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Album review: B.o.B's 'B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray'

April 27, 2010 |  7:42 am

Here's an indicator that times have been tough: Our nation’s top-charting single idolizes a lady for some downright practicality. In “Nothin’ on You,” B.o.B., who in real life is known as Bobby Ray Simmons, raps, “Baby, you the whole package, plus you pay your taxes.”

It's a winning single, and a slow-groove introduction to a versatile newcomer. Glistening effects and a delivery that goes down as easy as a relaxed skate around a roller rink, “Nothin’ On You” recalls the playful, good-time vibe of Lupe Fiasco’s “Kick Push,” and even contains geek-boy references to outdated video games.

Hailing from Atlanta, Simmons is an underground hip-hop hero who doesn’t shy away from the use of guitars. Sometimes that’s good, as on his zippy power-pop partnership with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo on “Magic,” but on other songs, such as the acoustic, Caribbean-flavored “Lovelier Than You,” Simmons’ penchant for genre-hopping gets the best of him. Also overkill: The ’70s rock guitar noodling of overly somber “Ghost in the Machine.”

Yet at his best, Simmons channels the spirit of a young Kanye West. The album’s stand-out, “The Kids,” riffs on a Vampire Weekend sample, all while Simmons expresses his insecurity about winning street cred.

Like Kanye, Simmons doesn’t shy from middle-class tales, and is comfortable rapping over space-age R&B. “Airplanes,” for instance, which comes with a stern cameo from Paramore’s Hayley Williams, pairs the artist with a meditative piano as he contemplates whether this whole bid-for-fame thing is worthwhile. The rags-to-riches rap is a cliched one, but Simmons’ take feels brave. It takes true guts, after all, to admit nostalgia for the days of working at a fast-food shop.

--Todd Martens

'B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray'
Rebel Rock/Grand Hustle/Atlantic
Three stars (Out of four)

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