Music Spotlight: B.o.B.

If one looks at the current hip-hop scene, there isn’t much hope for the future. The genre, once ruled by inventive artists like De La Soul, 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G., has become polluted with one-hit wonders and “ringtone rap” like New Boyz, Hurricane Chris and Soulja Boy.

There is, however, one man who could turn the genre around, returning hip-hop to its roots of true lyricism, rhythm drums, guitars and synthesizers.

That man is Bobby Ray Simmons.

Simmons, widely known as B.o.B., released his debut album, “B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray,” in late April on Grand Hustle Records, T.I.’s record label.

The album’s first single “Nothin’ on You” has shot to #1 on the Billboard Top 100 after debuting at #89, to reach platinum status.

The album’s release date – originally May 25 – was moved up because of the immediate success of the track, which incorporates the smooth vocals of co-producer Bruno Mars alongside B.o.B.’s rhymes.

The album’s second single, “Airplanes,” features an unlikely guest vocalist – Hayley Williams of Paramore. Williams sings the chorus vocals in this retrospective look by B.o.B. at his humble beginnings to his current fame.

There is also an “Airplanes, Part II” that features two new verses from Simmons and a cameo by Eminem.

Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo sings the chorus in “Magic,” a braggadocios number about the duo’s ability to “turn that track into gold.” Simmons even compares his musical talents to Motown soul legend Aretha Franklin, stating he “sings like Aretha, so respect me like Caesar.”

While boasting is nothing new in hip-hop, Simmons has a unique approach, with the song employing synthesizers and guitars to accompany his swiftly-delivered rhymes and a catchy chorus.

“Don’t Let Me Fall” is an inspirational record full of piano keys and intense guitar licks, painting Simmons as a wandering soul just trying to make his way in the universe with a musical purpose.

The album’s tenth track “Lovelier Than You” is possibly the greatest showcase of his skills as an all-around musician. The song is an acoustic ballad exposing Simmons’ vast vocal range and incredible guitar proficiency.

But, Simmons doesn’t ignore his hip-hop roots on “Adventures.”

He holds his own lyrically alongside the likes of fellow Atlanta rappers T.I. and Playboy Tre in “Bet I,” and Chicago hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco in “Past My Shades.”

His vocal skills have him compared to Andre 3000 of Outkast (evident in the song “5th Dimension”), but it’s truly difficult to compare B.o.B. to other artists, as he plays with influences ranging from ’80s rock, rap, techno, funk and even doo-wop.

Is B.o.B’s debut album perfect? Not entirely, because he doesn’t highlight one genre of music.

Will his longtime listeners be pleased at every song on the album? Probably not, since some of the tracks would be more at home on Top 40 radio, rather than a hip-hop station.

However, each song offers something new and B.o.B. takes risks with each one, which is more than most of his hip-hop peers can say.

With the genre-blending experiment that is the “Adventures of Bobby Ray” being such a success, it’s easy to see how so many people in the music industry have B.o.B. pegged as one of the brightest young stars in the hip-hop game.