Before Atlanta rapper B.o.B. flies high with Strange Clouds next year, the MC has unveiled a new mixtape, E.P.I.C. (Every Play Is Crucial). Not everything is that dire, but it’s a substantial enough release as is.
The dominant theme of the effort is Bobby Ray’s braggadocio attitude. On each track, Ray brandishes his more thuggish tendencies, usually with the help of other, harder MCs. Utilizing the talents and weed appreciation of Bun B and Big K.R.I.T., “5 on the Kush” is your prototypical pot tribute, with lots of swinging southern rumble and an unidentifiable, vintage soul sample. The biggest collabo of the entire release, though, is “Boom Bap”, with cameos from T.I. and Mos Def. Dropping his verse last, B.o.B. does his best to make sure that people know the track is his, with the mutated bongo beat and rapid-fire rhymes, despite both Tip and Mos eking past him in terms of musical impact. Even uninspired collabos, like “Strange Clouds” with Lil Wayne and “Things Get Worse” with Eminem, serve a purpose: to illustrate that B.o.B. is too far out there even for a Martian and Mr. Mathers.
B.o.B.’s 2010 debut was remarkable for its spunk and quirk. “Wrong” is a return to that, a dynamo of hyperactive energy that takes Phoenix’s “1901” and transmogrifies it into a personal anthem of overcoming the impossible with some of the tape’s bangin-est rhymes (“Thats why Im never threatened by these little boys with big toys/They cant aim, its piss poor, what you holding the clip for?/Put the gun down, get a clipboard”). Even “Guest List”, which once again falls prey to every hackneyed Southern rap tendency, exudes charm thanks to B.o.B.’s unique flow and nuanced delivery. That charisma reaches its most naive, yet worldly, apex with “What Are We Doing”, a slow, sexy ode that surprisingly rails against knockin’ boots.
Wherever B.o.B. soars next, he will undoubtedly continue to appeal to a baser sensibility. Musically, though, he’s at his most alluring when he’s in his own dimension.
Essential Tracks: “Boom Bap”, “Wrong”, and “What Are We Doing”