Perhaps the most remarkable thing about B.o.B’s “Nothin’ On You” was not its chart-topping success, its earnestness or the fact that it served as an introductory course in two of the year’s biggest artists. It’s the fact that the song wasn’t meant for B.o.B at all.
Yes, before the song — which is nominated for three Grammys, including Record of the Year — found its way to B.o.B, it was originally intended for Lupe Fiasco. Seems the folks at Atlantic Records felt that it would be a perfect fit for the Chicago MC, and they insisted that its producers, the Smeezingtons, send it their way. But, as fate would have it, one of the men responsible for shaping B.o.B’s career intervened. And the rest was history.
“I was actually working on a session in Chung King [Studios], and [Atlantic Records chairman] Craig Kallman called me during that session with that particular track to work on it for Lupe Fiasco,” Jim Jonsin, who signed B.o.B to his Rebel Rock imprint, told MTV News in May. “I told Craig, ‘I like the song a lot. It’s a smash and could be somebody’s single. But it’s not Lupe’s record. I need this record for B.o.B. Please give this record to B.o.B.’ I guess they went through whoever they went through, convinced whoever they needed to, and it got to B.o.B.”
Turns out, Jonsin’s instincts were right. “Nothin’ On You” found its way to B.o.B, and would head to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in May 2010, where it stayed for two consecutive weeks. Bouyed by the success of the single, B.o.B’s debut record, The Adventures of Bobby Ray, would open at #1 on the albums chart, and 2010 officially had its first breakout hip-hop star.
And if the whole situation seems a bit, well, magical, you’re not alone. Seems that even the Smeezingtons — Bruno Mars, Phillip Lawrence and Ari Levine — were shocked by the fortuitous series of events that led to “Nothin’ ” topping the charts, and they admitted as much to MTV News.
“Me and Phil always had that hook,” said Mars, who, of course, used the song to launch his own successful solo career . “So one day, our other partner … Ari, he walked into the studio and said he programmed the drums [over]. It had this old-school hip-hop beat. I said, ‘Gimme the piano,’ and that was the first thing I started playing. Magically, that melody worked with this track we were doing.”
Of course, B.o.B would go on to score more hits on his own — the ubiquitous “Airplanes,” his duet with Paramore’s Hayley Williams chief among them — one could argue that without the success of “Nothin’ On You,” none of those achievements would have been possible. You can chalk all of it up to magic, but, as he heads into Sunday’s 53rd Grammy Awards, B.o.B prefers to give credit to the song’s sweet-natured sincerity, which connected with fans in a way a lot of songs just don’t. And, really, he’s right about that too.
“Introducing B.o.B or Bobby Ray, it takes more than one song to do it,” he said. “But I feel like this song is really genuine and really sincere, so I feel good about people finding out about me through ‘Nothin’ On You.’ ”
Are you rooting for “Nothin’ On You” to win Record of the Year at the Grammys? Let us know in the comments!