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No Genre (Mixtape)

[2010; Self-released]

By ; December 18, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Prior to 2010, it would have been crazy to draw any comparisons between young Atlanta-based rapper B.o.B and Ice Cube. Alright, it still is, but Bobby Ray seemed to take inspiration from Cube’s second LP for his debut: following The Adventures of Bobby Ray it seemed more than fair to hand his career a Death Certificate. Not to suggest that he failed to achieve success, in fact, although his album may not have done Drake numbers, B.o.B’s singles achieved more chart success than his class members. Yet, in terms of creativity, the formerly interesting MC seemed entirely D.O.A.. As a project, Adventures sounded so stifled that it’s something of a surprise Bobby could breathe to rap in the booth.

It was too bad. Comeback Season never gave much of a reason to get excited for Drake, and so his album came as no surprise. Yet B.o.B is more akin to Wale: a promising young MC who, confused as to the reason for their newfound success, elected to ignore what made them popular in the first place, in favor of conforming to what they thought was wanted from them. Somewhere along the line, the irrepressibly creative nature of mixtapes like B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray was lost to manufactured attempts at recapturing the same. All B.o.B needed to realize was that people were gobbling up the ideas he was willing to toy with, and that rather than regurgitation or smoothing out the sound, those same people just wanted him to keep on forging ahead.

With No Genre, B.o.B seems to be getting the message. It comes as quite a surprise: Bobby didn’t show many signs of life following “Nothin’ On You” and whatever that Rivers Cuomo collab was meant to be. Let’s put it this way, once a rapper sells out, they just don’t seem to go back. Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule, and cries from longtime fans seem to have reached Bobby Ray.

“I really don’t know how long I been doin’ this shit/ I guess 2010’s the first year you gave a shit,” B.o.B opens on “Beast Mode,” and it’s the most honest he’s sounded all year. “Fuck y’all I’m shameless!” There ya go! With hip hop heads criticizing his material, rhyming, and even his sponsorships, it’s about time Bobby hit back. For those same fans, this is the mixtape you wanted, but never thought he’d release. Just imagine the fans he made with his debut album checking in to this one: “Uhhh he’s rhyming about, like, a lot of… stuff.” That’s true, Billy, he is, and it’s goddamn wonderful to hear.

Forget the countless bro’s who used “Nothin On You” to get laid, this is real music, and it’s time to take B.o.B seriously again. No Genre may not return to the peaks of his earlier mixtapes, but it’s a big step in the right direction, and if he can manage to retain this energy for album #2, B.o.B may well be the problem fans thought he would be. The tape even serves as a bit of a survival net for Bobby’s big boss, T.I.. All three of his appearances here would have sounded better on No Mercy than much of what made that album. “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” serves as something of an anthem for the re-jailed rapper, and is painfully catchy to boot. After all, that’s what B.o.B had always done so well: pop rap. Heads are quick to look down on anything bearing such a label, but there’s a world of difference between the instantly listenable and musically ambitious sort of material presented here and the lifeless pop of the album.

Despite having been around for some time, “Not Lost,” another T.I. spot, is a highlight, with B.o.B borrowing Coldplay’s “Lost” hook to reflect what he seems to feel is his current position in the game. Both he and T.I. drop in for killer verses, but it’s Bobby’s dark outro, a musing on his future, that demands the most attention: “And they’ll play my songs til they boring / and if I ever do stop touring / they’ll treat me like a foreigner / don’t believe me, ask Lauryn.” Damn.

The new material isn’t slouching either; few songs here leave much to be desired. “Cold As Ice” will either amuse or annoy you with its Foreigner hook, but once you hit the final verse it won’t matter – if his final rant doesn’t give you goose bumps, go get checked. “Shoot Up the Station” makes for another highlight with its anti-establishment vibe. Finally, on “Dr. Aden” Bobby develops an X-Files class conspiracy tale (seriously, it involves aliens), revolving around certain truths regarding AIDs and manipulations: it’s ballsy and oh so much more on point than B.o.B was anywhere on his debut. To all those who wrote Bobby Ray off following his Adventures, he’s back.


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