MCs To Watch In 2009: B.o.B.

Unusual Atlanta rapper doesn't fit in with any of the eclectic city's hip-hop subgenres, and that's just fine with him.

In 2009, we expect to hear big things from some new up-and-coming rappers in the game. Each day this week, we’ll reveal a new artist that we think you should keep your eyes and ears open for in the coming year. Our first artist is a refreshingly different kind of Southern artist — so refreshing that he’s also featured in this week’s Mixtape Monday: B.o.B.

It’s easy to say that [artist id="1534347"]B.o.B.[/artist] is different, but who in the Atlanta rap scene isn’t different? The city’s roster of rappers includes ATLiens (Outkast), a snowman (Young Jeezy) and even a king (T.I.). And over the past year, Atlanta has had a string of distinctive hit records. From Rocko’s “Umma Do Me” and Shawty Lo’s “Dey Know” to Yung L.A.’s “Ain’t I,” the city’s eclectic rap scene has developed specific subgenres, which also include crunk and snap.

B.o.B. doesn’t really fit in with any of those, however.

“Being in Atlanta around that time period, watching all of the successful artists, naturally you are compelled to emulate that,” B.o.B. said. “I felt the pressure to fit into this … it’s like an unspoken rule or something.”

And for a while he played along, even though he grew up listening to the O’Jays, Michael Jackson and Tina Turner; says he’s influenced by artists ranging from Björk to the Beatles; and is also a huge [artist id="1111141"]Coldplay[/artist] fan. Those artists didn’t exactly fit into what was popular in Atlanta.

“Throughout my whole life [I've never listened] to one genre of music,” said B.o.B., “so I felt like I shouldn’t just stick to one genre.”

He said his song “Cloud 9″ garnered critical acclaim in the open-mic scene because of the song’s uniqueness. As he traveled, the song’s popularity grew, but he was reluctant to perform it on the club scene.

“I was going to perform some other song,” he said, something more appropriate for the clubs. But he was convinced by his manager, B. Rich, and mentor, Playboy Troy, to perform “Cloud 9.”

“I realized that, if I’m going to fail at doing music, then I’m not going to fail [by] doing what everybody else is doing,” he said.

By the end of that performance, he received a standing ovation. “Ever since then, I wasn’t afraid to be different.”

This attitude eventually landed him on [artist id="1225081"]T.I.[/artist]‘s label, Grand Hustle, where, to his surprise, he found he fit right in. “I feel like I’m a breath of fresh air to Grand Hustle, but at the same time, it’s all good,” he said. “It’s family.”

Despite signing with the label, he said he still has to hustle and wants to continue developing his sound, which he called universal and continuously changing.

“By the end of next year, I’m going to sound like everything.”

More likely, everything’s gonna sound like him. Maybe he’s not so different after all …

Also check out Asher Roth , Wale , Kid Cudi and Charles Hamilton in our “MCs to Watch in ’09″ series.