B.o.B. Pushes the Creative Envelope on New Album ‘Psycadelik Thoughtz’ by Christopher A. Daniel [INTERVIEW + FULL STREAM] @bobatl @Hannahfyata @Journalistorian

Difference is an essential ingredient that Bobby Ray Simmons likes to include in his musical recipes. Known on-stage by his alter ego, B.o.B., the multi-talented, 26-year-old native of Decatur, GA has built an extraordinary career out of distorting and melding together pop, hip-hop, rock, electronica, funk, soul, folk and doo-wop into savory and sonically intriguing concoctions.

B.o.B.’s current project, Psycadelik Thoughtz, is no different than his critically acclaimed full-length LPs The Adventures of Bobby Ray, Strange Clouds and Underground Luxury. The collection’s mesmerizing 11 tracks absolutely refuse to be reduced to a single category. B.o.B. channels his inner James Taylor or Jim Croce with tranquil, acoustic guitar-driven story songs like “Plain Jane” and “Violet Vibrato.”

“Back and Forth” and “Hourglass” borrows Nile Rodgers’ signature guitar licks and Chicago step drum rhythms. Subsequent moments on Psycadelik Thoughtz are uplifting power ballads (“Have Nots”), unapologetic turnt-up Atlanta trap music (“Up”) and African tribal sounds (“JoBurg”). The Grammy-nominated musician credited with iconoclastic singles like “Nothin’ on You,” “Magic,” “Don’t Let Me Fall,” “Airplanes,” “So Good,” “Both of Us,” “HeadBand” and “We Still in This B****” prefers to think of Psycadelik Thoughtz as an effortless project.

Considering B.o.B. has topped the charts, earned gold plaques and traveled around the world throughout his entire career, he feels he doesn’t have anything to prove musically to anyone. “I just wanted to do me and let it all out,” says B.o.B. with his cool Southern accent and life of the party demeanor. “The songs all come from different parts. To be fair, I’ve been listening to my whole career on this one project. I just wanted to show people how far you can push the envelope and inspire somebody else to push it even further.”

Psycadelik Thoughtz’ rippling, kaleidoscopic cover art was created by visual artist Hannah Yata. The original work evokes the indelible cover for The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967 opus Axis: Bold as Love. Yata’s brushstrokes compose a color-filled, three-dimensional collage featuring a shirtless B.o.B. with three faces being flanked by a zoo of wild animals and floating musical instruments.

Both B.o.B. and Yata admit they came across the Axis: Bold as Love album art after they started bouncing ideas off of each other. “It went through a million ideas before it got to where it is,” says Yata seated next to B.o.B. “He’s very nice to work with.”

B.o.B. celebrated the release of Psycadelik Thoughtz with an intimate listening session at The Omen Agency’s loft in Atlanta. Filling the room with thick fog, potent marijuana fumes and hookah stations, an extremely witty B.o.B. retreated to a small recording studio on the lower level to speak more in detail and crack a few jokes about making Psycadelik Thoughtz.

Even when he’s serious, B.o.B. is as animated and random as his musical output. He asserts that creating and performing music is about finding balance. “I’m just trying to make something people would like,” says B.o.B. slightly reclining in his chair, “but still at the same time, I gotta make music for me. It’s therapeutic for me. I don’t have to try. It just is.”

Making Psycadelik Thoughtz was not a one-size-fits-all creative process. The raw guitar-filled “Violence” originated from B.o.B. playing chords as vocalist Jon Bellion joined in with the hook. “JoBurg” was written following a 16-hour flight to South Africa.

Creating Psycadelik Thoughtz actually took B.o.B. back to recording all of his previous work. The Adventures of Bobby Ray, B.o.B. says, was almost a mixtape while Underground Luxury was his attempt at making strictly club music. Psycadelik Thoughtz, however, is music that he hopes will encourage his peers and other aspiring musicians to constantly evolve.

“We need to keep pushing that envelope,” says a chinky-eyed B.o.B. “It’s a conversation. When artists put out something, we may not say it, but we listen. We spend hours and weeks in the studio just to make you clench your face up and nod your head.”

B.o.B. still prefers to describe his music as “no genre.” He doesn’t plan to have it any other way, insisting that Psycadelik Thoughtz is both a manifestation of his free-spirited work ethic and comfort in who he is as an artist. “This was a project that came from the soul and an organic place,” says B.o.B.

“It’s all about culture. I’m glad I get to see people experience these types of concepts and ideas at this level of my career.”

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