It’s been a little while since we’ve heard from B.o.B. After the mega crossover success of his debut album, B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray, which dropped in April 2010, the Atlanta native rode the wave until he dropped his No Genre mixtape in December 2010. Storming back in late 2011, B.o.B dropped his Lil Wayne collaboration “Strange Clouds” in September, which quickly soared to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. As he preps his album of the same name for an early 2012 release, the former XXL Freshman returned with E.P.I.C.: Every Play Is Crucial last week.

A large portion of the success stemmed from B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray came in its crossover appeal. Sure, Bob was rapping, but accessible R&B hooks and songs for the ladies made the 24-year-old a pop darling. With this new tape, he’s unrelentingly back his zone, merging hard-hitting hip-hop and more poppy records that, striking a balance that marked even his earliest mixtapes.

A singing, rapping, guitar-playing talent, B.o.B is shaping up to be one of the more well-rounded artists within rap, and naturally juggles his abilities throughout. He roars lyrical ferocity (“Epic”), hits the club (“Guest List”), lights up (“5 On The Kush”), croons to the ladies (“What Are We Doing”) and remains consistently clever throughout.

Backed by a whirlpool collection of spacey and pounding production, the project boasts an awards show-like guest list, with feature spots from Eminem, Lil Wayne, T.I., Mos Def, Bun B, Meek Mill, Big K.R.I.T., 2 Chainz, Roscoe Dash, Future, Trae Tha Truth and Playboy Tre. Impressively, B.o.B shreds beats up to par with each guest.

On the tape closer, “High,” Bobbby Ray quips, “They say pop means being popular to the population/So excuse me for being the topic of your conversation.” With E.P.I.C.: Every Play Is Crucial riding into the New Year and his sophomore album hitting stores in March, there’s going to be a lot more coversation. —Adam Fleischer