B.o.B is perhaps the only rapper who can say he got in a rap feud with famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
It all started at the top of the year, when the Winston-Salem-born, Decatur Ga.-bred M.C. began sending out tweets declaring that the Earth is flat, posting photos to back up his claims and everything. Tyson soon responded to those tweets by dropping science on him, stating facts that disproved his claims. B.o.B followed by dropping a diss track called “Flatline” (“Neil Tyson needs to loosen up his vest”), to which Tyson clapped back by teaming up with his nephew Stephen and recording the response “Flat to Fact.”
Yeah, it was all very insane. Now that the smoke has cleared, does B.o.B. honestly believe that the world is flat? “Well, if I answered that question, then that would kind of defeat the point,” says B.o.B (real name: Bobby Ray Simmons), 27, calling from Spokane. “It’s really up to the eyes of the beholder to really figure it out for themselves.”
To the savvier eye, B.o.B could have been trolling the internet, talking about the Earth being flat just so he could hip people to his upcoming mixtape, “E.A.R.T.H. (Educational Avatar Reality Training Habitat).”
“I’m not a shock jock, basically,” he says. “So, who I am, I guess, is controversial at times. So, that whole thing was really an unforeseen event.”
“E.A.R.T.H.” is the final installment of a trilogy of elemental mixtapes B.o.B. has dropped, starting with “W.A.T.E.R. (We Are the Enemy Really)” last December and “F.I.R.E. (False Idols Ruined Egos)” in January.
“When I did ‘W.A.T.E.R.,’ I didn’t intend on making it a trilogy, but inevitably someone said, ‘You should make a ‘F.I.R.E.’ mixtape.’ And, then, that was it. I definitely have to do that.”
For “E.A.R.T.H,” which was released in April, B.o.B knew exactly when he needed to send it out into the world. “I thought about it – ‘You know what? Earth Day is coming up, and it’s right after 420.’”
On “E.A.R.T.H.,” you’ll find B.o.B. being just as provocative as he is in the Twittersphere. On the track “Fkn Science Bro,” he assumes the role of a smart-alecky student who questions a science teacher’s facts. “Really, I like to provoke thought,” he says. “That’s my goal. You know, I feel like we as a society of people should never get to the point to where we feel what we know is absolute. So, we should always challenge ourselves.”
It appears that a lot of his fans are down with him mostly because he is such a challenging figure.
“Well, you know, whenever I meet people, as I’m traveling through state-to-state meeting people, I ask people what brings them here,” he says. “Like, why are you here at my concert? Why are you here at the meet-and-greet? And I’m expecting to hear people say, ‘Oh, I like this album or this mixtape.’ But they’re like, ‘We just (expletive) with you, man. We just (expletive) with you as a person.’ That was strange to me. Well, not strange, but I never thought about it like that, because I’m a musician. Of course, a lot of people do quote off their favorite lyrics and albums and projects, but it seems like the majority of people just kind of follow me as an individual.”
Does B.o.B attracts some crackpots while on tour? “Sometimes, but for the most part, I feel like everybody’s kind of on the same page already,” he says. “I feel like that’s because most of my audience are critical thinkers and people who can actually critically think.”
B.o.B will make a stop at Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh on Thursday, where he’ll perform along with Scotty ATL and London Jae, two artists from his own label, Label No Genre. Whether he attracts fans or novices to his shows, he just hopes he gets people who don’t have a problem thinking things over.
“You know, I like when people discover my art and interpret it for themselves,” he says. “And I want them to know that your interpretation is not absolute. You can look at the same movie 10 times and get 10 different things each time you watch the same movie.”
Spoken like someone who really does see the world in a different way.
Who: B.o.B, with Scotty ATL and London Jae
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Lincoln Theatre, 126 E. Cabarrus St., Raleigh
Cost: $20 ($99 VIP meet & greet)
Info: 919-821-4111 or lincolntheatre.com