Release Date: May 1, 2012
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop, Rap, Pop/Rock, Hardcore Rap, Pop-Rap
With B.o.B, you have to take the good (Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj cameos) with the bad (Ryan Tedder, more Ryan Tedder). As on his first album, the Atlanta rapper has called in a crazy array of guests, some of whom (hi, Nicki!) upstage him; he has a few punch lines ("I'm Top Chef, you Top Ramen"), but his strength is being inquisitive, like detailing his wealth, then asking if it matters. Kanye West did this kind of thing for years, and he had punch lines like a Daily Show writer.
”After Strange Clouds, I’ma drop my rock album,” Atlanta rapper B.o.B proclaims on ”Ray Bands,” his sophomore outing’s ominously funky second track. But dude’s already no stranger to Marshall stacks: He shreds on the guitar; scored a smash 2010 duet, ”Airplanes,” with Paramore singer Hayley Williams; and stocks his latest with enough stadium shout-alongs to make Bon Jovi jealous. The rapper born Bobby Ray Simmons can leave his third-album aspirations at the door — Strange Clouds is already his Slippery When Wet.
P.O.S. :: Chill, dummyDoomtree RecordsAuthor: Patrick TaylorI've been a fan of Stefon "P.O.S." Alexander since his debut nearly 10 years ago. On "Audition" and 2009's "Never Better," he proved himself to be one of the few artists who could successfully meld punk rock and hip-hop. Fellow Minnesotans ….
B. o. B's sophomore effort is missing that little bit of humility that made his debut (2010's The Adventures of Bobby Ray) so approachable, and when you come out of the gate nailing such a wide variety of pop-rap, asking for growth is asking for a lot.
A common criticism of B.o.B’s debut studio album, The Adventures of Bobby Ray, is that studio heads compromised the unique style displayed in the rapper’s underground mix tapes to appease the mainstream. The pliable flow that initially garnered notoriety for B.o.B (real name Bobby Ray Simmons) only reared its head intermittently, giving way instead to well-designed cameos that were thrust into the record’s foreground. The album was rife with grandiose production and predicated on being larger than life.
B.o.B. rode the wave of radio-friendly grassroots-fed hip-hop at the end of the last decade alongside contemporaries like Kid Cudi and Wale. While the former turned emo astronaut with his Man on the Moon saga and the latter turned club rapper after signing with Maybach Music Group, B.o.B. found his own lane in pop-rap.
The three-day, nine-email saga NME went through to hear an official sampler of BoB’s second album and follow-up to ‘The Adventures Of Bobby Ray’ was put in perspective when the album’s centrepiece ‘Both Of Us’, a collaboration with Taylor Swift, leaked this week. The song is a mulch of BoB’s bright, boring ad-rap and Swift’s talent for heartland torch songs, and that same mashing of styles serves for the street-sounding bits (‘Strange Clouds’) and the arena-sounding bits (‘Never Let You Go’ featuring OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder). The restrictions, the leak, the conservatism of the music… it’s a numbers game.
Listen back to some old B.o.B. Check out “I’ll Be In The Sky,” from 2008’s Who The F#ck Is B.o.B?, or “Satellite,” off of B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray the following year. Then listen to his new album, Strange Clouds. Really, from a sonic standpoint, there’s no grand deviation toward pop ….
B.o.B.’s sophomore record shows he is one of the top hit-makers in contemporary pop. The set opens portentously with the quasi-sci-fi "Bombs Away," featuring a sobering spoken-word passage from Morgan Freeman. Thankfully, it quickly shifts toward the artist’s irresistible hip-pop. He asserts his rapping skills on “So Hard to Breathe” and “Arena” with Chris Brown and T.I.
The rapper and famous friends reflect on the game’s ups and downs. Fraser McAlpine 2012 Now that the hip hop youth wing has taken one of its periodic swings into Newsnight-worrying amorality, it’s curiously reassuring to fire up a platter that concerns itself with the traditional values of the form: doing well financially, being the best, going out for a drink or two, and carping about the disorienting aspects of fame. That’s not to say Bobby Ray Simmons Jr is run-of-the-mill: he’s blessed with a gift for clear language, rarely missing his point and delivering his thoughtful lines with flinty disdain.