Summary

Swaggering has always been a key element in mainstream hip-hop, and during its golden age, the gold chains and money love were often talked about over the artistry, but B.o.B.'s third studio effort kicks off with a cloud-rap shopping spree called "All I Want," twisting the whole come-up concept into more of a "net worth" song. The rapper actually sounds dazzled by his account balance, and proud that he "took a dream and made it exist," and then one rollicking track later, "One Day" dreams "Well, who knows, maybe one day we'll have a little more/We'll finally shop somewhere else besides the corner store," as if this near-concept album is was financed by the National Retail Federation. B.o.B. does frame all these Louis bags as rewards for hard work, and providing for family does get a mention, but it's a narrow topic that makes all the similarly themed songs sound redundant, and Underground Luxury doesn't become attractive to outsiders until universal topics like booty drive the tunes. The strip club anthem "HeadBand" succeeds with an infectious, whistling hook as 2 Chainz plays the brazen buffoon ("Whistlin' Dixie, middle school, I was gettin' head on the ten-speed"), then there's the winning combination of T.I. and Juicy J thugging hard as serene figure B.o.B. soars on the chorus of "We Still in This Bitch." Hypnotic how the track "Ready" lurches through syrupy beats in the style of its showcase artist, Auto-Tuned rapper Future, although B.o.B. isn't always swayed by his guests, as he offers a comfortable, bright, and "Airplanes"-like highlight with "John Doe" featuring Priscilla. Big surprise has to be the Chris Brown feature "Throwback," which finds B.o.B. in the producer's chair, issuing a fascinating and more synth-pop version of Kanye West's '80s revival, but all these highlights float about without an album anchor, and shuffling these cuts winds up just as good as the album's original rocky running order. Cobble out the stellar EP inside or consider it a pre-mall mixtape because the puzzling Underground Luxury mixes mack daddy music with mall rat tracks, even if B.o.B's conviction throughout suggests he sees them as equals. ~ David Jeffries