B.o.B.’s single “Nothing On You” recently hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, a huge feat for the 21-year-old whose album hasn’t even been released. With the hype building around his debut, The Adventure of Bobby Ray, and all of its notable guest features (Eminem, T.I., River Cuomo, and Lupe Fiasco), B.o.B.’s success has come quickly. But even gold that comes easily weighs heavily. SFCritic spoke to B.o.B. about his success and the challenges ahead. He will perform with Lupe Fiasco at the Warfield on May 4th.
SFCritic (SFC): You recently turned 21 years old. What did you do to celebrate?
B.o.B.: I wanted to do something that I wouldn’t do. I went to a strip club. Even though that seems like something you would do on your birthday, I’m not really a club person because every time I go to a club I have to work.
SFC: I didn’t know that you did shows at strip clubs, or that anyone for that matter performed at strip clubs?
B.o.B.: This was like earlier in my career when I had haters. There is actually a huge market for strip clubs, even if you’re just making an appearance.
SFC: Can you remember some of the first raps you wrote?
B.o.B.: Man. No, I don’t think I even want to. I might vomit.
SFC: At this point, what is the biggest milestone marker you feel you’ve reached in your career?
B.o.B.: I feel like it’s getting the #1 song on Billboard.
SFC: Where were you when you heard the news?
B.o.B.: It was yesterday. Where was I yesterday? I was in Columbus, Ohio. Everything I’ve found has been while I’ve been on the road, which makes it even crazier because it’s so surreal. When you’re traveling from city to city, you kind of loose a grasp on reality a little bit because you’re always moving.
SFC: You’re not only moving fast literally, but your career also is moving fast, so it’s parallel. Is it a little scary or daunting?
B.o.B.: No. It was actually more scary at the beginning of this year. Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect. It’s not like pandemonium.
B.o.B.: I wonder when people say that, what is the most notable difference when you have an album out, compared to when you don’t have an album out. For you, what does that mean?
SFC: For me, it’s easier for your entire album to be put on play at a BBQ come summertime. People can hear you, and just you, and identify with a whole album versus just a hit. What do you think?
B.o.B.: I don’t know. I can’t recall an artist having a buzz like this before their album came out. The last time I heard something like this was with 50 Cent with Get Rich or Die Trying. Honestly, I’m trying not to get too caught up in it. I kind of like being the underdog. With all the praise, it makes me miss the underground days.
SFC: What about the underground days?
B.o.B.: The underground artist is struggling to get a song on the radio, struggling to get your mixtape heard. It’s like the journey getting here, even though it has just started.
SFC: If you had the ability to do exactly what you want, what would you do?
B.o.B.: I think that would be boring. It sounds great, but think about it, wouldn’t you get bored? I think the gratitude wouldn’t be there. What if I could sleep with ten women, and you snapped your finger and you could do that. I think the game, playing the game, and getting to this point is more fun than just being able to flip the tables.
B.o.B.: I don’t know, and that is the question most pertinent on my brain right now. What is the next challenge? Because of that I’m very open to critique and negativity.
A lot of what I hear is good praise, but to hear somebody say, “I don’t like this shit, or this is shit,” it reminds me of the underground days when that was what you heard most of the time.
B.o.B. performs at the Warfield on May 4th. Tickets are $34.25. The doors open at 7pm. The performance begins at 8pm.
As seen on SF Station.