Bobby Ray Simmons a.k.a B.o.B. is no stranger to a rap mega-hit, and his involvement in the ubiquitous Nothing on You and Airplanes in 2010 proved he knew how to play to the mainstream. Yet whilst I expected a series of substandard raps with catchy pop-refrains from Underground Luxury, even these low expectations were not met. For the fifteen tracks in B.o.B’s third effort are devoid of decent hooks, which only serves to underline Simmons’ mundane lyrics and delivery. Underground Luxury is an emphatically sub-par work.
In parallel to the frustrating MGMT, it almost seems that Bobby Ray is trying to divorce himself from the mainstream that made him popular in the first place. The album is repeatedly preoccupied with ridiculous explicitness, which disrupts any semblance of slick flow. Perhaps the worst offender is lead-off single, We Still In This Bitch; in this charmless number Ray repeatedly cusses with such conviction, and one questions whether the whole album was masterminded by The Lonely Island. Yet B.o.B. is depressingly sincere throughout, and this is what perhaps makes the content so inadequate. Ray revisits the depths of rap-hedonism and materialism a la Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em without any sense of Turn My Swag On’s tongue in cheek. The refrain of album opener All I Want, “It’s just so many women / it’s just so many chains / it’s just so many watches / it’s just too many things / I want” is grotesquely garish.
Whether B.o.B. concerns himself with philosophy, money, destiny or politics, the latter saturating the spurious claims of Paper Route, the lyrics throughout Underground Luxury are rather uninspiring. However, as proved repeatedly in modern rap, banality can be avoided with catchiness, yet B.o.B. seems unable to string together anything remotely memorable. I was disappointed with the album’s guest-artists, who for the most part underperformed. One expects a collaborator to lift the track, Alicia Keys in Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind serving as an example of this, yet B.o.B.’s help which includes Chris Brown, 2 Chainz and T.I. does no such thing. Despite fluctuating lyrical content, the musicality of the album is therefore rather monotonous. The exception to this rule is John Doe, a satisfactory track towards the end of the album which includes a pretty piano/vocals performance by Priscilla and a few half-decent verses. However, whilst John Doe is the best track on the album, its anti-addiction stance still equates to a poor-man’s Swimming Pools. If you feel obliged to check out a track on this album, I recommend the aforementioned John Doe or Paper Route, which may surface in the charts at some point in 2014. As for the rest however, I suggest your avoidance. Surely Underground Luxury will be relegated to the rap-landfill within weeks.