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Celebrity Focus: B.o.B seeks change with ‘Underground Luxury’

Rapper B.o.B (Associated Press)
Rapper B.o.B (Associated Press)

B.o.B has made his mark in pop music with the hits “Nothin’ on You” and “Airplanes,” but it’s been hard for the rapper to be taken seriously by some urban radio stations and nightclubs – even in his hometown of Atlanta.

“I would be in the club and the DJ would be like, ‘We have B.o.B in the building,’ ” the 25-year-old recalled. “But as the night went on, I started thinking to myself, ‘Damn, we don’t have any club songs.’ ”

Now, B.o.B is hoping to change how he’s perceived with his new album, “Underground Luxury.” He produced a third of the album and wants to show that he’s more than a rapper who is known for making pop-sounding songs.

“I really didn’t have club songs that fit into that type of world that I was partying in. Coming from where I come from, I want to be a part of that,” he said. “This is in my blood. … You have to bring that funk to it if you want to hear yourself in the club. That’s why the production is done by me, because it’s done my way.”

B.o.B’s third album, which debuted at No. 22 on the Billboard 200 albums chart last month , isn’t as successful as last year’s pop-flavored “Strange Clouds,” which debuted at No. 5. B.o.B’s 2010 debut, “B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray,” earned five Grammy nominations, reached gold status and launched multiple hits that co-starred Bruno Mars, Hayley Williams of Paramore and Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo.

But the performer said in an interview that he isn’t trying to abandon pop, though it’s time he focused his attention on creating songs that resonate with hard-core hip-hop listeners.

AP: How did you balance the worlds of hip-hop and pop?

B.o.B: I used to want to be looked at as an emcee, then I blew up around the world, then I was looked at as a pop star. Then I was like, ‘I wanted to be viewed as a musician.’ But then I was like, ‘I’m an emcee still.’ So I was going through this growing pain. Eventually, I kind of settled on the thought that I don’t have to be one particular artist. I don’t have to stick to one type of music.

AP: How do you feel when people say you’ve sold out in regard to hip-hop?

B.o.B: It’s crazy when people say I’ve sold out. Rap money is not pop money. If I was selling out, I would be making (only) pop records. … The people in Decatur, (Ga.), who saw me with ‘Haterz Everywhere’ and ‘I’ll Be in the Sky’ and follow me know about that side. But at the same time, I’m growing simultaneously as I’m experiencing all of this success and the world.

AP: What’s the difference between pop money and rap money?

B.o.B: A lot of hip-hop fans … just bought bootleg albums. In the ’hood, we don’t really buy albums like that. It’s kind of a sad story, but we don’t. We’ll just bootleg and download it. The fans who buy music are fans of pop music. Hip-hop fans buy music, too. I don’t want to narrow it down to one specific race or culture of people. But it is what it is.