Bobby Ray Simmons Jr., professionally known as B.o.B., has had an interesting career thus far. The 28-year-old rapper dropped out of high school in the ninth grade, selling his first beat that same year. Though his first studio album, "The Adventures of Bobby Ray," didn't debut until 2010, the rapper has been garnering attention since 2007 with a number of popular mixtapes and singles.
For his most recent album, "Ether," B.o.B. parted ways with Atlantic Records, opting to release the joint independently on his own label, Label No Genre.
"The transition isn't that different. I think it's just people telling me what I can and cannot do," B.o.B. says of moving from a major label to his own. "But the thing is, even if you tell me I can't do it, I'm still going to do it. There's not as many people saying what I can't do."
"Ether" comes as the fifth installment in B.o.B.'s Elements series, which dates back to 2015. Between studio albums, B.o.B. released mixtapes named "WATER," "FIRE," "EARTH" and "AIR." Each is an acronym; for example, "AIR" is "Art Imitates Reality." Songs from the mixtapes converged on a compilation album titled, "Elements." In announcing his next album, B.o.B. took to Twitter and raised the question, "Isn't there a fifth element?"
Ether refers to the etheric realm in which all matter and all energy move through. In Eastern tradition, it's unseen energy.
"I feel like 'Ether' is showing people a more raw side of my lyrics," B.o.B. says. "You get that on a mixtape, but never on an album. It's a beautiful thing for me to be so candid and open without any pushback."
A lot of the lyrical content on "Ether" focuses on events that happened before 2015, as well as events that happened "when the world started turning upside down," as he puts it. Recording started around the same time #45 campaigned for the presidency. The time frame for writing "Ether" provided different perspectives, allowing the content of his songs to take on both personal and world views.
When it came to releasing his fourth studio album, B.o.B. didn't notice a big difference in moving from a major label, Atlantic, to his own independent label. It's no surprise considering his position in the industry and the relationships he's built.
"I'm actually working with some of the same people who no longer work at the label," B.o.B. says. "It's familiar territory. That's the beauty about the industry and the beauty about life. It's all about the relationships. When you build relationships, nothing can break them."
B.o.B., The Elements Tour
Thurs., July 6. 8pm.
51 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend.