Whenever people ask me what my best memory is, I always think of one particular experience: the B.o.B concert my sophomore year of college. And the response I usually get is one of the following:
“Really? That’s one of your favorite memories of your entire life?”
“Huh. He’s the guy that does Airplanes, right? That’s his only song I know.”
I can always feel the judgment when I explain that as one of the best nights of my life. I know people are thinking that there are sooo many better musical artists/concerts that I could’ve seen. And for that to be the first thing that comes to mind when I’m asked about best memories? But you know what, five and a half years later, I stand by it. Whenever I think of that night I can’t help but smile. Let me explain why.
I vividly remember the first time I heard B.o.B. I was a junior in high school and I was driving home from school. I was listening to the radio when the song Nothin’ on You came on. I wasn’t all that into rap at the time but there was just something about the song that caught my attention. My first thought was, “Hey, this is really catchy!” Over the next couple months I heard it on the radio just about everyday and I loved it more and more each time. I gradually began to learn all the words. I was really starting to like this B.o.B guy. And then when his next single, Airplanes, came out I was officially hooked. I started listening to more of his music beyond just his radio singles. It was like finding a gold mine. He had full mixtapes filled with so many new songs for me to enjoy. I thought he was so unique and talented. He was fun. He had lots of different styles of songs. He also didn’t rap much about money, girls, drugs, which I thought was really cool. By the time my senior year started I was a complete B.o.B fanatic. For my birthday that summer my sister got me his first album, The Adventures of Bobby Ray. I probably listened to that for about six months straight. So many of my favorite memories from my senior year revolve around that album. Me and my friends Chris and Ross would just drive around listening to that album over and over, memorizing all the words.
I think a lot of people thought it was a phase that I would grow out of. That definitely wasn’t the case. When I went to college my B.o.B obsession followed. Somehow it intensified. I would tell people that I knew the words to all of his songs and they’d laugh. Then I’d play a song and hit every single word. I absolutely loved it. Again, some of my favorite memories from my freshman year at Truman involved B.o.B. I still remember my roommate Matt and I driving around and rapping Beast Mode and 5th Dimension.
At the end of my freshman year his second album, Strange Clouds, had come out. Needless to say, that only fueled my fandom. That summer I don’t think I ever turned on the actual radio. I remember driving to work every day with the windows down blasting that album. I had every word memorized in no time. Just listening to his music made me happy. I felt alive (there’s that familiar word again).
When I got to school for my sophomore year everyone knew about my obsession. It was just understood at that point. One day early on in the semester I was walking to class. Little did I know that this would be no ordinary walk to Barnett Hall. On my way I passed one of my friends when she stopped me. “How excited are you?! I bet you’re freaking out!” Huh? I had no idea what she was talking about. She handed me the school newspaper. The main story on the front page: B.o.B coming to Truman in October. WHAT. My heart literally stopped. This can’t be real. This is not happening. I read the headline over and over, making sure I wasn’t misreading anything. I looked at my friend with an incredulous look, basically saying “Are you serious??” The huge smile on her face confirmed it – I was going to see B.o.B in concert. I’m not lying when I say tears started falling down my face. The word happy doesn’t come close. I went to class and smiled like an idiot the entire time. I pulled up the newspaper online and just kept reading that headline. I didn’t pay attention to a single word of the lecture. How could I? I just got the best news of my life!
Now, if you thought I listened to a lot of B.o.B before…It was early September when I found out he was coming to Truman and the concert wasn’t until October 26th. I don’t think I listened to a single word of a song by any other artist. Matt and I BLARED B.o.B from our dorm room for literally a month straight. I swear everyone in our hall hated us. But I didn’t care. B.o.B was coming to Truman. B.O.B WAS COMING TO TRUMAN. Just imagine for a second that your favorite artist of all time decided to come to your remote, unheard of college in the middle of nowhere Missouri. I wasn’t going to him, he was coming to me. That’s what made it so special. Not in a million years would I have ever thought that would happen. And it’s important to note that at the time he was relatively popular and mainstream. So for him to come to a random college like Truman was shocking, and for me, euphoric.
