No joking, though? B.o.B’s second album, Strange Clouds, which just dropped last Tuesday, is amazing.
As you know, I have a love-hate relationship with contemporary hip-hop. I love Drake’s lyrics and persona, but I get bored by his thin, tinny beats. Why rap passionately if the music behind you is so lifeless? And of course, old fogey that I am, I get frustrated by the ever-present misogyny is rap songs of all sorts. I just never think it’s fun to hear about bitches and hos, unless it’s in the fabulous, ironic context of drag.
To get my hip-hop fix, I sometimes turn to British rappers for hot, thumping anthems, or I look to the mindless party jams that Flo Rida knows so well. Or if I want deeper thoughts, I turn to Kanye West or Lupe Fiasco or the rap-tinted songs of Janelle Monae.
But I love B.o.B. because he gives me everything I need in one package. You want dance anthems? Bang! You want clever wordplay? Boom! You want an introspective track that explores bigger themes? Whap!
PLUS, these layers get wrapped in pop-friendly, hook-heavy production. I know that works against him in some hip-hop circles, where being catchy is the same as selling out. But you know what? I don’t spin in those circles. I spin around on the dance floor, having fun.
Here are the hottest hits from the Strange Clouds album.
(1) “So Good”
You may have heard this one, since it’s the album’s current hit single. I’ll admit that I don’t like it as much as I did last month, and it’s not nearly as substantive as say, “Airplanes.” Still, Ryan Tedder’s shiny production and B.o.B.’s smooth Southern flow are good for a trip on the elliptical machine.
(2) “Out of My Mind” (feat. Nicki Minaj)
This song is fierce in the drag queen sense, but it’s also fierce in the tiger-ripping-apart-an-emu sense. B.o.B assaults verses about how hard he is, how he’s amazing because he’s crazy, and how he doesn’t even need this damn song, thank you very much. And yet he’s still performing this song, you know? He clearly does need it a little bit. That just adds to the compelling mental confusion.
(3) “Where Are You (B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray)”
Speaking of a divided mind, this song follows the hip-hop tradition of rappers grappling with the distance between their “real” persona and their “famous” persona. (Think of T.I.’s arguments with his Tip alter-ego or just about anything Kanye West has ever done.) Here, B.o.B. shows he can add pain and vulnerability to his rhymes, which makes him sound like a legitimate storyteller.
(4) “Chandelier” (feat. Lauriana Mae)
I don’t know who Lauriana Mae is, but her cool-and-wounded voice sounds great here, especially riding over the elegant production in the chorus. This song gets pretty close to the dubstep genre, with its thumping bass and big swells of sound. It feels like an anthem, but maybe an anthem for the middle of the night, when things are moody and alluring.