Interview with B.o.B

From The Miami Herald’s blog, Miami Music Matters

In the midst of a whirlwind promotional tour that has taken him through three states in the last few days, a tired B.o.B is looking forward to visiting South Florida.

“I love Miami,” said the lanky 21-year-old on the phone from Phoenix. “It’s like L.A., but on the beach.”

The artist born Bobby Ray Simmons will perform Sunday, March 14 at the Calle Ocho festival in Little Havana. He’ll share the stage with Sean Paul, Three 6 Mafia, and Miami acts Rick Ross, Flo Rida and Trina at the Power 96 stage, located at Southwest 8th Street and 17th Avenue.

The Atlanta-bred rapper, singer, producer, and guitarist is in the midst of mainstream recognition. His debut album, B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of  Bobby Ray, was recently given an April 27 release date, and the first single, the quirky love song “Nothin’ On You,” is currently no. 2 on iTunes and no. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 after only six weeks of charting.

“It’s kind of like I predicted it, but I didn’t think it would jump the charts that fast,” he said. “Watching it happen is amazing.”

But this isn’t B.o.B’s first single to chart, nor is it his first performance in Miami. At a performance with his five-piece band at the Awarehouse in October 2009, a proud-looking Jim Jonsin smiled from the back of the audience. Jonsin, the South Florida-based hip-hop producer responsible for smash hits like Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” and Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams,” helped sign B.o.B to Rebel Rock and Atlantic Records in 2006.

“When I got into the studio with [Jonsin] earlier in my career, I picked up tips on how to produce,” B.o.B said. “Not just making a beat.”

During the next several years, B.o.B released singles like “Haterz Everywhere” and “I’ll Be In The Sky” to moderate success and guested on songs by T.I. and Miami’s Pitbull. But he truly honed his skills on a variety of mixtapes and web-only EPs that housed funky, spaced-out tracks like “Cloud 9,” “Satellite,” “Lovelier Than You,” and “The Rain,” which showcased not only his excellent rapper-singer-songwriter abilities, but also his unique musicianship. Very few hip-hop artists truly excel at both rapping and producing (only Kanye West does it this well), but B.o.B does both, and with a creative flair that is truly his.

Although The Adventures of Bobby Ray will feature mostly new songs, he said some of his best-known mixtape songs will also make the cut. He said he produced about 60 percent of the album, with the rest of the beats being provided by Jonsin, T.I. and Dr. Luke. Labelmate Lupe Fiasco is the only announced special guest on the album, but B.o.B wouldn’t confirm rumors that Eminem would make an appearance as well.

On the song “Generation Lost,” he criticizes the current state of mainstream hip-hop. Yet it seems clear that it is also his musical inspiration.

“I just want to break through the monotony in the game,” he said. “Seeing results from my work is what keeps me going.”

The fans are a big inspiration, too. He actively interacts with followers on Twitter and live-streamed a free concert online in February, in which viewers could request songs to be performed.

“The fans are the fuel to everything I’m doing,” he said. “And the haters are just fans with nothing nice to say. And I appreciate that.”

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