B.o.B.'s new album, "Strange Clouds," is definitely commercial rap, although this isn't necessarily a criticism, it does mean B.o.B. has pop-ified a lot of his rap music. But he still includes a hip-hop banger or two in the album.
B.o.B. is not unfamiliar with the criticism that he's gone pop, but if this album proves anything, it may be that those criticisms are true. It's not that Bobby Ray can't do rap, he definitely can, but he chooses to incorporate rock and pop elements into most of his music. In theory, he has made his music more accessible to reach a broader audience, and with Strange Clouds projected to at least match sales of his first album, we’ll likely see 'accessibility' translate into a larger fan base.
The album starts off with "Bombs Away," where B.o.B. is spitting about ancient civilizations and how we came to be. The track features Morgan Freeman's narration and is a great way to start off the album. From there we go straight into "Ray Bands," which is on the other end of the spectrum, seeing as it's a materialistic song. Overall, Strange Clouds has a strong momentum at the start, but as it progresses, there are many-a-song I would skip over as the tempo and energy tends to vary from song to song. B.o.B. offers a lot to take in from one CD. He has an eclectic variety of beats, lyrics and flows; however it may just be too much quantity and not enough quality.
For the fan that loves all kinds of music, this album may very well be for you. For the fan who only wants to hear B.o.B. spit (or, in general, just wants to listen to some good old fashion rap), then this album is probably not for you. I think I will include myself in the latter category.
Although I am not a fan of his rock/pop-inspired songs (this includes "So Hard To Breathe," which is even kind of folk-inspired, "Both Of Us" and "Never Let You Go" to name a few), B.o.B. does prove his versatility in the rock/rap-arena. And he's not ashamed to be able to do both pop and rap, as he admits to having "pop dollars" on "Ray Bands," only a second before saying, "after Strange Clouds, I'ma drop my rock album." Although B.o.B. forays into new territory with his subject matter, it's still nothing we haven't heard before (in all fairness, it's pretty hard to come up with subject matter we've never heard before):
Growing up poor ("Where Are You"), how fame changes everything ("So Hard To Breathe"), ballin' in the club ("Ray Bands"), ballin' in general ("Castles"), and women-related-songs ("Back It Up For Bobby").
I will say that Bobby Ray definitely put a lot into this album in terms of production value and sonic quality, and you can tell he's trying to please every single one of his fans. "Play for Keeps," finds B.o.B. back on his rhyming shit and using the flows I've come to know and love from him, with no cheesy hooks. Similarly, B.o.B. goes in over the crazy beat on "Out of My Mind," which features a verse from Nicki Minaj. "Back it up For Bobby" (which was on the Deluxe Edition) is also a banger and Bobby completes the song with a catchy hook.
In the end, this album comes off as commercial and radio-friendly for the most part. However, this isn’t unexpected and probably less of a criticism, and more simply a statement of what it is.
A lot of the tracks are upbeat and high-energy, which makes it fun music, but his mid-tempo offerings that get a little sentimental or slow come across slightly cliché. I like B.o.B.'s voice and his flow when he chooses to spit. On the other hand, there just wasn't enough rapping for me on Strange Clouds, which means a good portion of this album will likely not be seeing the replay button.