B.o.B is essentially 100% pop-rap at this point; as one writer put it, “it’s crazy that B.o.B is so far gone pop that even his first song in a while that actually sounds like rap is produced by Dr. Luke.” As you may recall, around “Airplanes” he was maybe 80% pop-rap and having issues with it, because when he used to rap for the hell of it, instant fame meant he now had to rap to stay relevant, which made him all bummed and existential. He still pretty much has to rap to stay relevant, and yeah, he’s still kind of bummed and existential.
“Where Are You (B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray)”‘s a bit like T.I.’s “vs. T.I.P.,” if that sets the musical scene. The video does the same for the lyrics: a bunch of “where, oh where, is our dear Bobby Ray” posters strewn around subway turnstiles and parks and symbolic bodies of water, none of which ever get read. Does that seem unsubtle? It’s very unsubtle. This is essentially the “Airplanes” verse stretched to the length of one-and-a-half songs to make up for no Hayley; the same’s been done to the piano part, to make up for no beats and to signal that we are in Serious Mode.
And oh, how we are in Serious Mode. “Sell out” appears at 0:50, about twenty maybe-hypothetical fan complaints show up, at one point the music world is compared to a battlefield, and we’ll say this in its favor: it’s a lot knottier than “Airplanes,” a pretty good album track-counterpart to the concoct-a-single that was “So Good.”
Just one thing, though, B.o.B: There is not an argument in the world that would be enhanced by quoting Jessie J lyrics.