"B.o.B, they say you ain't hitting in Atlanta — so what you gon' do about that, BOBBY RAY?"
"I'm gon' turn this mutha out!"
That's not exactly how the conversation went between music writer Maurice Garland and B.o.B aka Bobby Ray in the video below. But watching him talk to Garland about his forthcoming March 2012 album Strange Clouds, and the lackluster hometown embrace the MC has received from Atlanta since the release of his 2010 Grammy-nominated major label debut (B.o.B: The Adventures of Bobby Ray) oddly reminded me of the intro to Hammer's 1989 video for "Turn This Mutha Out."
As was the case with Hammer, Ray's debut effort has been criticized for being too poppy, thanks to chart-topping collaborations with the likes of Paramore's Hayley Williams ("Airplanes") and Bruno Mars ("Nothin' On You"). Of course, there are a couple of MAJOR differences between B.o.B and MC Hammer: 1) B.o.B is a lyrical beast; whereas Hammer was a dancing machine — literally. 2) It was the hip-hop snobs in New York, not his Oakland hometown, that gave Hammer a hard time early on; whereas Decatur native Bobby Ray's seemingly overnight evolution from hater-anthem A-Town rapper to left-of-center, guitar-strumming artiste may have thrown some in Atlanta for a loop.
But as Garland and Ray point out in the above video, this is the same dude that started out making unorthodox songs about smoking trees, so perhaps he is coming full circle with "Strange Clouds", the single featuring Lil Wayne.
For all the early comparisons to Andre 3000 that he garnered, the truth is B.o.B is really more of an amalgam of an Andre 3000 and Big Boi — rooted in the streets, with his head blowing in the wind. If he can find a way to tap into that same magical center on Strange Clouds that OutKast exploited royally over the course of four albums, hip-hop heads might find themselves choking off his second-hand smoke. Now that Atlanta finds itself in the same dangerous place in which New York once resided — with a well-defined sound and sense of what qualifies as "real hip-hop" — the danger is that anything outside of our narrow norm might not be accepted or celebrated as authentic. But where would this city be without its outcasts and weirdos?
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