bobfrontcover_lead ARTIST: B.o.B.

ALBUM: B.o.B vs Bobby Ray (mixtape)

FUN FACT: The Grand Hustle representative prefers rock music to hip-hop.

WHY COMPLEX IS CO-SIGNING IT: The members of rap's freshman class have been defined by their dramatic moments just as much, if not more, than their music. Charles Hamilton lost it. Asher Roth got caught up in racial fuckery. Kid Cudi retired, then unretired. Then there is B.o.B, who has remained relatively quiet, aside from a few offhand comments about music industry politics. He seems to like it that way too, expressing frustration with the way "the media has made a competition out of rap" on B.o.B vs Bobby Ray's opening freestyle. Sure, the competitive nature of hip-hop may be occasionally overwhelming, but after listening to the Atlanta rapper's latest mixtape, we think he'll be just fine.

The project is evenly divided between B.o.B and Bobby Ray songs with coinciding interludes to explain each side of the rapper's personality. Things start off strongly with "One", the mixtape's first full song. We're immediately thrust into the middle of B.o.B's firmly positive agenda and remain there for the tape's duration. Often times, rappers with the same focus make the mistake of coming across as preachy, but B.o.B puts his personal flaws on display as well. The young emcee arguably bests his mentor, T.I., on the standout "I'm That Nigga."

The Bobby Ray portion of the mixtape is a bit harder to warm up to because of its experimental nature, but still impressive. It seems like Bobby Ray has a stronger personal connection to these songs too, self-producing all but one. We definitely dig the left-field approach, but as much as he hates the comparisons, Bobby does occasionally come across like a The Love Below-era Andre 3000. It's cool though. It's easy to hear the kid honing his own unique sound and we like what we've heard so far.

B.o.B, Bobby Ray, or whatever he calls himself, is more than fit to hold down the Grand Hustle fort while T.I. is away for his bid. If he keeps it up, there might be a new King of the South by the time he gets back. We'll find out whenever his official debut The Adventures of Bobby Ray (or is it B.o.B?) is finally released.


"I'm That Nigga" feat. T.I.