B.o.B's 2010 debut launched hits that co-starred Bruno Mars, Weezer's Rivers Cuomo and Hayley Williams of Paramore. So for his second album, the rapper wanted to feature his many talents without assists from famous faces.
Then he bumped into Chris Martin of Coldplay.
"I ran into Chris Martin in a studio in New York and I was like ...'I don't really want features on my project.' And he was like, `Why the (expletive) not? Like, what? Like, why? What is the reason behind purposely not having features?'"
The 23-year-old says he's a Coldplay fan and found himself rethinking his original plan. But B.o.B also wondered why Martin would advise him to do collaborations when his band rarely does so.
"I'm thinking like, `Coldplay, you don't need a feature. You're Coldplay.' At the same time, I kind of understood what he was saying the more I progressed because it's really just about the music," B.o.B said. "It's an art form."
Now "Strange Clouds," released this week, has guest appearances from Chris Brown, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Ryan Tedder, T.I. and Trey Songz. It's the follow-up to the Grammy-nominated, gold-selling "B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray," which includes the top 10 hits "Nothin' on You," "Airplanes" and "Magic."
The Associated Press: Why didn't you want your new album to feature other performers?
B.o.B: I didn't want to have features because I felt that on my first album people didn't know who I was. They didn't really get the full meaning behind who I was. They only saw a glimpse of me, and they made their opinions and drew their own conclusions from just a glimpse of something.
AP: Dr. Luke produced four songs on "Strange Clouds." What was it like working with him since he's best known for his hits with Katy Perry and Ke$ha?
B.o.B: Working with Dr. Luke is good, but sometimes you may run into disagreements, certain things that may rub an artist a certain way. For example, when I recorded "Both of Us" (featuring Taylor Swift), I recorded my vocals on the hook, but when it was time to turn the masters in, he snatched my vocals right when it was time to turn in the masters. And so, as an artist it kind of makes you feel like, "I guess it's his song." I don't know. He's a talented dude, but sometimes when you work with a producer, sometimes their ego may get in the way into really making it a completely mutual project.
AP: What was it like to hear Swift's vocals on the song when it was done?
B.o.B: I played her the song at her show ... and instantly she loved it. She was like, "Bob, I have tears in my eyes. I love this song. I'm down. I want to be a part of it." ... And she sounded amazing on the record. (She) actually rewrote some of my verses as well.
AP: How was Nicki Minaj?
B.o.B: Just in the brief moments that I've spoken with her, she's very much about her business. There are no gray areas with Nicki Minaj. ... We had a couple of creative conversations, but the main thing was everything was professional and taken care of.
AP: What did you want to do on this album?
B.o.B: You can have a good album with good songs, but I wanted a good album that was organically good, something that really felt like, "Man, only B.o.B has this music, only B.o.B makes this type of sound." I felt like in order to do that I really had to not let the success of the first album make me complacent.
AP: When you were a kid did you know you wanted to be a musician?
B.o.B: It wasn't until I was 13 when I was really strongly adamant about being an emcee, to the point where it was like I had an ultimatum and I was like, "Man, I really need to decide what I'm going to do with my life."
AP: So you were a serious 13-year-old?
B.o.B: Absolutely. That mentality at 13 to become an emcee wholeheartedly, you know, it's a danger to it and risk to it because you neglect certain things that you automatically count off as not being necessary for this type of lifestyle. As a kid I was like, "I don't need school or books. I'm an emcee; I'll make it off of that." And granted, I did, but it's like, you don't really know, you just have all the faith that you can have and then it's left up to the universe to make it happen. So, it's been like this since I was 13.
Mesfin Fekadu covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/musicmesfin