B.o.B hasn’t always been comfortable with showing the masses who he really is, or for that matter, what lies beneath his artistry. “My whole career, I’ve been trying to explain myself to people…one day I’ll figure it out,” he wrote on Twitter on August 16, 2015.
But with the recent release of his new 11-track project Psycadelik Thoughtz, Bobby Ray seems to be figuring out just that. His experimentation with the blues and a Jimi Hendrix-like sound sprinkled with Motown funk influences probably might sound like something you weren’t expecting from the Decatur rep. But this isn’t making him uneasy. Instead, it’s giving him confidence.
VIBE recently hopped on the phone with B.o.B. to discuss his new LP, taking his relationship with singing scribe Sevyn Streeter public and his personal experiences with psychedelia.—Richy Rosario
VIBE: You’ve mentioned before that Psycadelik Thoughtz is like a rite of passage for you. How so?
B.o.B: It feels like everything that I went through to make this project happen was like a rite of passage. And just being confident and comfortable in people seeing my psychedelic side—I’m pretty into psychedelia. And also, with things that people would call me being a “hippy,” which to me is just how I am normally, but I had to find comfort in showing that side of myself to people.
What was hard before about showing that side to people before?
I feel like it’s outside of what people are normally exposed to in American pop culture. I think right now, we’re in the era of ratchet music. Where everybody from the biggest stars in the world are making ratchet music right now—it’s a lifestyle that I am familiar with as well, because I grew up in Decatur, in the hood so it’s something that I see. I never imagined it becoming so popular and being imitated so much. And so when you’re going completely left and you’re going against the grain, it’s a real bold move.
Do you think artists should have a moral responsibility to make happier music now given the social climate?
It’s about what people value. I imagine that the purpose of making music is to reach a certain level. There are underground artists who want to come up, and their whole thing is being an individual. But then there are some artists, where they have created a lifestyle for themselves, where they have to have tremendous success in order to continue living their lives. So I imagine that they want to make music that people can relate to, that the masses are going to embrace. It’s not necessarily that the masses don’t generally like it or listen to feel good music or uplifting music but it’s just the value isn’t there. Right now, people value followers and the turn-up. If you think about it, if you have a party and have some people over, you’re going to play Future and 2 Chainz. You going to turn up, you’re not going to throw on no B.o.B record, so to speak. You’ll put on “Headbandz” and “Still In This B*tch,” the song I did with T.I. but for the most part, my music doesn’t hit that crowd. And we’re just in this era. Artists like me and Pharrell, I guess, kind of represent something that is not currently the main value musically.
Who were some of your influences for this project?
This artwork actually started from me kind of delving into psychedelic and Eastern culture. I actually saw this picture of a Hindu deity. I’m not really sure which one I originally saw but it sparked the idea of me just wanting to get a picture made. It was really just for me. I thought it would be cool if I had myself painted as some type of deity. And also I feel like the multi-arms and multiple heads kind of represent how multifaceted I am as a musician and as an artist. I contacted an artist that I saw on Instagram and I commissioned her to do something for me. The painting ended up being an album cover, a year and a half later. We started working on it January in 2014 so it really just coincidentally lined up with the release of this project.
How is it like working with Sevyn? I know she worked with you on your song “Love Life.”
She’s amazing. She goes so hard in the studio. She’s dedicated and very diligent when it comes to her craft. And I imagine with singing, because you have to be so precise with your tone and your notes, you have to put a lot more time into it as well. With rapping, it’s just more about getting the emotion out and being on beat. But in singing, it has to be so precise so it takes a lot more. But not just that, even being a singer with the required work that goes into it, she goes beyond that. So that’s always inspiring for me.
How does it feel like to have your relationship publicized in the hip-hop world?
I don’t really think about that much. It’s like if you in a club and everybody is looking at you—you get used to it. But it’s not for everybody.
Why do you think it’s not for everybody?
Because we have fun with the fact that people are watching us, but some people, I feel like that may not be the best for their relationship. Everybody is different. What works for us might not work for another couple—celebrity or not, just in general.
You recently auditioned for Straight Outta Compton. Do you want to do more acting in the future?
Definitely, but acting is something that you can’t really divide your time with music and acting. You have to spend most of your time either acting or making music. Because with acting, it takes a constant dedication. Acting isn’t my first talent so it’s something that I have to get better at and in order to do that, I have to be completely dedicated to it. I’m just not ready to give up music yet.
What would be a dream biopic role that you would like to play?
I would play Nas in a biopic. Nas is someone who I listened to growing up and I could also probably imitate.
Have you ever experienced any psychedelic thoughts?
It’s quite hard to explain, but the feeling you have when you have a dream, it’s like dreaming while being awake, and realizing that you are connected to everything that is in the universe—absolutely everything that you’re connected to. And you realize and become aware of this connection.
Have you ever been able to decipher what these dreams mean?
I think when people trip, you physically experience the sacred geometry and the mathematics that the universe is comprised of—even your internal chemistry. You know the rhythms and the electromagnetic field that’s created when your heart beats. Or the pulse that is ignited from your heartbeat. And all of the many different energies that are orchestrated into what creates you externally and internally. You experience that in a tangible way. And I think it really means whatever you want it to mean. Whatever your perception is or your whatever your definition of reality is, you experience it in totality.