Late last week rapper B.o.B. gathered a select group of Atlanta journalists for an exclusive preview of his forthcoming third LP Underground Luxury, scheduled for a December 17th release. Like his previous efforts, the album offers its fair share of radio-ready, potential crossover hits, pop-star assists included. But on this go-around, B.o.B. says he’s created a much more cohesive album, a process which was much easier than some may think.
“Keeping the balance for me, means not being afraid to do what I like,” he said during the private listening session at DARP studios. “Even if it is doing a twerk song one day, or to do a ratchet song and not hold yourself back from doing what you’re naturally inclined to do. I’m really inclined to do some musical sh*t, some broad, cinematic type of records. But at the same time, I’m from Decatur so I can’t help to do or say certain things because it’s in my blood.”
The desire to return to what’s in his blood became a strong motivation behind the creation of Underground Luxury. After having traveled the world in support of his first two albums B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray and Strange Clouds, Bob came to the realization that while his success had brought his hometown of Decatur, GA to the consciousness of a global audience, it hadn’t necessarily secured him the hometown love he wanted to see in Atlanta’s vibrant club culture. “A lot of people still don’t realize that Bob is from Atlanta,” his manager and Hustle Gang A&R B. Rich points out.
That disconnect was something B.o.B. and his team set out to rectify on the new album. And perhaps more importantly, they did so without sacrificing the global following he’s built.
“We like to get artists in a mindset,” B. Rich explains. “So we told him, ‘Ay, man: you need to do a bunch of club records.’ So B.o.B. did about 300 records on this project and we had to go through ‘em. And so we got a bunch of club records, we got a bunch of girl records, we got a bunch of eclectic records, we got a bunch of pop records. We wanted to put together a cohesive album, and he was in a zone, recording so many different types of songs that it was easy to piece together.”
“I went into it making club records and having fun,” B.o.B. added. “Being the type of artist that I am, I had to experience everything that I put into this album. I wanted it to be organic. It’s a very interesting process incorporating sounds, especially when you’re making songs for the club crowd. Because when you’re making club music, you really gotta put yourself in the mindset of somebody in the club. I thought a lot more like a DJ and less like a rapper and a producer when I was making this album. Then I took the time to step back, see what was missing, relax and let the rest of the music come together. And then on this album I did most of the production, so it was easier for it to feel like the same fabric.”
What is also missing from B.o.B.’s approach to Underground Luxury in comparison to how he felt going into Strange Clouds is a sense of invincibility. On the heels of the success of “Nothing On You” and “Airplanes,” with a new album featuring an intro by Morgan Freeman and a collaboration with Taylor Swift, he admits he and his camp just knew they would outdo the numbers he put up on his debut album. B.o.B. feels he put in the musical work to secure that next level success and somehow fell short.
“For me, I just felt like I didn’t do my job to make sure that the album connected how it needed to,” he reflects. “And I feel like that was the let down for me, because of how much work I put into it. I felt like, if you put these songs on the first album, it woulda been just as big. But I feel like how it came and the timing of everything, I didn’t foresee the outcome of it. So for me, the work I put into the music, I didn’t feel like it came back.”
With the track list of fifteen songs and three bonus cuts still under wraps, B. Rich is sure that the foundation they’ve created with this summer’s promotional singles “We Still In This B****” and “Headband,” the foundation has been laid for the new album to outdo B.o.B.’s debut.
“We Still In This…”
“Don’t get me wrong,” he says, “Strange Clouds went gold worldwide, it sold 5-6 million singles. It wasn’t as successful as The Adventures of Bobby Ray, but dollar for dollar, we made just as much as any other [Hip-Hop] artist. But on Strange Clouds, the second album, we were compared against some massive, massive records. So we came back with the Taylor Swift record, “So Good.” And all our singles went platinum; but it wasn’t “Nothing On You” or “Airplanes.” With this album there’s no expectations. We don’t have to go against huge records like that. And all our records that have gone out: “We Still In This B****” sold like 800,000; “Headbands” is currently number 14 at Rhythmic, could be top ten real soon, it’s already gold, 600,000 [copies sold]. So we already recouped our album budget. And we haven’t even gotten to the pop sh*t yet. But I know we got songs to sell the album this go around.”
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