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In concert: B.o.B. at Merriweather Post Pavilion

B.o.B.B.o.B. was in a singing mood on Saturday. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

By Aaron Leitko

B.o.B. has made good in 2010.

Last April, the 21-year-old Decatur-based rapper’s debut album, “B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray,” entered the Billboard charts at No. 1 and its first single, “For You,” "Nothin' On You" has gone platinum. He’s Justin Beiber’s favorite rapper.

But what he really wants to do is sing.

During a 30-minute early afternoon set at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday — part of the Summer Spirit Festival — B.o.B., whose real name is Bobby Ray, spent more time showing off his pipes than his flow.

Make no mistake, though. When he wants to, B.o.B. can rap. Backed by a seven-piece band, he used the beginning of his set to establish his chops — showing off acrobatic phrasing and speedy wordplay on the non-album track “I See Ya.”

After that, Ray quickly steered the set into more melodic territory.

He performed “The Kids,” a head-nodding coming-of-age tune built on a sample cribbed from prep-school rockers Vampire Weekend. Then he picked up an acoustic guitar for “Lovelier Than Thou,” a pooka-shell-ready beach ballad. Ray has a good voice, but he frequently cedes the spotlight to others. “The Adventures of Bobby Ray” is loaded hooks supplied by familiar radio-proven voices — including Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Lupe Fiasco, Eminem and Weezer’s River’s Cuomo.

B.o.B.

It hasn't always been this way. In 2008, when B.o.B. released “Cloud 9,” his first mix tape, he was mostly spouting stoner-anthems and run-of-the-mill gangster-isms. Over the years his sensibilities evolved — his productions got catchier, more personal. Now he’s an aspiring multiplatform artist with passions that swing heavily toward pop. He’s an anomaly — a gifted young rapper who will freely admit to taking inspiration from Coldplay.

In the future, he might want to hold onto the mic a little more, though.

“For You,” "Nothin' On You" still Ray's biggest song, owes much of its success to the hook — sung by Hawaiian crooner Bruno Mars. And Mars wasn’t around. Neither was Williams, who delivered the chorus on “Airplanes,” B.o.B.'s second single. Instead, their disembodied voices were pumped in as backing tracks through the PA. This left Ray and his band standing around, bobbing and nodding, without much to do during the heaviest moments of their tunes. Only Jonelle Monae, who performed earlier in the afternoon, was on hand to sing her parts during "The Kids."

On a star-heavy bill — which included The Roots, Erykah Badu and Common — B.o.B. is the guy with the radio hit, but not the stage show.

B.o.B.

B.o.B.

By Aaron Leitko  |  August 8, 2010; 12:14 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: B.o.B  
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Next: Clicky shuffle: Random songs for Monday morning

Comments

The song is pretty clearly called "Nothin' on You"... not "For You."

Posted by: empsg59 | August 8, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Lordy. Fixed.

Posted by: Aleitko | August 8, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

B.o.B must have a very busy tour schedule, because the first words out of his mouth when he hit the stage at the MPP was hello BOSTON?.... To his credit he tried to get the location right of where he was perfor ming. He later said hello BALTIMORE, at least he was in the correct state :) Someone should have told him it's the DMV

Posted by: uknowmeas-GQ | August 8, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

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