Bobby Ray Simmons—better known as B.o.B—is an up-and-coming artist on T.I.’s Grand Hustle label. Over the past three years, he has made guest appearances on nearly 30 album tracks and released five mixtapes of his own: Cloud 9 (2007), Hi! My Name Is B.o.B (2008), The Future (2008), Who The F#*k Is B.o.B? (2008) and B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray (2009). The Adventures of B.o.B, his highly-anticipated major label debut, will be released on Atlantic Records in 2010.
Although Bobby Ray’s music hasn’t hit the shelves of brick-and-mortar stores, his underground fame landed him on the covers of XXL—as a member of “Hip-Hop’s Class of ’09—and Vibe, which generated significant buzz about his alternative approach to hip-hop music. On Friday, October 23, 2009, he kicked off his third tour, as a supporting act for the rock band Blue October.
While on the road with his previous tour mate, Shwayze, Bobby Ray managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry—reflecting on his eclectic tastes, the production lessons he learned from Jim Jonsin, and the reason why Atlanta was the perfect place to grow and develop as an artist.
The title of your current mixtape is B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray. For those who don't know you, who exactly is B.o.B, and how is he different from Bobby Ray? How would you describe yourself to new listeners?
If you're just now really getting into my music, B.o.B is like a backup persona that I created, like a certain type of energy I had when I first started. And it went along with a different kind of sound. If you listen to my early mixtapes, like Cloud 9 and The Future and even Hi! My Name is B.o.B, you'll hear a lot of B.o.B. That's really B.o.B, and the songs are like really different from my newly released tape, B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray. A lot of songs on the Bobby Ray side kind of sound like two different artists, almost. Really, Bobby Ray is just me. There's really no persona to it. It's honestly just me, expressing my evolution as a person, musically.
Your music is very eclectic. Considering your background, I'm curious to know how you became so open-minded about the boundaries of music.
I think my personality led me to things that led me to music and different artists like Outkast, Bjork, Gnarles Barkley, Goodie Mob, and rock musicians, like the Foo Fighters, My Chemical Romance, Coldplay. Even the earlier stuff by James Brown and Michael Jackson and Tina Turner. I've always been led to the right musicians who inspired me the right way at the right amount of time. It's almost as if it was meant to happen. So that kind of kept my boundaries open, understanding that there's always more that I can do.