Earth is flat, rapper insists
B.o.B. says, ‘These are my real beliefs. They’re not a joke’
B.o.B, Atlanta rapper and noted conspiracy theorist, sounds convinced when he argues the Earth is actually flat, not round.
“You can’t really say technically the Earth is flat, because there are mountains, but to say that it’s a sphere, I haven’t found one piece of evidence that would lead me to believe that,” B.o.B says, reached by phone in Vermont. “But what I do have are accounts dating back to ancient Egypt suggesting there’s a dome cover over the planet.”
Of course, the Earth is not flat but round, according to centuries of astronomical consensus. It isn’t housed under a Stephen Kingstyle dome, either. But that hardly deterred the Grammy-nominated singer from arguing with noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in a well-publicized Twitter spat in January.
“The cities in the background are approx. 16miles apart ... where is the curve ? please explain this,” B.o.B writes in one tweet — there are about 50 posts like this — accompanied by a photo of the artist standing on a snow-covered hill as the sun dips below the horizon.
“Flat Earth [theory] is a problem only when people in charge think that way. No law stops you from regressively basking in it,” Tyson fired back.
The artist, born Bobby Ray Simmons, was basking in it. Within 24 hours, B.o.B ridiculed Tyson in a new song titled “Flatline,” uploaded to the music-sharing website SoundCloud, in which he espouses flat Earth theory and insists that NASA is hiding the truth about the edge of the world. Here’s one lyric: “Neil Tyson need to loosen up his vest / They’ll probably write that man one hell of a check.”
Then, his Twitter battle with Tyson went viral, circulating Rapper and conspiracy theorist B.o.B will perform Saturday at the Hangar nightclub in Miami. through news websites from NPR to the New York Times. B.o.B says he was less surprised by the mocking comments on social media — “I get haters every day,” he says — than by the media at large, who seemed to be unaware he had been championing conspiracy theories for years.
“I’m one of those people always like, ‘What if?’ I’m always speaking up in a room, even when people are whispering, ‘Shh! Don’t say that s---! Be quiet!” says B.o.B., 27, sounding out of breath as he bicycles down an alley next to a concert venue in Burlington. “I don’t feel like people who ask questions should be ostracized. But, you know, that’s life. Asking questions. If I’m the guy that’s being the paranoid nut job, then cool.”
B.o.B, who will perform Saturday, June 25, at the Hangar nightclub in Miami, is promoting music from his fourth studio album, “Psycadelik Thoughtz,” and an April mixtape, “E.A.R.T.H.” That mixtape, he says, functions as a spiritual sequel to “Flatline” with titles such as “Under the Dome” and “Fkn’ Science Bro.” Both releases feature B.o.B’s genre-hopping rap, a collection of songs soaked in pop, Auto-Tuned electronica, hard-rock guitar riffs and looped horns. It’s the kind of musical diversity that has led B.o.B to six Grammy nominations (for singles “Airplanes, Part 2” with Emi- nem and Hayley Williams of Paramore and “Nothin’ on You” with Bruno Mars); high-profile collaborations with Rivers Cuomo of Weezer; Billboard-topping singles in “Strange Clouds,” “Airplanes” and “Magic”; and a 2012 visit to meet President Barack Obama at the White House.
B.o.Bsays he released “Psycadelik Thoughtz” in September to little promotion. The album debuted at numbers 10 and 7, respectively, on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Top Rap Albums charts. He has since turned Twitter into a dumping ground for his myriad conspiracy theories. The federal government, he argues in one tweet, is spraying chemtrails over the United States. In another, he says the Illuminati are using human-cloning centers to bioengineer celebrities. Snapchat is secretly building a facial recognition database for celebrity-news website TMZ. He advocates the theories of David Irving, a prominent Holocaust denier. None of this, B.o.B says, has harmed his record sales.
But are B.o.B’s Twitter-spun theories all an elaborate hoax, designed to promote the rapper’s persona? Does dueling Tyson on Twitter drive interest in the new album, boost concert-tour sales and spur interest in his rap brand?
“I won’t say Tyson is wrong, because everyone is entitled to an opinion. These are my real beliefs. They’re not a joke,” B.o.B says. “In my world, how I came to know science, science was always about discovery and proven hypotheses. I think I’ve raised awareness. Certain people have decided to not support me anymore. Which is kind of funny, because I’m not coming out as Muslim or atheist or something. Who knew my scientific beliefs would be so controversial until this year?”
B.o.B’s suspicions, real or not, are echoed in the “Psycadelik Thoughtz” title track, a bassheavy pop excursion that carries more doom and gloom. “Television screens and news reports just serve as a distraction / Propaganda got our minds so flooded that we just paddlin’,” he raps.
“I’m always in this realm of alternative music,” B.o.B says. “I’m genre-less. I’m not supposed to be anything regular or normal. Granted, I might have more of a persistent fan base if I experimented less, but that wouldn’t be true to who I am.”