Put That On Your Playlist: B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)
Song: B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)
Honourable mention: Tomb of the Boom (Speakerboxxx)
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There it is, the one song that might have changed your life by making you a rap fan. Oh sure, you knew and liked rap well enough by the time OutKast unleashed B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad) to an unsuspecting world and populace on Sept. 19, 2000. You were a young 14-year-old then, growing into your own, and B.O.B. touched you in ways that previous songs that were similarly monumental couldn’t and hadn’t, in ways that Still D.R.E., My Name Is, Hard Knock Life or Country Grammar (Hot Sh*t) simply hadn’t previously. You liked rap well enough then, but you liked it the way you liked, like, playing kickball in the schoolyard during lunch a year or two prior. You were just a kid back then, with probably as many Cranberries albums as you had ones from Jay Z. You had completed the “get 8 albums for free right now if you purchase one album later at full price” pseudo scam from Columbia House and had managed to never have to purchase the one album at full price since Columbia House stopped running this deal soon after. From your eight albums, you had picked just about all rap albums, but you didn’t really understand the significance of DMX’s It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot or The Lox’s Money, Power, Respect or Busta Rhymes’s Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front, all of which were yours thanks to that deal. They were all fine and good enough albums, that’s all you really knew.
You didn’t get it but then you listened to B.O.B. and suddenly you did. Suddenly, you were ashamed that your first ever concert was a dang Our Lady Peace show when it could have been, well you’re not sure what but sure as hell not OLP. (Editor’s note: Apologies to OLP and their fans.) Suddenly, there was only rap because there was only B.O.B. Suddenly, you had your anchor and had touched land.
Where do you even start with a song this big? This monumental? You probably start at the beat, this whirlwind that takes the listener on the ride of a lifetime. You probably start at the beginning with the countdown, which is meant to prepare you but goes by so quick you don’t realize that’s what it’s for before it’s too late. You probably start at the background melody, this flute-like sound that never relents until Big Boi steps in the booth to murk the beat equally as great as Andre does to open the song. You probably start at the song’s video, which has about 182,947 different ridiculous and wonderful things about it and somehow turns the ghettos and projects of Atlanta into what we imagine Planet Stankonia would look and feel like, where the grass is purple and the music is funkier than everywhere you’ve ever been. You probably start at the choir from the chorus, the extended break at the end of the song or the guitar solo full of life and charisma. You probably start at the fact that B.O.B. is, like, six different songs at once, part rap, part gospel, part drum ‘n bass, part funk, yet never fails to coalesce into what was and still is maybe your favourite song of all time. You probably start at the booming bass and the cascading drums that never lets your adrenaline lower down to a more normal level, this one-of-a-kind roller coaster that just keeps rising up, then down, always at higher heights and faster speeds and never relents. You probably start at the fact that nothing has ever sounded like B.O.B. because how could it ever? You probably start at the fact that every listen of the song absolutely exhausts you and yet you can’t help but run that thang the fuck back over and over and over and over and over again.
In other words, when discussing B.O.B. you probably start everywhere at once. Because if versatility or maximalism had a sound, it would sound a whole lot like B.O.B.
The song was risky in 2000, with OutKast releasing it on the heels on their career-making and legacy-affirming masterwork in their third album Aquemini. B.O.B. only reached №69 (nice! lol) on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop charts and was probably a risk that the group didn’t need to take but it ultimately paid off tenfold. It’s a microcosm for and the perfect entryway into the group’s fourth album, this little bundle of exuberance and unapologetic joy in an album full of such moments. It’s the song that showed that OutKast made damn near flawless rap music but that they also excelled at pretty much anything they might have tried their hands at. With B.O.B., OutKast approached the rigid genre boundaries within which rap operated at the time as mere inconveniences rather than binding rules that walled them in. B.O.B. was and is still so transcendent.
Simply put, there’s fundamentally no way to overstate the significance of this song. At least to this young French Canadian at the time. You’ve probably got no greater individual passion in this life than rap music, and it all started to make sense with B.O.B. “Power music, electric revival,” goes the choir during the chorus. More than you’ll ever know, OutKast.
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