B.o.B.: Artists To Watch 2010
B.O.B. Atlantic Records

Two months ago, rapper/singer B.o.B.-who also goes by his real name Bobby Ray (Simmons), Bobby or just plain Bob-made a viral video with Atlantic Records president Julie Greenwald in an effort to quiet rumors of tension between the artist and his label.

Listen to B.o.B.'s "Nothin' On You [feat. Bruno Mars]"

The YouTube clip relieved fans who were wondering whether B.o.B. would ever release "B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray," his debut album now due in April on Atlantic, through T.I.'s Grand Hustle and producer Jim Jonsin's Rebel Rock labels. In early 2009, B.o.B. was touted by magazines Vibe and XXL as an emerging MC alongside Kid Cudi, Asher Roth and Wale. The Atlanta-based artist drew attention for his versatility-he recalls both OutKast's Big Boi and crooner Raheem DeVaughn, and he may be the first rapper to play the guitar well-and the skills displayed on his early mixtapes.

While Cudi, Roth and Wale all released major-label debuts in 2009-with varying degrees of success and frustration-B.o.B.'s project stalled. He doesn't deny the rumor that Atlantic wanted him to sign a 360-degree deal first, but says both parties eventually reached a compromise.

"We just had to make it work. Now I feel a huge sense of support," B.o.B. says. "In this business, you have to lose your ego sometimes. I'm still learning how to do that."

In the interim, he released another lauded mixtape, guested on new albums by Cobra Starship and Pitbull, and recorded with Big Boi. In August, an unofficial mixtape called "Should Have Been the First Album" surfaced, another sign that demand for a proper full-length is strong. B.o.B. says he may release a "mini-mixtape" before April to maintain the buzz.

Meanwhile, B.o.B.'s official debut single "Nothin' on You," which recalls Lupe Fiasco's 2007 hit "Superstar," was released digitally Dec. 15. "Adventures" will also feature collaborations with Jonsin, Fiasco, producer Dr. Luke and Weezer's Rivers Cuomo. "It won't sound forced," B.o.B. says. "The trend in hip-hop now is to be weird or different. I just want to be natural and allow my music to speak to people."

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