B.o.B Photo courtesy of the artist
Atlanta-based hip hop artist Bobby Ray Simmons, also known as B.o.B, has been a pop culture staple for nearly a decade. While he has four studio albums — his latest, Ether, dropped just a few months ago — the 2010 album B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray is the one that threw him into the world of airplay, especially with smash hits like “Nothin’ On You” and “Airplanes.” Just last year, Simmons garnered attention for speaking out on his views relating to the “flat earth” movement, which he explained in several Twitter posts last January, and even prominent astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson responded in an (unsuccessful) attempt to convince him otherwise. Prior to his performance at Warehouse Live on Saturday, FPH spoke to B.o.B about the current state of his career, what gets an artist to the top of the charts, and his views on science and technology.
Free Press Houston: You released your latest full-length Ether a while back, your first in four years. How long did this project take to complete?
B.o.B: Really, a lot of those songs were written before I even began to work on the Elements mixtape. If those songs from the record were already done, then the mixtape really sculpted this one.
FPH: Are you planning on putting out another EP in the near future, or perhaps even a full-length?
B.o.B: Yeah, I always have something in the works. I never stop. I’m working on something right now.
FPH: Speaking of your EPs, the “Concept” ones, i.g. NASA, water, fire, earth air; what is the meaning of them?
B.o.B: They represent the physical world that we can see with our eyes, but also the unseen forces that act upon nature as well.
FPH: What do you mean by “unseen forces”?
B.o.B.: Unseen forces refers to the the ideas of Nikola Tesla, which talk about the realm in which all matter and material moves through. So, Tesla was way ahead of his time, you know; he invented wireless power, and that was 50-plus years ago. He came up with free energy. Lots of things that he invented — basically, the powers that be are not one. To hide that stuff, making life easier for humans, they went with Edison’s blueprints instead, so they can charge us for power. You know, just to keep stuff more controlled.
So yeah, not to get off topic, but the mixtapes kind of speak of all aspects of the physical and unseen world that we live in.
FPH: I find it cool when hip-hop material is an obvious concept project, for example Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Speaking of him, have you kept in touch with him since the feature you both had on that T.I. song? I mean, he’s performing in Houston the same night you are.
B.o.B: No, I actually haven’t seen him since then. I mean, we’ve shared a few words, but other than that, not too much.
FPH: Well he’s undoubtedly one of the biggest rappers right now, and you also had some chart topping singles. What is it that keeps talented, fresh groups like Shabazz Palaces and Run the Jewels from really blowing up like the two of you?
B.o.B: I mean, I think a lot of people are huge because of the hype around them. Not to say anything about anyone in particular, but I think once fandom reaches a certain point everyone else will just jump on board, you know? I think it’s a part of human nature to flock to wherever the crowd is. It just depends on the wave that’s moving. That’s where the term waves is in now, because it’s really like catching a wave. So I think there are a lot of people talking about the same thing me, Kendrick [Lamar], and Lupe [Fiasco] are talking about. The list goes on. I think it’s just really about timing, getting big while everyone is watching.
FPH: So I was checking out your Twitter page and couldn’t help but notice that your profile photo was set to the United Nation’s logo; what’s up with that?
B.o.B: The U.N. logo is believed to be what the earth actually looked like.
FPH: Of all the followers you have, more than two million, who are you most excited about that follows? Do you think it’s cool that people like Lil B follows you?
B.o.B: You know, since last year I’ve gotten a lot of new followers — shoutout to them. It kind of all happened at once. It was pretty wild. It’s literally like a lot of celebrities that follow me, and I can’t even begin to narrow the list down. I also have a lot of celebrities that come up to me and commend me on my outspokenness, because they aren’t in a position to do that themselves. So I feel the support and whatnot.
FPH: Obviously those tweets you made about the shape of the earth got a lot of attention, and certainly a large amount of criticism. Do you think that whole situation was handled fairly?
B.o.B: Well, you know, the world is never fair. I feel like the relaventness of that tweet was more important than it being handled fairly or not, or what people believe. They may have used those to discredit it or make me crazy for some clicks on an article. But it kind of gave new life to something that many people never knew existed. But in my eyes it’s a win.
FPH: It seems like Elon Musk is a modern day rockstar, and one who wants to get us to Mars. But is that the only one we’re going to be able to get to, if we get there at all?
B.o.B: I feel like we as a culture have not talked about what planets really are, so when people ask me if I think planets are flat, I think that they don’t really know what planets are. I’ve done so much extensive research on heliocentrism and geocentrism, pre-Galilean astronomy dating back to ancient times. I just feel like somewhere along the way the same people that didn’t want Nikola Tesla’s inventions to be used changed shit and started teaching the wrong way. There’s a lot we have to learn as a culture that we can’t just take one side of. I’m not saying that everything from the past is more accurate, though. We just can’t rule out what people thought in the past, because a lot of the so-called “new” technology actually existed before. A lot of that stuff was just written out of history. In today’s world you work all fucking day, and when you get home you just want to watch football. Who wants to go to a fucking library and dig up dusty books and research shit. Nobody is trying to do that. So it’s like you have to understand the world we live in and try to meet people halfway, which is a real challenging thing, but still. Especially when you’re in the business of making music, you know. I’m not an astrology major.
I don’t know about the second part. I feel like Earth could be a colony, and that there are other places like it that are already colonized, but we’re just separated from it. We think that there’s nothing out there colonized.
B.o.B will perform at the Ballroom at Warehouse Live (813 St. Emanuel) on Saturday, July 15 with London Jae, Jaque Beatz and Havi. Tickets are $25 presale or $30 at the door with doors at 9 pm.