Earth is flat, rap­per in­sists

B.o.B. says, ‘Th­ese are my real be­liefs. They’re not a joke’

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - SPOTLIGHT - By Phillip Valys

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.”

JIMMY FON­TAINE/COUR­TESY

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