Bobby Ray Simmons was an early bloomer. At an age when most kids are still mastering the finer points of tag, the man who would later be known as B.O.B. was mapping his future.
"In kindergarten I had to draw a picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up," the Atlanta-based MC says. "I drew a rapper. I didn't really know what a rapper was or what they did -- I just wanted to do it."
He figured it out soon enough. By middle school he was toting a notebook filled with rhymes and posting his own stanzas on Internet rap forums. Such ambitions didn't necessarily impress his classmates. "All through my life, I was hated on," he says. "When I was in middle school, they used to write in my rhyme book, 'You suck' or 'This sucks.'"
His cousin taught him how to craft beats with the software Fruity Loops, and by 15, B.O.B. had sold his first track to Atlanta bounce act Citty for the underground hit "Da Cookie Man." Still, he was considering quitting the music game for a retail job when he got his big break, mesmerizing a crowd of industry movers at T.I.'s Club Crucial with his woozy, Gnarls Barkley-esque weed celebration "Cloud 9." The performance snagged him a high-powered manager, TJ Chapman (T-Pain, David Banner), and a record deal with producer Jim Jonsin's new Atlantic imprint, Rebel Rock.
A pair of recent mix tapes offer a hint of what to expect: weird, playful, blunted beats topped with B.O.B.'s barbed, self-deprecating wit and conversational flow. Tracks like "My Story" and "Daddy" split the difference between ATLiens-era OutKast and a rougher-around-the-edges Kanye, but at the moment, the 18-year-old B.O.B. is refreshingly unconcerned with his place in the hip-hop world at large.
"I do what I want," he says. "It's because I got booed and picked on that I really don't care anymore.
The Adventures of B.O.B. (Rebel Rock/Atlantic) is out this spring.
Now Watch This:
B.O.B. - "Haterz"
"B.O.B. TV Episode 1"