Underground Luxury

B.o.B is a gifted crossover artist – a fluid rapper, a fine singer and a skilled piano and guitar player who stuffs his albums with diverse cameos (Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, Rivers Cuomo). But his lyrics have never been worthy of his wide-ranging sound or rich drawl. At times, his third LP goes for playalistic realism; "Paper Route" meditates on the perils of rapping about politics ("Look what happened to the Dixie Chicks"). But tracks with Future and 2 Chainz highlight his limitations on the mic, and without the Dr. Luke-assisted buoyancy of 2012's Strange Clouds, the album falls flat – moments of well-meaning ambition not withstanding.

From The Archives Issue 1200: January 16, 2014