Written by DeRa Brinson
This Sonic Breakdown covers B.o.B’s album Psycadelik Thoughtz. Previously, I had only listened to his album B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray, which I thought was an interesting and different sound that I enjoyed. I want to check out his earlier album Strange Clouds, but I have not gotten around to it, but there is still time. I will follow the same format, giving a breakdown of each track followed by a conclusion on the album as a whole.
A psychedelic-type of production emoting a high-energy, free-spirit feeling with a trippy vibe sets the atmosphere of the album with B.o.B using a clear, soft tone. The bass line provides a portion of the shot of energy that also restrains the many layers of the instrumentation to keep it in the realm of hip-hop and exposes an introspective premise to maintain the concept of his inner thoughts. He touches on escapism through media in the guise of news, though it is really propaganda, wars under false pretenses, and drugs, building the tempo of his verse and touching on elevating himself from his issues. A running theme throughout the track is fake friends and how he saw through the friendly disguise a long time ago, maybe from the beginning. This track has areas, from the beat to B.o.B’s cadence, that resembles Outkast, more specifically Andre 3000, and their classic song “Elevators.” This is by far my favorite track from the album. I wish it was longer because of how enjoyable a listen it is.
This has a Nirvana guitar piece that is the core of the sonic properties, exuding a rocker feel with calm aggression. B.o.B starts the short first verse relatively quickly, informing us that he was born with lyrical skills and content, but the music industry has tried to make him materialistic and money hungry. Jon Bellion sings the chorus in an almost eerily calm speaking tone, invoking the idea B.o.B is going to destroy everybody and anybody in his rise to the top and doesn’t care who is standing in the path of his wrath. Jon’s crooning and the hint of aggression in the line, “For anyone that thinks I could give two fucks,” makes you feel the barbaric quality that is associated with violence. In the second verse, B.o.B gives some inside-the-industry perspective on friendships with other artists and how fickle that can be. The violins added toward the end leading to a more electric hip-hop mix draws you into the production even more.
This has a Parliament-Funkadelic groove throughout with an infectious bass line that makes you want to move. This track is reminiscent of a song from Snoop Dogg’s Bush album that I reviewed earlier this year. It is a very upbeat, feel-good track with a wonderful bass line that grounds the song. The theme B.o.B is expressing on this song is about a woman who knows how to gain influence to garner what she wants, be it through seduction or playing naive to outright manipulation. Soaky Siren is teamed up with B.o.B for the chorus, pushing the groove even more while playing off Confucius as being unsure of something, though the philosopher was wise and knew what he was doing. The drums draw you in even more into the groove, creating a climax of that groove to the end of the track.
“Back and Forth”
Upbeat, very groovy, with less funk and more of a dance feeling than the previous song. That dance feeling is expressed even further through the lyrics as B.o.B describes provocative dancing between him and a woman in the first verse that leads to a sexual encounter highlighted in the second verse.
This has a Janice Joplin/ Michael Jackson storytelling aura that draws you in, mixed with a Kanye West touch that gives a hint of hip-hop quality. There is an indie rock quality that allows the listener to be engulfed in the story B.o.B is creating that focuses on a woman who lacks self-confidence to a high degree. He narrates the story from a third person perspective, noticing this woman’s morose confidence in every aspect of her life from physical to more internal qualities. During the analysis of her dilemma, B.o.B sees something special in her that is worth noticing. He sings the hook, and he doesn’t have a great voice, but it is good enough to do the song justice.
On this track, B.o.B is reminiscing on the silhouette a particular woman makes in the shape of an hourglass. He is objectifying women, but I believe he has good intentions and wants to be complimentary. He plays on several different aspects of the hourglass from the shape to its purpose of keeping time, all in comparison to the woman he is describing.
An indie rocker singer/songwriter aura is pouring throughout this song. B.o.B singing the verse is light and airy, providing a Coldplay sound that can lighten your mood on difficult days, still giving you energy by the progression and regression of the guitar. This is a more introspective song about how B.o.B feels about his role in hip-hop and how much music means to him than just a career; it is more of a passion.
Expanding on the concept of the hard work and dedication he puts in from the last song, he explains that he basically just breaths in music and weed. In the second verse, he complains of pseudo friends and backstabbers. This has an ominous production with a soft bass line that becomes slightly lighter as the track continues.
Another Bush sound is present here with an international summer groove propelled by the drums and piano as well as the lyrics. He talks about pretty women and traveling using Auto-Tune throughout several sections, but mostly on the chorus.
This track features his girlfriend, Sevyn Streeter, providing a rock and R & B feel and a tone of being happy with his situation in music, relationships, and life in general. Sevyn’s voice is rich and piercing over a production that is very light. B.o.B uses more of his typical tone that gives the song a genuine quality.
A grand, multilayered production that has strong drum and electric guitar sections giving way to a piano section that evokes an intimate vibe. This touches on coming from nothing and being happy with nothing even when you’re in a position to have everything. B.o.B breaks down how hard life was growing up in poverty, comparing to those who have so much. He concludes that they don’t, or won’t, understand the mentality of the deprived. There is a positive aspect to the experiences that B.o.B had growing up and that is that he learned he doesn’t need material possessions to be happy.
I initially didn’t enjoy this album when I listened to it on a certain speaker because some audio qualities that pull it together were lost. Once I listened to it on a better speaker (my review speakers), my outlook of the album changed from not a good album to a decent album that has a nice, mostly positive vibe with some great grooves. I like how he flows over different instrumentations; I just don’t always like the instrumentation he picks. The first half is better than the second half for me, making the entire album decent as a whole. I like that he is experimenting with the types of production he is using, and I enjoy his lyricism and tone. I would like him to inject a little more classical hip-hop essence into the sonic properties to help highlight the lyrical ability that can get lost sometimes due to the production he chooses. I can see myself listening to certain tracks on a regular basis, but probably not the entire album.
Next week’s Breakdown will cover Mick Jenkins’s new album, Wave[s], the follow up to The Water[s].