Words by: Richard Coyle
Snaps by: Leah Moriyama
B.o.B, one of the first emcees of the double O’s to convert internet hype into tangible commercial success, has had a decade that ranks up proper when matched against that of his senior class. It’s been a little over 7 years when we first heard the chart-topping “Nothin’ on You” featuring two relatively unknown artists at the time B.o.B, and Bruno Mars off of his inaugural single off of his debut album; The Adventures of Bobby Ray. Consequently, that album solidified B.o.B. as a bonafide star as well as his feature counterpart. Pushing millions of units between his first three studio albums, B.o.B showed and proved in terms of metrics and an innate ability as a crossover success. In Dec. 2013, the rapper released his Underground Luxury album. Since then, we’ve been clamoring for more. Fast forward to 2017, fresh off his Elements tour which was a collective of his four previously released mixtapes; Water, Fire, Earth, and Air. B.o.B blesses us with his latest classic – Ether.
In a day and age where the narrative of hip-hop is as subjective and polarizing as the presidential debate (just ask Joe Budden and Lil’ Yachty), Ether is a symphony to deaf ears. One of the reasons that Ether showcases 360 degrees of Atlanta’s finest is because he’s gone independent, since his last drop. He has much more freedom to be himself – and unapologetically so. He is unleashed and the driver of his own lane.
B.o.B. continues to prove his resilience in an industry that never ensures a lasting legacy. His experience—both with a major label and as an indie artist—is something his No Genre signees can not only learn from but can use as a model to navigating the mercurial music business.
We rap with B.o.B to get the drop on his new album, the state of the union of hip-hop, and his preference of Sativa over Indica.
When did you realize music was something you wanted to do as a career?
In 5th grade, I always knew I wanted to do music. I was listening to artists like DMX, Eminem. Those two really inspired me and it never stops. I’m 28 now, and I still get inspired by new shit to this day. It came in different phases for me. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m going to decide to be an artist and that’s it.” I think the particulars of it changed over time like I want to be an artist that plays guitar or do an animated album. I’m constantly inspired and evolving.
As an artist and producer, do you favor one more than the other and how is the approach different?
I think it comes in phases, I enjoy being an artist and producing. For instance, I could never make a song like, “I’ll Be in the Sky” again, or a song like “Airplanes” again. It’s like taking a picture. Do you how hard it is to recreate a picture? To make it look exactly how it was at that exact same moment? Things evolve and change as time goes.
Are there any artists out there that you would like to collaborate with that you haven’t?
No. I really can’t say that there is, I ‘ve collaborated with so many people over the years. I’m just so open to collaborating with new artists. Artists that nobody has ever heard of. Like they all have music out there and I happen to land on their page and I’m like, “Wow, I gotta work with that person.”
You have the uncanny ability to jump from track to track. Is your approach different?
It really depends on what I’m in the mood for. Sometimes I’m in the mood to rap, sometimes I’m in the mood to sing. It really depends on the vibe. Honestly, it’s not a decision I even make. Life happens and I adapt.
Tell us about your label No Genre.
I started No Genre because I know what I went through as an artist and I never want anybody else to go through that as an artist. You know, when I got signed, I didn’t put my first album out until four years after. As much success as I’ve had, I’ve been through a lot of bullshit to get where I am now, and I feel like I went through a lot of unnecessary shit, and I don’t want any artist under my watch to have to go through that. I want to give them insight on what to do to succeed. You know Outkast, Goodie Mob and Gnarls Barkley paved the way for me. You know artists who broke new ground. I want to be able to do that for the next generation, I think I’m good at introducing new people to the world and that’s why I started No Genre.
Being a veteran of the rap game, what have you learned and how have you evolved?
I feel like I’ve simplified myself. I’ve gotten to a point where I just know how to create what I’m envisioning in my head. When I first started, I made a song called, “Created a Monster” when I just learned how to play the guitar. If I knew what I know now, I would’ve gotten somebody to play the guitar [laughs]. On the flip side, that’s kind of the beautiful thing about it as well. It wouldn’t have sounded the same. Had I known how to really play guitar? It wouldn’t have sounded organic. I still try to understand that element and have
things come out a certain type of way.
What can your fans expect from Ether?
My insight, my perspective, who I am and what makes my brain tick. I feel like my fans could only get that from an interview like this. People that read my interview will be able to listen to my music and get the same vibe. That’s the unique thing that I have.
What do you feel is the current State of the Union of hip-hop?
I feel like hip hop that I know, is completely different than what is nowadays. What you have to understand is, hip-hop has always been rugged. Hip-hop has always been recorded on the best equipment you can find at the time, Hip-hop hasn’t always been recorded in a million dollar studio. I think the intention is different now. The intention of hip-hop was always to bring people together, even back when it started in the boroughs of New York. Back when all the gangs were divided, it brought them together. It just brought people together. Now, I feel like the capitalistic agenda has seeped its way into the core of the hip-hop community. Right now, you’re not seeing it’s organic, original intention. It’s commercialized and saturated. You know anything that is popular gets commercialized and what we’re witnessing now, is the birth of a new generation, genre or vibe. It may not be what you and I feel it should be, but it’s going to happen until the next thing pops.
Are there any artists you’re currently feeling?
I’ve always loved all types of music. What’s really catching my attention lately, is this trap-metal like Xxxtentacion. He’s not the only one doing it, but he’s the frontrunner of this mosh-trap music. When I was a kid, we used to listen to Korn and we would mosh. Black kids moshing bumping Korn. We didn’t do that listening to DMX or Jay-Z. Now it’s interesting that trap music is making people mosh. I’m curious to see where all of this is going.
Are you a Sativa or Indica guy?
Sativa all day. Now, I do have Indicas, but they’re more so when I need to go to sleep.
What are your favorite strains?
I really like Durban Poison, Blue Dream is always one of my favorites and I would say, XJ-13 is one as well.
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