In B.o.B.’s latest music video, “Mr. Mister,” the Atlanta rapper wears more than 20 costumes and channels characters like Tupac, Bruce Lee, and Mr. Clean. He makes more outfit changes in it than Taylor Swift did in the video for 2014’s “Blank Space” — and apparently, he’s already submitted an application to Guinness World Records to commemorate this feat.
“I’m not a monolithic person. I don’t like doing the same thing,” B.o.B. says from a Comfort Inn in Green Bay, Wis. “Once you do something people like, you’re going to have to do it over and over again, so I try to find new stuff and new ways to do things.”
In fact, the 28-year-old has made a career through trying new things. His early mixtapes were obscenely long, with as many as 36 tracks on them. (“I was new to the game,” he says. “I didn’t know.”) In 2015, B.o.B. combined rapping with rock, adding thick slabs of guitar to many of the tracks on Psycadelik Thoughtz, as in “Violet Vibrato,” a symphonic tune that sounds like something Coldplay would sing. He’s released entire EPs dedicated to the elements — Earth, Water, Fire, and Air — and last year, he promised fans over Twitter that he’d release a full rock album “when the time is right.”
But on his last record, May’s Ether, there are few surprises and innovations. With features from the likes of Young Thug, T.I., and Ty Dolla $ign, it’s rooted solidly in hip-hop, and has the same bouncy effervescence and single-minded pursuit of a good time as previous B.o.B. albums.
“A huge part of Ether was to not alienate anybody,” B.o.B. says. “Because a lot of my fans, they don’t really care too much about what covert operations the government is doing. They’re more like, ‘Hey, we want some good music!’ So that was the goal with that album.”
If B.o.B.’s use of the phrase “covert operations” is any indication, the rapper is a big conspiracy theorist who has been interested in the subject since high school. In the past, he’s claimed he believes that 9/11 was an inside job, that the 1969 moon landing was staged, and that the U.S. government is involved in celebrity cloning. And in 2016, he revealed yet another belief of his: that the Earth is flat.
“It really changed my life,” says B.o.B., who is one of a few celebrities — including Tila Tequila and Kyrie Irving — who believe in the conspiracy. “It really changed my views about religion, God, the universe, the people in power.”
But it took a while for B.o.B. to be fully convinced that the world was not, indeed, round.
“I was thinking, ‘Am I crazy? Like, no, this can’t be real,’ ” he says. “I went and got telescopes. I went and bought a camera with 900-times zoom. I went on a trip. I climbed a mountain. I started doing math. I started really trying to find things out.”
Along the way, he found evidence and photos that convinced him the theory was true, his favorite being that if the Earth was round, then horizons would be curved, instead of appearing like flat lines in the distance.
After attracting the ire of astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson — who later responded to the rapper’s claims with a flat-Earth diss track called “Flat to Fact” — B.o.B. released the glitchy, lyric-packed single, “Flatline,” that includes lines specifically aimed at Tyson, like “They probably write that man one hell of a check.”
The song also includes veiled references to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. B.o.B. tells listeners to “do your research on David Irving,” a well-known Holocaust denier, and hints that Jews run the government with the line “That’s why POTUS gotta wear a kippah.”
When confronted about these claims, B.o.B. says they were “misconceptions” brought upon by people who “twisted my words and made it seem like I was talking about something that I really wasn’t.”
He’d rather talk about other conspiracy theories he aligns with, like his belief that the internet does not “come from satellites” or that the late-’80s government project, the GWEN Towers, “aren’t actually cell-phone towers. They just [ir]radiate people.”
Alienating fans with out-of-the-box thinking is something B.o.B. is sensitive to, and he makes an effort not to sound preachy or dogmatic whenever he talks about one of his theories.
“I don’t like telling people what stuff is,” he says. “I’d rather them come to their own conclusions, because it’s just more natural. You can’t really expect people to just restructure the wiring in their brain from a couple of tweets or a Twitter rant.”
And while he doesn’t have any regrets about going public with his beliefs, he is a little upset about how receptive — or not — the public has been to them.
“I do wish that so many people didn’t get turned off by the absurdity of [the Flat Earth Theory],” B.o.B. says. “I feel like when you get turned off by something, you kind of don’t revisit it again.”
But even if B.o.B.’s popularity has been affected by his unique beliefs, he’s adamant that he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I’ve always been the type of person to test the waters,” he says. “Sometimes, you’ve just go to be who you are, even if people don’t like it.”
plays at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 8, at Complex Oakland, 420 14th St. in Oakland. $20-$99; complexoakland.com