Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr., who goes by the stage name B.o.B, wants the world to know that he doesn’t care what you think of him. In less than ten words, his Twitter bio says it all: “I like to provoke thought, and piss off sheeple.”
The Georgia-born rapper, who’s collaborated with hit artists like Bruno Mars, Jessie J and Taylor Swift, became Internet famous back in January after posting a series of tweetsinsisting that the world is flat. “Some people think I’m a disinformation agent, and some people just think I’m a dumbass,” he tells us. “I really don’t care what people get or what they take from me.”
Currently, B.o.B is halfway through his STFU — an acronym that stands, quite appropriately, for “shut the f—k up” — tour with fellow rappers Scotty ATL and London Jae. We spoke with the 27-year-old just before his show in Spokane.
You've had quite the year, how do you think you've evolved from your experiences?
You have to remain a student. In martial arts, even the master has to be a student. You can’t ever feel like you know everything and you’ve got it all the way figured out. Because if you do that, you’ll never reinvent yourself. It’s like you memorialize yourself by not growing.
Are you working on any new music or projects?
Right now, I’m working on the STFU [tour]. London [Jae] and Scotty [ATL] are on the roll. We’re just going in, state to state, recording — recording on the bus, recording in the bathroom, recording backstage, everywhere. And we sort of just throw these things together and put it out.
When do you think that project will come out?
Probably by the end of the tour. Maybe Independence Day. I don’t know. I’m just talking out of the side of my neck now, but we’re working.
How do you have time to record while you’re also on the road?
Prioritizing and time management. Luckily for me, I’ve been doing this for a while, so I’m really good at knowing what I’m actually going to do and what I’m actually not going to do.
Have you changed as a musician in the past couple of years?
I’ve been all over the place throughout my whole career. It’s all a result of me trying to perfect my craft or perfect myself. I’m not afraid to let myself do what I want to do. I’m making songs with country artists to playing guitar, singing, whatever. Not to sound cliché, but I like new things, especially in a world where all I do is see new things and go to new places. It becomes a challenge to really appreciate the things that people don’t appreciate.
On that note, can you tell me about “Both of Us,” the 2012 duet you did with Taylor Swift?
I got a text one day and it said, “I know you’re probably not going to believe me, but this is Taylor Swift.” She said she got [my number] from Hayley [Williams, of Paramore] and she wanted me to come out to perform. I got to Dallas, she sang the hook to “Airplanes,” and that night, I played her “Both of Us.” She was like “Oh my God, I love this, we have to do this.” We ended up doing the song, so I [joined] her on-set again in Atlanta. The Cowboys Stadium holds like 80,000 people. If you’ve never heard 80,000 6-year-old girls screaming at the top of their lungs, there’s nothing that sounds like that. You have to wear ear plugs.
Have you kept in touch with her?
I stay cool with everybody. Some not as close as others, but I’m always looking to meet new people.
Has your huge social media presence affected your ability to write or make music?
[Laughs] Everything that happens has to be put on social media. Like a girl at a club taking a shot, or if I’m meeting somebody. First off, social media used to be called “new” media. Now it’s just “regular,” and having a smartphone and Twitter account, all that is normal. It’s become so integrated that it’s hard not to combine the social media presence with your music — you can’t ignore it. I can’t ignore my social presence because I’m so vocal on the Internet. You remember in the '90s, we found out about shit from the news or a little news insert in between music videos? That was it. Now, when it comes to culture, everything is so instant. If something becomes a trend anywhere in the world, it’s instantly anybody’s trend.
Who is the person that you, as an artist, want to represent, and what do you hope an audience gets from your tour?
To say what I want people to get from me is placing an unfair expectation on people. Some people think I’m the best person in the world, and some people think I’m an asshole. Some people think I’m a disinformation agent, and some people just think I’m a dumbass. I really don’t care what people get or what they take from me.
To be honest, a lot of the negativity comes from people who don’t buy or listen to my music or come to my shows. That doesn’t have any validity. At the same time, I kind of don’t really care. I just want to be myself. Whoever’s into me at the moment, they’re gonna be into me. And maybe they might not be into my next project, I don’t know. However they interpret it is cool with me, because it has to be.
If you go:
Friday, June 10: The Foundry at 8:30 PM
29 E. Allen Street, Philadelphia PA
Wednesday, June 15: Highline Ballroom at 8 PM
431 W. 16th Street, New York NY
Thursday, June 16: Middle East at 8 PM
472 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA
Follow Chloe Tsang on Twitter @itschloet