A problem with most popular hip-hop music is that the artists aren’t relatable. Many spend so much time mean-mugging and touting their own invincibility that even when they insert a quip about life’s difficulties into a song, it’s often lost on the listener. Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (probably the year’s best album) had its moments, but West himself is far too large of an ego to draw true sympathy. Music’s rookie-of-the-year B.o.B (Bobby Simmons) is an exception.
Simmons’ 2010 successes include a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album, as well as nominations for his two most popular singles, “Nothin’ on You” and “Airplanes Part II.” His most recent single “Don’t Let Me Fall” trumps the others, however.
He soulfully sings of his rise during the hook while praying that he doesn’t come back down to Earth as quickly as he got to the top. His ability to switch gears from rapping during the verses to singing a melody during the hook separates him from many of his contemporaries. The result is an uplifting track that reminds the listener that hard work pays off, but extracurricular activities can take it away (as it threatens to do with label-mate T.I.).
Another quality that sets Simmons apart is his contribution of his own instrumentals. The simple acoustic strumming that accompanies the chorus, along with the gentle piano line, adds humanness to the song that an electronic sample couldn’t. Several rappers, such as Lil Wayne and Kevin Rudolf, have experimented with guitars in their music with awkward results. Simmons is not Jimi Hendrix, nor does he attempt to be when he plays.
With the success that Simmons has experienced with his first album, the outlook is good for his future releases. And, after listening to “Don’t Let Me Fall,” it’s good to know that he’s smart enough not to become another one-album wonder.