Before 2010’s brooding, Hayley Williams-assisted pop hit “Airplanes,” Atlanta’s B.o.B was earning André 3000 comparisons—a poet with a waterfall flow and a keen observer’s eye. His embrace of commercial radio brought backlash; on Ether, he licks wounds and takes stock. “I became everything I used to criticize,” he laments on “Big Kids,” over a lighter-waving CeeLo chorus. But he still has a silver tongue and sharp mind: On the downcast, Lil Wayne-assisted “E.T.,” he’s “blowin’ purple crop circles,” and on the bluesy “Peace Piece” he reminds us that “equality don’t have a Twitter account.”

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