So, at this point in his career, it still seems like a pretty bold move for Atlanta’s B.o.B to name a mixtape Fuck Em We Ball, considering that he became such a mainstream music darling so quickly just a few short years ago with the The Adventures of Bobby Ray and last years Strange Clouds. But it also goes a long way to proving B.o.B.’s versatility: being able to go from spitting authentic ATL slang over bass heavy beats to singing harmonies and strumming guitars is no easy feat, even in today’s world of blurred and nearly non-existent lines between genres in pop music.
Fuck Em We Ball is a mixtape full of gems showing Bobby Ray at his diverse best, from the braggadocios machismo of “Champaign” to the delicate guitar licks and harmonized chorus of “Be There”. True, B.o.B. isn’t the most lyrically in depth emcee, but that doesn’t quite matter on tracks like “Fuck Em We Ball”, as B.o.B. rides the staccato filled beat to a tee, effortlessly weaving his way through the sped-up constant changes that the track presents.
Though Drake is seemingly lauded and criticized for being the pinnacle of the 21st century singer slash rapper, B.o.B. stakes his claim to the title throughout Fuck Em We Ball. Especially on the Snoop Dogg-assisted “So Blowed” Bobby shows off his signature chops by refraining from the rhymes for a moment and getting his R&B on. And joints like the aforementioned “Be There” and “Roll One Up” give B.o.B the space to do much of the same in the way of crooning.
Overall, is Fuck Em We Ball groundbreaking or mind blowing? Not by a long shot. It’s just a fun romp by a successful emcee bridging the gap between his recent pop music, VH1 Top 20 countdown accomplishments and his next full-length project. But judging from the diverse collage of good music found on this joint, fans can wait confidently for the next B.o.B. album while enjoying some of his best, most unconstrained work in a while.
This past week, the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards was watched by millions, and actually received some critical acclaim for its diversity of acts, stellar performances from the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Erykah Badu, B.o.B., Rick Ross and Big Sean, and top-notch lyrical skills in what has become the shows main draw, the cyphers (where careers can actually be made and/or broken.) And I’ve got to commend the network for the good job they did on the Awards show (even though I’m not forgiving them for the years of horrendously horri-awful programming they’ve subjected many of us to for a while.) But what I saw actually got me to thinking about a conversation I had with a fellow entertainment professional a few months ago. In talking to said person, we began discussing some of the ideas we’ve had for companies, as well as some of the music, business and music business websites we follow on a regular basis. Ultimately, the conversation turned towards the following idea: Where are the sites that dedicated to the BUSINESS side of the hip hop music industry?
Seems like a fair enough questions when you survey the landscape of music business resources. And honestly, I’m sure there are a few of them out there that may actually do a descent job of covering both the entertainment side and the business side of hip hop music. But (and this is merely one man’s personal opinion) when it comes to hip hop websites, I personally can see why someone would think that there aren’t many resources out there to turn to get a better understanding of the business of hip hop. The person I was having this conversation with ultimately said that he believed the hip hop community could benefit from a website similar to, say, Hypebot, Artisthouse Music or Black Enterprise, just with more of a focus on hip hop music and everything that goes into the business of it.
Is that a valid argument? Would there be a market for a website/company like that to exist? Or would it contribute to the saturation that we’re currently experiencing in terms of online music outlets? We can give all of these questions a pretty big “MAYBE, MAYBE NOT…” But here’s something that at least does carry some validity: hip hop is a billion dollar musical juggernaut that isn’t going away any time too soon, and the more people who want to get involved in it know about the history of its business practices, the power brokers, the better off the music and the culture will be. Sure, we’ve got tons of great hip hop websites, blogs and online magazines that cover the music and the culture with great vigor and passion. But it’s becoming more and more important to see beyond the glitz, glamor, celebrities, gloss and posturing that many take at face value. There’s a whole machine that makes the engine of hip hop run, and its fuel comes from promotions, digital distribution, press and publicity, design, research and development, journalism, branding, social media, networking and entrepreneurship. The folks that control these areas are the REAL power players, and not necessarily those that you see on in the public eye all of the time.
Ultimately, there’s a whole lot more to the game than just the music. So, maybe it is high time for a major hip hop website that focuses on the business side of things to be brought to fruition. Only time will tell if the dream comes true.