CD review: The Adventures of Bobby Ray

If I want to listen to some singing over urban beats, I buy an R&B album. When I buy a rap record, I want to hear rapping.

It seems, however, that today’s new batch of “emo-rappers” seem more comfortable crooning than rhyming, which makes for a jarring listening experience. Yeah, I know everybody wants to be Andre 3000, but I thought “The Love Below” sucked.

I begrudgingly give Kanye West credit for “808 & Heartbreaks,” an album I thought would be terrible, but that won me over mainly through the sheer force of its musicality.

Now, guys like Drake and Kid Cudi are doing the singing/rapping thing without any hesitation. The newest member of this club is B.o.B, who toiled for years on the mixtape circuit and has now only reached stardom thanks to his omnipresent single “Nothin on You.”

His official debut CD, “The Adventures of Bobby Ray,” is the strangest rap record of several years. This is a nakedly ambitious leap at crossover stardom. Years ago, if someone had made a record like this, they would have been clowned mercilessly by the more hardcore segment of the rap population. Now, T.I. is one of B.o.B’s executive producers.

I’m all for guys trying to find their avenue to success, but I can’t stress to you how pandering this album feels to the Hot Topic/Pop 40 audience. Not only is there “Nothin,” but there also are appearances from Paramore singer Haley Williams, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo and a Vampire Weekend cover.

I like to consider myself well versed in the music scene, and I can tell you I’ve never heard anything from Paramore or Vampire Weekend, and that makes me positive some dude from the ATL hasn’t either. So who is exactly is B.o.B. trying to target with this album?

This feels like the hand of record-industry folks (“Industry rule No. 4080/record company people are sha-deee”) steering an impressionable artist toward the path of least resistance. I mean, I don’t even feel like B.o.B gets off many good raps here before either: A. another rapper steps in to deliver a much stronger verse (Lupe on “Past My Shades” or T.I. on “Bet I Bust) or B. someone steps in to croon a sugary-sweet pop hook.

I wasn’t expecting much from this one, seeing as “Nothin” and the “Airplanes” remix with Eminem didn’t exactly move me, but I did think this guy had some talent based on his earlier mixtape work. However, it’s not here. Maybe the success of this record will allow him to do what he wants in the future, but I have a feeling he’s already too far down the pop road to turn around now.

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~ by Elliott on May 17, 2010.

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