THE GREATEST OF ALL TUNES (G.O.A.T.) is a series of posts, producing my 100 favorite songs of all time. The master list is here, and I update it about every two weeks or when I have another 10 songs or so.
On this blog, I covered both B.o.B. and Paramore before either got their major label deals. And both were better back then. Bobby Ray Simmons was a trumpeter in his (and my!) high school band when he was plucked out of the ninth grade and got a chunk of change to produce beats with B-Rich for underground and up-and-coming rappers. After he blew through the money, he took to the clubs and started performing himself. In 2006, his song “Cloud 9” became a minor underground hit and he was signed to Atlantic Records. Around that time he put some mixtapes on the streets, and they were incredibly innovative. B.o.B. had a playful style that felt southern without the accent and the crunk, and his songs felt more musical than many rap songs—they would often employ actual instruments rather than synthesizers and samples. It was Haterz Everywhere that caught my attention, as well as I’ll Be In the Sky—which started to get him some major attention. So much that T.I. recruited him to appear alongside Ludacris on the single, “On top of the World.”
Then came his classic May 25 mixtape and his debut album, The Adventures of Bobby Ray. And Airplanes.
The song was a monster hit—charting at #2 on the Hot 100 and producing a sequel, Airplanes Part II, that offered new verses and a few bars from Eminem—and got him a Grammy nomination.
One thing many people don’t know is that B.o.B. had help on the writing from Lupe Fiasco—a tremendous lyricist who is in my top ten rappers of all time. Paramore’s lead singer didn’t even meet B.o.B. when she recorded the classic hook—it was a match made by the label. But it helped catapult both of them to global stardom. It was initially available only as a digital download and made all kinds of sales records off iTunes—it even hit #1 in New Zealand!
The song is also mentioned in a beef rap by Tyler The Creator; in Yonkers, he says: “I’ll crash that fucking airplane that that faggot nigga B.o.B is in/And stab Bruno Mars in his goddamn esophagus.”
Tyler didn’t like the song, believing it was musically uninteresting. It’s pretty rare that a beef is truly about the music, so despite Tyler’s homophobic slam, it was a pretty cool beef. B.o.B. retaliated with No Future.
In my opinion, Bobby Ray crushed Tyler.
Now, there are some songs I’m putting on my GOAT list that I don’t expect will stay once I hit 100 and keep going. But for now, this is on my list, entering dead last at #27.
Further listening: I’ll Be In the Sky, Put Me On (covers Tribe Called Quest’s Bonita Applebum), Nothin’ On You Feat. Bruno Mars, Don’t Let Me Fall.
Covers: For a fairly recent rap song, there are actually quite a few covers—several of which just use parts of the song. Rhianna and Eminem performed it live when they toured together in 2014.