Lauren Hallow / Lantern photographer
The Ohio Statehouse, the Columbus Zoo, COSI: Columbus has a great deal to offer visitors, but rapper Bobby Ray “B.o.B.” Simmons was enthralled by Raising Cane’s chicken.
“It was amazing. I feel so complete in my life now,” the musician told The Lantern in sardonic awe, not bothered by the fact that it was takeout. “Cane’s brought so much, it felt like I was at the restaurant.”
The account is only one of the many things that fans and critics find interesting about the upstart rapper.
“He’s got a really interesting style,” said Seth Teplitsky, a first-year in biology.
B.o.B. has also gathered acclaim for his playing other instruments, such as guitar, during his performances, and doing it in a way that is more than just kitschy Lil’ Wayne-style strumming.
His 2010 debut album, “B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray,” opened at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and has sold more than 500,000 copies to date. It also featured three U.S. Top 10 tracks, including Grammy-nominated “Nothin’ on You” and “Airplanes.” The rapper said he isn’t feeling pressure to outdo his debut, however.
“I never really thought about it like that,” he said. “I feel like there will be a tremendous amount of growth. But each album will be its own.”
He doesn’t plan on branching out too much or releasing a more rock-oriented album.
“I feel like a lot of my music is multi-faceted,” he said. “I may wanna go on a rap binge or a rock binge, but what I think about is the crowd, and how a song affects the fans.”
An element that drew attention to his first record was the breadth of notable guest stars, including rappers Eminem and Lupe Fiasco and rockers such as Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and Paramore’s Hayley Williams. “I was very privileged for my first album,” the rapper said. “That was a very huge plus for me. Even artists that are deep in the game don’t get those kinds of opportunities.”
When asked who he would most like to work with in the future, he constructed a super-group featuring himself, renowned jazz artist Miles Davis and guitarist Jimi Hendrix.
“It’ll be like … me and Jimi going back and forth on vocals, and sometimes we’ll just play with no vocals,” he said. “Call it like, ‘Little Purple Wing’ (in reference to several Hendrix songs).”
B.o.B. grew up in Decatur, Ga., a city near Atlanta. During high school, he gained recognition by releasing a series of mixed tapes that also caught the eye of rap’s “King of the South,” T.I., the founder of Grand Hustle Records, the label to which B.o.B. is signed.
B.o.B. listed T.I. as one of his major influences from his own town, but also pointed to Gnarls Barkley, the group consisting of Cee Lo Green and producer Danger Mouse.
“Their first record came out at a time where I needed to hear an Atlanta rapper make that kind of music,” he said in description of the group’s album, “St. Elsewhere.”
“The Adventures of Bobby Ray” came out on April 27, 2010, when the rapper was 21 years old. It’s easy to forget that the confident emcee was rapping in front a crowd of his peers at the Newport show.
“It feels less like a job, continuing to be with people my own age,” he said. “I traveled a lot. You have to grow up fast.”
Despite the forced early maturity, B.o.B. can still take things lightly, such as his explanation of his moniker.
“You see, B.o.B. is merely a magnification of ‘Bob,'” he said, referencing the shortened version of his legal name. “But there are an endless number of acronyms you can make. A lot of the ones I think of are dirty.”
He might be approaching superstar status in the rap world, but a 22-year-old’s sense of humor is still there.