Atlanta’s B.o.B Seeks ‘The New Thing’ In His Music

"There's a new sound emerging from Atlanta," MC says.

When we named B.o.B one of our MCs to Watch in 2009 , he described his style as universal — the Atlanta MC said he wanted to sound like “everything.”

“I don’t like monotony. Whatever I may sound like one month, I am not going to sound like that next month,” he explained. “I’m just continuously changing. I’m like a seeker. I just seek the new thing to do just for my own piece of mind, so what I sound like, man, by the end of next year I’m going to sound like everything.”

Well, a few months later, the eclectic, ever-evolving B.o.B revealed that he had changed his name to Bobby Ray. He even squashed rumors of a premature retirement , and he said he decided to go in a new direction with his music — trading in a DJ and two turntables for a band .

“I’m really going into a new direction — more free and not trying to live up to any particular genre,” he said. “I have more willingness musically. That’s all I’m about. I’m about guitars, chords and keyboards.”

Bobby Ray said that his change is reflective of an even larger change in the Atlanta music scene. There are many hip-hop artists emerging in the Atlanta rap scene, including OJ Da Juiceman and Fonzworth Bentley , but Bobby Ray isn’t really checking for them. He hasn’t had an ear to the streets — he’s been listening elsewhere.

“I really haven’t had my ear to the street and I haven’t been listening to new, up-and-coming MCs … I feel like just right now, regardless of who it is in particular, there’s a new sound emerging from Atlanta. It’s just in the basement right now. It’s probably like other bands in the basement, or just musicians, just artists period, who are in the basement or in the lab, just getting together their sound. When the game shifts … it’s going to shift and it’s going to be obvious, like, ‘Ah dang.’ Like, ‘I ain’t know music was going to be this jamming.’ Everybody’s going to go, ‘Ahhh, music.’ ”

According to Bobby Ray, Janelle Monae is a prime example of his theory. Immediately impressed with the Outkast protégé after he first saw her on YouTube, but he knew she was a bonafide star after seeing her perform live. “She’s very talented. I would definitely like to work with her in the future,” he said.

The past few years have taught B.o.B a lot about music — that whether you use a beat machine or a real drum, the only thing that matters is the passion you bring as an artist.

“You have to understand what it is and still know that it’s the love for the music that got you in that position, and everything else is just what comes with it,” he said. “You have to stay true to that love. When you have that, it doesn’t matter if they hype you up to be the best or they boo you to be the worst. You still love the music.”