We're big fans of Bobby Ray Simmons, also known as B.o.B., here at Complex. So it was a great pleasure to be able to sit down with him and pick his brain about his new mix tape and album, his dream collaborations, and, of course, The Hip Hop Dance Experience.
Ubisoft's latest dance title hit the Wii and Xbox 360 on Nov. 13, and it features songs ranging from Flo Rida's "Wild Ones" to LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It." Is it the ultimate dance game? No idea. We were just happy to be speaking with B.o.B. Check out our full chat below.
Complex: So you've got two songs in The Hip Hop Dance Experience—"So Good" and "Airplanes." Why those two songs? Did you pick them or did Ubisoft?
B.o.B.: They picked them. And I think they picked good songs because, you know, these are the songs that just around the world, you know—because these games sell, like, millions of copies. And so these are my biggest records, you know—two of my biggest records—and, you know, I think just in the whole total package of the game and the songs that they have on here, I think it's a good playlist of all spectrums of hip-hop, you know what I mean? And how it's branched out into—whether it leans more towards pop, rock, hip-hop, you know, hardcore hip-hop, you know, dance music—it's kind of got all that blending into the same, in one game.
And those songs are kind of a good mix of styles.
Yeah, exactly, exactly. And like, you know, really, it shows—people dance, you know, because sometimes one may think inside the box, thinking, well, if it's a dance song, it's got to have these type of drums, or these type of synths in it, you know? But, you know, I think "Airplanes" is probably the only song—I think actually my two songs are the only songs that have piano in it. "So Good" and "Airplanes."
So they break the mold a little bit?
Yeah, you know, they kind of push the envelope, and that's what I'm all about doing. So I think it's a—it's progressive in itself.
So you've played the game? What do you think?
Yes I have. I scored a little bit of points [laughing].
Do you consider yourself a pretty good dancer?
I do not consider myself a pretty good dancer [laughing]. But I do happen to dance. I would, you know—in my show, I may break into a jig.
You going to take any of the moves that they choreographed for the game and incorporate them into your performances?
No, I'll leave them for the game. They're like, "Didn't he get those moves off The Hip Hop Dance Experience? [laughing]
Out of all the people you've collaborated with, who do you think would be the best at The Hip Hop Dance Experience?
Haley Williams [from Paramore]. She can dance. Like, for real. Like, nobody—it's so crazy because she's a rock star, and nobody knows it. But you know how I found out? From performing "Airplanes" with her and seeing her dance. She actually can dance, like, for real. Like, no lies, crazy. Blew my mind.
Who would be the worst at the game?
Me? Nah [laughing]. I don't know. There's no telling. I mean, usually when people can't dance, you don't know, because they don't dance.
Are you a gamer?
If I'm on tour. Like, when I'm in the stages of making an album, promoting an album, you know, I usually don't have time to play games. But once I'm on the road touring, then I can bum out and just play eight hours straight. I've got an Xbox. I'm becoming a lot more involved in the video game world. I'll say that.
What do you think draws video game companies to you, or are you more drawn to the gaming industry?
You know, I think things like these type of partnerships are things that you definitely grow into. And you know, for example, with this, with just being involved in the dance world and the dance community—like, in 2009, 2008, I had a song called "Haterz" that ended up in the soundtrack for Step Up 2. It was actually in the movie. And so I think that was, like—it kind of just started there and kept building with video games and different dance events. And I remember going out to Seattle for a huge dance performance. There's different things like that. And even incorporating it into my videos, you know, videos like "Ray Bands," "Strange Clouds," even, you know, it just kind of builds into this type of collaboration.
Speaking of "Strange Clouds," your collaboration with Weezy, there's that iPhone game based on it—
Strange Clouds, yeah. Basically, with the app, we basically came up with the—something sort of like a puzzle. You know, you're going through the universe and you've got to solve these puzzles, like slice through the clouds and get these shapes trapped. With the alien me, which is the real version actually. And so you know it just, it all kind of—it's a relationship, you know what I mean? Even with the fans, it's a relationship you build. You know, fans getting used to me being a part of video games and being in video games.
What made you want to do the iPhone game?
It really just kind of, you know, like an idea will pop up in the room, like, "Hey why don't we make an app?" Like, "Yeah, why don't we? [laughing] Why not?"
Tell me about the new mix tape.
So basically, on my birthday, I got a new mix tape coming out called "Fuck Em We Ball." And the title of the mix tape came inspired by this movie called Snow on tha Bluff. I don't know if you've seen it, but I would put it in the same vein as a movie like…City of God, Slumdog Millionaire. It's like one of those real, one of those movies that just shows you the rawness of the street. Of street life in Atlanta. And in one particular scene—first off, the movie's crazy because you don't know what's real and what's not. Like, it really fucks with your head, because you don't know if it's real or not. And so there's a scene in the movie where the guy goes, "Fuck 'em, we ball." And it just resonated with me because it's just how I feel at this point in my career. You know, I'm just like—I just want to get back to just what I do naturally, you know, it's like, fuck it, fuck it all, fuck all the haters, fuck all the politics, I'm just gonna do what I want to do.
That's reflected in the "Airplanes" lyrics as well.
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. So. You know, and then on the mixtape, you know, there's no, you know, we're our own label, so to speak—in the process of making it, you know, me and my team, my management, and you know, there's some producers I've been working with—it's just free. A free work environment, you know? There's no one hovering over your shoulder going, "Well we need to make this—needs to sound more like a single." You know? Because think about music fans. They don't listen to music like, "This doesn't sound like a single to me. The hook is not catchy enough." It's like, they're just listening to music, you know? I feel like it should be made with the same type of attitude.
Is that going to be reflected on the next album too?
Absolutely. But, you know, my albums—I like to get—I get risky with my mix tapes too, but this mix tape is more getting back to my roots. But the albums, I always like to experiment and kind of put my creative elbow into it a little bit more, you know. I may stay up a couple more hours later on this album song.
Lose a little sleep over it?
Your latest collaboration was with Juicy J and TI—who do you want to collaborate with next?
I want to collaborate with M.I.A. and Bjork. Not simultaneously, but—I definitely want to collaborate with M.I.A. I think that shit's like—I think it's like, it should just happen. Just because. I think it should just be, just because, I mean, the universe. It just needs to happen. Not even because I'm saying it, because I'm me, but just for the universe. B.o.B. and M.I.A. need to collaborate.
Would you ever want to work on another game?
I already am, I just can't mention it to you yet [laughing]. Very soon.