It’s amazing I was able to focus on anything in the weeks leading up to the concert. I’m fairly certain I was the first person on campus to get my ticket. The day just couldn’t get here soon enough. And when it did? Oh boy. I was giddy the entire day. I asked people how early is too early to start waiting in line. I didn’t want to be a complete freak and camp out all day. I’m sad to say that I was second in line. Also, I need to give a shout out to Matt. As my roommate he could’ve been so fed up with hearing nothing but B.o.B in our dorm room every single day. But he didn’t just put up with it, he embraced it. Having someone like that not judge my joy, but rather support it and share in it, was so incredible. That’s something that’s stayed with me.
The doors finally open and I immediately beeline for the front. But the wait wasn’t over yet. We still had to wait a little while before the opening act came on and then we had to sit through that performance. I’m not going to lie, there was a very small part of me that was worried that I had built B.o.B up so high in my mind that his performance would be a let down. But as soon as he walked onto that stage those doubts instantly evaporated. Somehow the concert was even better than I had been imagining it would be for the month and half prior. I’m struggling to come up with words to even explain how amazing it was. He played all of my favorite songs and was genuinely engaged. In reality, who would’ve blamed him if he just mailed it in? He had performed in cities all around the world and had played in much bigger venues. Who would have really cared if he didn’t give it his all while playing in a small basketball arena in Kirksville, Missouri? But he was into it the entire time. At one point he crowdsurfed (I’m proud to say that I helped hold him up). At one point during the show I swear we made eye contact for like five seconds. He was probably thinking “Wow, this weirdo knows every single word.”
I knew that it would eventually have to end, but that didn’t stop me from being upset when it finally did. But needless to say, I was on cloud nine. I remember walking across campus that night just in complete awe. Did that really just happen?! I just saw B.o.B!! I don’t think I stopped smiling for a month.
Over the next few years my obsession continued. I still have promotional posters from the concert hanging on my wall. One of them was an autographed one that I was able to get at the end of the year blowout. My friend Danny bought me a record of The Adventures of Bobby Ray. But I gradually started branching out into other music and discovered that there was a lot of other good music out there. And sadly B.o.B’s music started to change, and not for the better (in my opinion). He also thinks the earth is flat, so there’s that too. But while my love for B.o.B’s music has shifted, that doesn’t take away from what an incredible experience I had at his concert and how much his music meant to me at such a crucial time of my life.
Looking back at those years as a whole, here’s my takeaway: chase your passions. Embrace them. What if I had told someone I really liked B.o.B’s music and they laughed at me? What if I then stopped listening to him? He probably still would’ve come to Truman and I might have still gone to see him. And sure, it might have been a fun concert. But it wouldn’t be the same life experience that it is for me now, definitely not blog-worthy. I am so happy that I didn’t let anyone else dictate my passion. I totally understand when I tell people about my obsession and they laugh at me (because, really, it is funny). It was so random. But by no means am I ashamed of it. I chased something that made me happy and I couldn’t have cared less what other people thought. That’s something I typically struggle with, especially now. I get so absorbed with what people think about me. I want to fit in, even if that means sacrificing something I’m passionate about. I need to follow the example of B.o.B obsessed Drew.
I also want to acknowledge how awesome my friends are that supported that passion. They gave me the confidence to follow my passion and not care. Chris, Ross, Matt, and countless other friends encouraged and embraced my B.o.B fandom and shared in it with me. Instead of laughing at me they joined me. Be that kind of friend. Be a friend that let’s people feel okay about embracing what makes them happy. We all have random things we enjoy that some people make fun of. Instead of ridiculing someone for what makes them happy, support it. I’m so thankful that my friends didn’t tell me I was stupid for being passionate about something.
Although I don’t particularly like B.o.B’s new music, I still have a soft spot for all of those songs I listened to on repeat in high school and college. I still love going back to those old songs because they trigger old memories. That’s part of the power of music. One of my favorite things to do now is surprise people by rapping some of those songs. It’s becoming my thing to request the song Magic at weddings (I may or may not have also done that song at karaoke). Even now I still know most of the words to those songs. Every time I hear one of those songs it’s not just a reminder of all those good times. It’s a reminder to keep chasing my passions and to be proud of them.