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B.o.B. has seen a relatively quick road to success over the past few years, thanks to massive pop singles like the lovey-dovey “Nothin’ On You” with Bruno Mars and the more introspective “Airplanes” with Eminem. But prior to his deal with T.I.’s Grand Hu$tle imprint, Bobby Ray was making noise on the mixtape scene, and he continues to do so by giving back to his fans with these compilations of studio floor sessions. He caps off 2011 with EPIC (Every Play Is Crucial), a flawed, yet solid release that shows his range as both an underground lyricist and a contemporary rap artist.

E.P.I.C. is a collection of songs that couldn’t find sample clearances, such as the catchy riff on Phoenix’s “1901″ or that of I Blame Coco’s “Control”, both of which are utilized brilliantly. Yet other times it’s not quite as airtight, such as the inexplicable crossover remake of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York”, which comes off as trite. Nevertheless, B.o.B. seems to always deliver his A-game, as even his throwaways sound like potential hits – case in point is the Roscoe Dash fueled “Guest List” or the enigmatic “What Are We Doing”.

For a mixtape, B.o.B. had no problem reeling in the high profile features, leading to some truly stand out moments. The paired down “Boom Bap” with T.I. and Mos Def is an odd combination, but delivers as expected. “5 On The Kush” with Bun B and Big K.R.I.T. seems to recycle UGK “International Players Anthem” formulas, but also hits home, while “Things Get Worse” is an obviously unfinished and unmixed track, featuring hilarious verses from a Relapse era Eminem. B.o.B. even throws the crowd a bone and includes his first single to his 2012 LP, the non-quite dub-steppy “Strange Clouds” with Lil’ Wayne.

Despite a few low points scattered within, E.P.I.C. is a pretty solid mixtape release that prides itself on original material and only one case of beat-jacking (Watch The Throne‘s “Welcome To The Jungle”). While it may take more time for people to see beyond Bobby Ray’s commercial persona, if he continues to pump mixtapes out like these, it will happen in due time.

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