different. We’re all the same, but I definitely feel like sometimes, I’m the alien or the wildcard.”
Yet B.o.B doesn’t feel that he is alone switching up the game’s standards with his unique blend of music. He explains why both Hip Hop music is moving towards more personalized ideas for sources of inspiration, saying the previous notions of what Hip Hop is are outdated for many artists and fans alike.
“People are definitely waking up to just the unconsciousness of the culture,” he explained. “There was a lot of stuff that a lot of people did just because it was widely accepted and people listened to a lot of music just because it was widely accepted. And it’s only natural as a human because you want to be together. It’s like if everybody’s partying to a song, it’s kind of like, ‘I don’t care what the song is; I just want to be where the party is.’ But now people are starting to wake up [to the fact] that they don’t have to…go with the wind…it’s kind of like everybody wants to be themselves, and because of the fact that everybody wants to be more of themselves, a lot of that music is emerging. People are liking it because it’s pulling people together because it’s more so about the masses move more so than just one person.”
Regardless, Bobby Ray still recognizes the need to mediate personal creativity and public appeal. He says that as an artist, he has learned to marry the two often clashing notions by understanding and appealing to what people enjoy without sacrificing the message in his music. He also explains how this balance factored into his decision to change his name to Bobby Ray.
“I’m not going to lie – I have a very huge archive of songs that are really out there,” he said. “You’d never understand what I was talking about. I just kind of take the best music that connects to people, and it’s really simple because the team of people [with whom] I work are people, too. Sometimes, it’s kind of biased because they’re on my side. Sometimes, we have to be honest and say, ‘This song doesn’t really mesh.’ Sometimes I work with writers. I’m really big on constructive criticism, so I’m really open to peoples’ opinions, and I’ve been opening up lately but still keeping my vision in line. That’s pretty much how I go about the [business]: if you want more people to listen to your songs, you’ve got to understand people and what they want. Really, you have to understand what you want because sometimes, you get so wrapped up in trying to paint a masterpiece, you don’t even have fun.”
He also added, “Bobby Ray is my real name and I kind of try to appeal to people fully. I don’t want to always be sad or emotional. I don’t always want to be in a party mood. I don’t always want to be in an aggressive mood, so I kind of use B.o.B and Bobby Ray [to express my different moods], but really…my being is fully integrated into both aspects of those characters. That’s pretty much how I keep the balance…I can’t repress certain sides of my self, and Bobby Ray was a side of myself that I had been repressing and it just had to come out. Now that there’s a good balance between the two, I make music without worrying about being boxed into a category.”
B.o.B also touched upon his upcoming debut album B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray, dropping this April 2010 on Atlantic Records. He discussed what the album will be like for listeners and significant it is to him as an artist.
“It’s really going to be a collection of what I like and the type of music that people have fallen in love with that I make…and blending them together into a cinema, basically,” he said. “It’s really taking people through a [musical] roller coaster and through an adventure. Honestly, I feel like it will be…my most memorable album. I don’t want to say ‘best’ because I don’t really want to divide it up, but I feel like because this is the first I’ve made in my entire life, my whole life has led up to this point.”
B.o.B will be gracing the stage at SOB’s in New York City this upcoming Tuesday, November 24 for Hot 97’s “Who’s Next” showcase. Information about the performance can be found at his website and his MySpace.