ATLANTAB.o.B's fans gave him more than an earful when they heard about his rumored retirement a few weeks ago.

"People hit me on Facebook, Twitter, on MySpace," he said with a smile in his home. "I don't know how it got to that. How it got twisted to 'I quit.' I didn't quit. Things got misunderstood."

Even though he's been frustrated with the business of making music in the past, B.o.B said one of his biggest supporters has been the guy he's signed to: T.I.

"We've been talking about the direction I've been going musically and really getting everybody on the same page," B.o.B explained. "As I'm learning what it means to be an artist in the music industry, I'm learning more. At the same time, I'm still learning how to keep that creativity for what I see. I manifest that that into my music and where it's taking me. It's taking me to places and venues and areas I never imagined before.

"Now that I know, I'm like, 'Let me take this a little more seriously,' " he added. "Not that I didn't before, but when you really see how impactful your music is ... now it's my focus to be as impactful as possible and reaching as many people as possible. I'm like, 'It's my life.' It's more than a hobby, it's more than a craft — it's my life. Maybe I'm crazy. ... I can't help but make music. It's all I feel like doing."

B.o.B's new sound has involved a lot of instrumentation and a rock-and-roll edge.

"Now I go by the name 'Bobby Ray.' Make sure you put 'Bobby Ray,' " the MC revealed. "I'm really going into a new direction — more free and not trying to live up to any particular genre. I don't feel like I've been doing that. I don't feel like I've been trying to fit in, but I feel even more free-spirited. I have more willingness musically. That's all I'm about. I'm about guitars, chords and keyboards."

B.o.B is one of the main attractions this week at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. He'll be performing with his band the Eastsiders.