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B.o.B. enjoys early momentum, wants to continue

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

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B.o.B. has made a lot of music during the past six years -- so much so that people he encounters usually assume his age correlates to his experience.

"I'm 24, man, but I meet some people and they'll be like, 'Damn, man, I thought you were in your thirties,' " says the singer, rapper, songwriter, producer and guitarist, who was born Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr., in North Carolina and later moved with his family to Decatur Ga.

"It's crazy. I got signed at 17, so you really have to assert yourself in the music business to be taken seriously when you're that young."

But make no mistake that B.o.B. has made a seriously convincing case for himself at this relatively young age.

Currently on the road with the Under The Influence of Music Tour, he`s released two albums -- including his chart-topping 2010 debut "B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray" and 2012's "Strange Clouds," which hit No. 1 on Billboard's R&B and Rap Albums charts. His debut single "Nothin' On You," featuring Bruno Mars, was a No. 1, double-platinum hit, while its successor "Airplanes," with Paramore's Hayley Williams, landed at No. 2 but went four-times platinum.

On top of that B.o.B. has released 11 mixtapes and has been nominated for five Grammy Awards, and he's been featured on songs by Jessie J (the platinum "Price Tag"), Ke$ha, OneRepublic, T.I. Chris Brown, Ciaira, Tech N9ne and others. And success has not slowed him down in the least.

Right now B.o.B. is working on no less than three major recording projects, with the emphasis on "Underground Luxury," his third studio album. The set, he says, is finished, with a hoped-for release in the late summer or early fall. And given that, he reserves the right to make changes until that point. "There's no telling what could end up on the album," B.o.B. says. "The last song that made my first album was 'Don't Let Me Fall,' and that's the first song on the album and it's really a crowd favorite. I don't stop until I have to."

B.o.B. describes "Underground Luxury" as more of a hip-hip album, getting back more to what I started doing -- the raw, underground, unedited, unfiltered side from my mixtapes, prior to the commercial success." And it's already spawned one single -- "HeadBand" with fellow rapper 2 Chainz, which has made climbed into the Top 20 of the Rap Songs chart.

"I was actually in L.A. when I did that one," B.o.B. says. ""DJ Mustard did the beat; he came through with his hard drive and literally played me every beat, track after track, and I was just freestyling to every beat that I heard. And that one was really easy to get on and float with. 2 Chainz heard it through my manager, and he was like, 'Yo, man, I want to get on that one' -- it's actually the second record we did, 'cause he's on my 'E.P.I.C.' mixtape." He adds that the song "fits with the direction my album is going in because it`s hip-hop."

B.o.B. says he'll have more guests on the final product but is "not unveiling the curtain yet" due to contractual issues.

On his future agenda, meanwhile, is a full-album collaboration with T.I. -- co-owner of the Grand Hustle label B.o.B. records for -- as well as what he calls "a rock project" that he says will follow the mold of a song like "So Hard to Breathe" from his "Strange Clouds" album.

"It lives about 50 percent in my archives, 50 percent in my head," B.o.B. says of the rock material. "Rock has so many subgenres, so it`s really about how you present it. There are some rock artists who, if you present them as a pop group then people would perceive them differently just because they call it pop. But I have some really underground (stuff) that swings towards hip-hop, too. It's really just what sounds good, honestly. That's what I follow."

B.o.B. isn't putting a time frame on any of these other projects, however. Getting "Underground Luxury" out is his first priority, and he expects the rest to follow in their own "organic" time frame.

"You can't rush anything or push it out just 'cause you want to have something out there," B.o.B. explains. "It's just fun, man. Just have fun. You know the people listening to it are only going to have as much fun with it as you did making it, so you want to make sure to keep it fun and fresh and the best it's gonna be, y'know?"

The Under The Influence of Music Tour with Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Rocky, B.o.B., Trinidad Jame$, A$ap Ferg and more plays at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $49.50 pavilion, $25 lawn with an $80 lawn four-pack. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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