After a pick up game of basketball in gym class, I was in the lunchroom with my fellow 10th graders telling them to listen to "Airplanes" because it was going to be huge, after "Nothin’ On You." I told them to check out “The Kids” because B.o.B. raps too real – and this chick Janelle Monáe could do everything. I told them to at least check out “Bet I” because T.I. was on it. They just continued to drink their chocolate milk and push around their ravioli with their sporks, moving onto a debate about who had the better freestyle between Jay Z and Big L. I ate my P, B & J in silence, nodding my head along to the lyrics I could bump and relate to.
I continued to break into the genre and built up the confidence of my peers in school when "Airplanes" hit and when I bashed "Magic" as not being “the real Bobby Ray.” I told my hip-hop friends to listen to “Generation Lost” and they understood why I liked them. I told others who I thought needed something softer to feel their way into “Don’t Let Me Fall.”
I realized that Adventures was more of a “hip-pop” album if anything, but I told them he could rap with anyone in the game. His next mixtape came out and No Genre became a force to be reckoned with. He changed up his flows, rapped about what he had lost and absolutely spit game on “Beast Mode.”
He spit, “They mad cause I’m straight, what the mind sees, the eyes say / And they say that I went pop and the streets say I ain’t hip hop / Well if it’s not, then the shit stop.” B.o.B was a conscious rapper to me, who recognized his critics but was going to prove he still had all the game in the world. “Not Lost” and “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” assisted by T.I., were easy to relate to for a teenager who was looking forward toward college and struggling with the classes that were in front of him. For me, I could count on new Bobby Ray music; I never expected him to fade.
J. Cole’s “Friday Night Lights” took plays away from my old B.o.B. rotations and Kendrick’s “Section .80” was just too good to ignore. I had "Beast Mode" down, but "Rigamortis" was a whole new animal. More Cole and Kendrick meant more Jay Z and Nas, and more Snoop and Dre. But I also wanted newer artists too, like Big K.R.I.T. The three have remained relatively true to form, with their fare share of hiccups along the way.
But following No Genre, B.o.B.changed with all of his success. Maybe it was because he hit superstardom, thanks to Grammys and sneaker deals.
The artist who said, “I used to wear a grill/Because it was the trend/ Not because I like it/ I just wanted to fit in,” went to wearing a big, golden grill on the cover of “Underground Luxury.” In between were a few lukewarm mixtapes and an album (“Strange Clouds”) that I saw him perform, adding “But I” to his set to keep the attractive women on stage.
I kept saying this would be the last straw. That I would stop giving B.o.B a chance by refusing to listen to his newest music. As he remains heavy on the radio, however, I can’t escape the man, between dial changes on Hot 97 and Power 105.1. He’s all over the place – albeit usually with bravado rap, but he also authored the touching “John Doe.”.
Then I got an email while checking my phone on the toilet, and thought, “Oh crap, No Genre 2...He’s back.” I listened to the promo video, though, and I got more "Headbands." The whole video showed him signing his own sneaker and having the crowd go crazy for the red leather.
Naturally, I went to Twitter.
Normally I prefer to abstain from hitting up artists on social media. (Wale and Lupe are always going off about some shit.) But I saw that B.o.B. had been active over a few hour time period, Tweeting something about people being fake when they text and it having something to do with sex.
I decide to Tweet him, and he Tweets back immediately. I formed a wry smile and realize my attachment to the artist himself is gone.
I hope that No Genre 2 has on it what it should: an array of songs by a multi-talented musician, and not just cliched club bangers.
Regardless of what happens, though, I guess I have learned that hip-hop artists change, no matter how much you wish differently. Although it’s always fun to debate if they’re still true to themselves, they change like the rest of us, and sometimes cannot see it. Adventures is almost at the end on my iTunes, but I’m still nodding along to the 2010 versatile juggernaut – whether B.o.B. today would do so too is the big question, and one that we'll hopefully have answered when No Genre 2 drops.
[Josh Solomom is a Hip-Hop problem solver, not an identifier. His Twitter is @therealjsolo.]