B.o.B blew up a couple of years ago because of the power of two tracks; “Nothin’ But You (feat. Bruno Mars),” and “Airplanes (feat. Hayley Williams).” These two songs catapulted the ATL rapper into the pop music stratosphere, creating quite a big tear between hip-hop fans in the process. Some enjoyed him because of his energetic flow and his overwhelming success, while others ignored him as a rapper because of the immediate success and his weird collaborations (who else would put Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo on a track?).
But honestly, why hate on Bobby Ray? He might have some off beat productions and guest spots, but that doesn’t mean that his album is bad. In fact, his major label debut The Adventures of Bobby Ray was actually pretty good. So it should be to no ones surprise that his sophomore album Strange Clouds is continuing that arguement, making a solid album full of hip-pop that should entertain both sides of his supporters.
One of the first singles, “So Good,” is a poppy ode to his lover, where he tries to make her feel as good as he does. “So Hard To Breathe” is a rather angry rap coming from Bobby, where he resents himself and the success that followed him from the singles he dropped a while ago. “Arena (feat. Chris Brown and T.I.)” has some of his best verses period, not to mention a rather solid feature from T.I.
Strange Clouds, just like its predecessor, has no shortage of different and interesting collaborations. Country starlet Taylor Swift does her best Dev impersonation for the chorus for “Both Of Us,” an inspirational couples song. Young Money comes in for two tracks; the electric “Strange Clouds,” where Lil Wayne lays down one of his best featured verses in years (which isn’t saying much), while Nicki Minaj comes in for a lackluster verse in the crazily produced “Out Of My Mind.” Even Morgan Freeman is on the album to do the first song “Bombs Away,” where he narrates in his usual awesome way. My favorite feature is the chorus on “Chandelier,” sung by newcomer Lauriana Mae. Her soulful coo makes the track incredibly enjoyable (especially when she crescendos later on), and is the perfect back-up for Bobby’s rhymes.
His flow is what makes him different from all the other rappers out there right now. He can spit some good bars (most of the time on other people’s tracks) and can sing pretty well when he has to. However, there are a lot of times on the album where he sounds like someone else. B.o.B on the opening track, for instance, turns his normal flow into how Eminem would rap that song. He even dabbles into some Andre 3000 territory on songs like “So Good.” This isn’t a big complaint, but I would rather Bobby sound like Bobby instead of other hip-hop figures – intentionally or not.
Also, there are some a couple of tracks on the fifteen song LP that could have been tossed out. “Out Of My Mind” is and over-produced oddity, almost making a musical environment to accommodate Nicki Minaj and her marketable weirdness. “Castles (feat. Trey Songz)” is just too happy, with a chorus that sounds like it could be set behind a Disney Channel clip show.
In all, Strange Clouds settles none of the debates that rap fans have created. There are moments that show off his raw he can be, while others seem fit for the mainstream pop fan. In my opinion, Bobby Ray is in his own lane of hip-hop. He can make perfect radio-friendly hip-hop, then turn around and lay down some great verses somewhere else. And though he stumbles on the bodies of some of his features, Strange Clouds only proves that he’ll be in the game for a while. Whichever game he is a part of though is really up to you.
Final Grade: B
Go Download: “Chandelier (feat. Lauriana Mae)”