The day is April 13, 2010, and B.o.B just released “Airplanes” featuring Hayley Williams to the world. This day is an important day for Bobby Ray as it marked his second hit single within a four-month period. After “Nothin’ on You” which featured Bruno Mars was released four months prior, it became the song that made B.o.B a sensation in the world. B.o.B. would go on to release many more singles over the years but with low numbers, he simply couldn’t recreate the success that he debuted with. Since B.o.B was no longer getting radio play, his career as a musician needed to be sustained. This is the period when B.o.B returned to his basics; the mixtape.
The “digital” mixtape era of the late 2000’s into early 2010’s is perhaps the closest thing modern hip-hop would have to a renaissance. Artists such as Meek Mill, Wiz Khalifa, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, J. Cole and Chance the Rapper thrived in the digital mixtape era and all went on to be mainstays of modern hip-hop. Mixtapes in this period would often even be considered superior to the albums artists were releasing. With kids, teens, and adults being able to access these projects for free it became a breeding ground for upcoming rappers to be more creative and experimental. While mixtapes were thriving at this time, they’re often forgotten due to their limited access. Digital mixtapes from this era simply aren’t the most convenient thing to obtain. While music streaming services such as Spotify have mentioned acquiring these projects for their app, it has yet to be done.
Although many rappers would be launched into stardom with their mixtapes, not all were as fortunate. While rappers such as Meek Mill and Wiz Khalifa were able to produce albums that would be met with overwhelming commercial success, the same cannot be said about B.o.B. After releasing more mixtapes especially ones that many would consider being some of his best work, B.o.B went on to release his second album Strange Clouds in 2012. Strange Clouds was backed by four singles including “Strange Clouds” which featured Lil Wayne and the hit “So Good”. The album did very well selling over 295,000 copies in the United States by 2013. While the album performed not only commercially but also garnered positive reviews from critics, it would go on to be B.o.B’s last successful release.
One year after releasing Strange Clouds, B.o.B would put out his third album titled Underground Luxury. Unlike his previous work, Underground Luxury wasn’t as well received by critics and was a commercial failure. With album sales being under 100,000 by 2014, it would seem that B.o.B’s tenure as a star was coming to an end. However, while this marked the end of B.o.B’s success as a mainstream artist, it would not be the end of his career. Less than a year after Underground Luxury came out, B.o.B went back once more to his roots and released several mixtapes before making another attempt at an album. Mixtapes such as No Genre Pt.2, Psycadelik Thoughtz, and the Elements series would go on to become some of his most acclaimed projects. It would then be four years until his next album Ether would be released.
Unfortunately, once again B.o.B’s newest album Ether failed commercially but still managed to receive positive reviews. Shortly later, he would go on to release The Upside Down and then Naga which he has hinted that it will be his final album. While both of these projects failed to gain much traction, they still stand as a testament to B.o.B’s dedication to music. While the digital mixtape era may eventually be forgotten, the artists and their influence on hip-hop will not. B.o.B has released five albums and 21 mixtapes since 2006 and while Naga might be the end of his career as a rapper, it goes without saying that his impact and dedication to the music and mixtape industry will never be disregarded.