When we call him, B.o.B is cruising through Times Square in a limo. His single “Nothin’ on You” sits at No. 1 on Billboard charts, “Airplanes” at No. 9. Life is very, very good. But in the summer of 2006, if his friends had more sway, Bobby Ray Simmons might have been just another 17-year-old kid working at a RadioShack. Wisely, the Atlantan said hell no to punching clocks at the mall when he was discovered in T.I.’s Club Crucial nightclub. Four years later, the guitar-slinging MC has just released his debut, The Adventures of Bobby Ray, undoubtedly the first hip-hop album to juxtapose Eminem and Vampire Weekend.
I hear you were quite the dealer, of sorts, as a kid.
I used to sell candy in high school. I was the man when it came to snacks. When I stopped selling candy, people got mad.
Who’s got more hype in Atlanta right now, you or Braves rookie Jason Heyward?
Jason Heyward? Who’s that? In my world, I guess me. Because I’ve never heard of him.
OutKast, Cee-Lo—what is it about Georgia that makes the hip-hop artists more creative?
I think it’s because of Atlanta’s geographic location. With the airport, it’s a connecting point for the world. People from the U.K. come into the States here. It’s a melting pot.
How did you get into indie rock?
My curiosity. I entertain my curiosity more than I should. But it’s paid off.
You cover Vampire Weekend’s “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance.”
I discovered them doing an acoustic version of “Cousins.” You know me, I love acoustic guitars. Watching them do that, man. [Screams] “Me and my cousins and you and your cousins!” That shit’s awesome.
Have you played Animal Collective for T.I.?
Ha. T.I., you’d be surprised. A lot of rappers listen to alternative music more than anything. Because when you’re in rap, you hear so much of it, you want something different.
While making Adventures, were you thinking of it as a summer album?
It just unfolded that way. I wanted this to come out years ago.
What are your favorite things about summer?
I’ll tell you what I don’t like. [Sniffs] Pollen is just murder.