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Musically, "B.O.B." is a whirlwind of a track that smacks the listener right upside the head. André 3000 implores the listener—"Who want some? Don't come unprepared"—but it's near impossible to be prepared for the frantic, up-tempo rhythm in this track.
Yeah, clocking in at 135 beats per minute, it's probably safe to consider this beat frantic.
The beat in "B.O.B." is a far cry from the slow, funky, Southern beats that first made OutKast famous, but in this track, André and Big Boi were up for the challenge. André explained to Rolling Stone that:
The sound of the music has changed today because you got kids on totally different drugs. First, everybody was doing the weed thing, and s--t was slower. Now, they on the X, so they want it faster. They want to move. It's this rave energy. The new hippies are rave kids. Songs like "B.O.B." are the heartbeat of what's going on with the youth right now. (Source)
According to A&R man Kawan Prather, "It was a beat and a lot of noise, but they rode the beat so well that it didn't sound foreign or weird" (source).
The funky, frantic drum-and-bass beat is only the start, as the track jumps around from one musical styling to another. Blender characterized "B.O.B." as a track that packs "the past 25 years of music history in five minutes and four seconds [...] as if several radio stations were simultaneously competing for your ear" (source).
The song blends mind-numbing funk, drum-and-bass, gospel, jungle rock, and spacey electronica together into one complete whole. Each of these distinct musical genres makes sense together in "B.O.B." The song by no means sounds disjointed. The track builds from the beat to a call-and-response hook between André and the Morris Brown College Gospel Choir. He sings, "Don't pull the thang out unless you plan to bang," and the choir responding with "Bombs over Baghdad." André calls out again, this time with, "Don't even bang unless you plan to hit something." Once again, the choir responds with "Bombs over Baghdad." It's a powerful part in a powerful song.
The song then switches gears as it goes from the hip-hop verses to a lengthy guitar solo that sounds oddly similar to Jimi Hendrix's version of the "Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock. Over this, there's some DJ scratches and the gospel choir continues its chant of "Bombs over Baghdad."
It all wraps up with what is a downright inspired and inspiring chant of "power music electric revival" that sounds more like a praise service than a rap song. And in the end that's probably the most apt way to describe "B.O.B." as a piece of music: "power music electric revival."
André 3000 explained that he first thought of the line "bombs over Baghdad" while on tour in London in 1999 supporting the album that preceded Stankonia, called Aquemini.
He was watching a news broadcast and overheard the broadcaster say "something, something and 'bombs over Baghdad'" (source). André liked the way the phrase sounded, and just like that, he had found the title for his next hit.
The title itself has led many to believe that this is a song about the Iraq War (Second Gulf War), but "B.O.B." came out in 2000, three full years before the Bush administration invaded Iraq.
It's a bit difficult to pinpoint OutKast's calling card. This is because OutKast has never been afraid to mix things up.
Each of their albums has seen them take things in an entirely new direction. In this sense, OutKast's calling card could be a willingness to change. André and Big Boi never want their music to sound stale. As André explained to Rolling Stone:
It's the people who take whatever music they doing so far to the left of what was going on. Put on any album from goddamned 1966 and put on a Sly Stone album—it sounds very different—P-Funk from any time sounds different. Those are the people that inspired us to blow n----s' minds. (Source)
So, OutKast's calling card could be a determination to continually blow minds, whether through their music or through André's insane fashion sense.
Certainly when they first hit the music scene, OutKast's calling card was their more traditional brand of Southern hip-hop, with its slow beat and drawling delivery. Then they showed off their funk and soul sides with an album like Stankonia. Today, it could be argued that their calling card is the song "Hey Ya!" off their 2003 double-album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which was one of those rare songs that appeared on hip-hop, rock, and pop radio stations all at once.
When it comes to OutKast's songwriting, we need to look at André 3000's and Big Boi's respective parts as their own separate entities, because the two have very different songwriting styles.
On the first verse of "B.O.B.," we hear André take the microphone, starting the track with a bang. As a songwriter here, André is all about masterfully describing the bleak circumstances he sees around him in the ghettoes of Atlanta. He's also less hesitant than most rappers to expose his vulnerabilities and his fears to the listening public. As he told the Guardian, "In hip-hop, people don't talk about their vulnerable or sensitive side a lot because they're trying to keep it real or be tough—they think it makes them look weak." (Source)
In the second half of his verse, André shows that he's willing to expose this side:
Black Cadillac and a pack of Pampers
Stack of question with no answers
Cure for cancer, cure for AIDS
Make a n---- wanna stay on tour for days
Get back home, things are wrong
Well not really it was bad all along
Before you left adds up to a ball of power
Thoughts at a thousands miles per hour
Hello, ghetto, let your brain breathe,
Believe there's always more, ahhhhh!
In this section, André exposes himself as a young father who still drives a black Cadillac. But now it's filled with Pampers. He also describes his fear of cancer, AIDS, and all the hardship that comes with living in the ghetto ("thoughts at a million miles per hour").
Big Boi, on the other hand, is a bit more guarded than André when it comes to the subject matter of his verse. Instead, Big Boi focuses much more on spitting out creative rhymes. For instance, check out the line, "Big things happen every time we meet. Like a track team, crack fiend, dying to geek."
Big Boi uses the word "meet" to describe both a "track team" and a "crack fiend." In the case of the track team, he's referring to a track meet. And the crack fiend "dying to geek," wants to meet with his crack in order to get his next fix. Overall a pretty crazy line. Then there's the incredibly inventive line:
Before you re-up, get a laptop
Make a business for yourself, boy, set some goals
Make a fair diamond out of dusty coals
Here he urges a young drug dealer to buy a laptop before he restocks his drug supply. Then he can start a business and make a "fair diamond out of dusty coals." This last line means that the boy can make money the honest way through hard work rather than the easy way, by selling drugs. The very fact that André and Big Boi can create such descriptive, inventive lines over a beat measured at 135 beats per minute is an accomplishment in its own right.