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B.o.B, The Adventures of Bobby Ray Gets an XL

The Adventures of Bobby Ray
(Grand Hustle/Atlantic)

Beats: XL
Lyrics: L
Originality: XL

B.o.B’s path to success was not without its false starts, but thanks to his breakthrough single, “Nothin’ On You,” the Atlanta rapper finally gets the chance to detail his journey on his long-awaited debut, The Adventures of Bobby Ray. Utilizing his duel talents (rapping and singing) B.o.B reveals the thoughts of a musician trying to make it in the music industry.

The voyage begins on the album’s melodramatic intro track, “Don’t Let Me Fall,” where B.o.B uses a rock-tinged production effort to plead for help as he attempts to live out his dreams. It peaks on the hopeful “Airplanes,” (Check for Eminen’s scene-stealing verse on Part II of the cut) as the rapper teams up with Paramore singer Hayley Williams to remember the days before he had a record contract. And over the ominous keys of the self-produced “Ghost of the Machine,” Bobby Ray sings about struggling to find his place in the world. “Where am I supposed to go and who am I supposed to believe?” he croons. “If only you knew what I knew, then you could see just what I see.”

B.o.B’s eclectic approach on pop-friendly efforts like the Dr. Luke-produced “Magic,” featuring Rivers Cuomo, and experimental songs like the guitar-plucking “Lovelier Than You,” likely won’t appeal to fans of his early work. But he also demonstrates that he’s still more than capable of holding his own lyrically alongside revered wordsmith Lupe Fiasco on “Past My Shades.” Likewise, he’s slick enough to trade verse with Grand Hustle boss T.I. on the braggadocios “Bet I.”

While Adventures of Bobby Ray is B.o.B’s story, the feeling he conjures makes it easy to relate. It’s safe to say this genre-blending debut is a step in the right direction for the young rap star. —Chris Yuscavage

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