Reviewed on this page:
Dark Days, Bright Nights - Deliverance - The Charm
Yet another Timbaland discovery, Bubba Sparxxx is probably not the first white rapper from rural Georgia,
but he's the first one on the national stage. Initially Sparxxx traded on his country roots for humorous effect, but
without making himself a stereotype or caricature, without putting himself down or attacking others, and his sophomore effort Deliverance is a masterpiece. But the sales weren't there, so he shifted to more conventional, less interesting hip hop on his third disc, and I think his forthcoming 2008 effort is more of the same.
Dark Days, Bright Nights (2001)
Sparxxx trades on his country roots for humorous effect (a whinnying horse on "Bubba Talk," the brilliant leadoff single "Ugly"), but
without making himself a stereotype or caricature, without putting himself down or attacking others. He's also about the only person I've heard who can talk about working class
unity across racial boundaries without sounding like he's living in a fantasy world ("Well Water," title track).
Most of the tracks are in a Southern Bounce mode, with Sparxxx reciting good-time party rhymes in a sing-song
over pulsing midtempo backing, and it stays on track
thanks to Bubba's good humor and confidence that never boils over into arrogance.
Timbaland produced seven tracks, creating dense tracks and many musical colors: Latin syncopation on "Get Right," flute on
"Lovely," Spanish guitar on "Open Wide," hard ominous synth on "Twerk A Little."
Atlanta producers Organized Noize contribute two tracks ("All The Same," "Bubba Sparxxx"); Shannon
Houchins five ("Any Porch"), Khalifani - who sounds like a Wu-Tang disciple - three (the mournful "Infected"),
and Gerald "Geo" Hall one ("If It's Bumpin'," featuring Kosha and Bo Hagin).
On his second release, Sparxxx develops his vision of "hick-hop," as Timbaland's beats blend with bluegrass elements, and it comes off:
"She Tried" uses fiddle, steel guitar and a plaintive vocal from Ryan Tedder to tell an affecting story of lost love; "Jimmy Mathis" uses
backwoods harmonica to create an irresistable dance groove.
Elsewhere, the instrumentation ranges from loud guitars ("Warrant (Interlude)") to live horns ("Like It Or Not") to full string sections
("Overcome," title track), answering charges that Timbaland's stuck in a rut. Plus, the contrast makes his trademark robotic grooves
stand out more than ever (the kinetic "Take A Load Off"; "Hootnanny" featuring unobtrusive backing vocals from Justin Timberlake).
This didn't sell to fans of O Brother Where Art Thou or Jay-Z - I found the disc marked down to $8.99 the day after release -
but I like it better than either.
Organized Noize contributed three tracks, including the title track and the album's one flop, the techno annoyance "Back In The Mud" - everything
else is produced by Timbaland. None of his usual cohorts show up, as the guest slots are filled by Big Rube, Duddy Ken, Sleepy
Brown, and Mariah Carey clone Kiley Dean ("Nowhere").
The Charm (2006)
Attempting to move to the hip-hop mainstream, Sparxxx dropped all the country mannerisms in favor of Lil Jon-style jumpy portamento synth ("Claremont Lounge") and other modern dancefloor clichés. Similarly, Bubba's lyrics are completely undistinctive, as the song titles read like a compendium of lowest common denominator rapper subject material: "Represent," "As The Rim Spins," "Ms. New Booty" (a single). Despite all that, the album isn't a disaster, as there are some memorable tunes like the romantic story-song "Run Away" (produced by Jayson "Koko" Bridges) and the contemplative "Ain't Life Grand" (courtesy of Big Boi).
Half the tracks were produced by Organized Noize, of which the best is "The Otherside," featuring Petey Pablo and Sleepy Brown, with a catchy sung chorus; other producers include Mr. Collipark ("Heat It Up" and "Ms. New Booty"), Mr. DJ and Slimm Jim ("That Man") and Timbaland ("Hey! (A Lil Gratitude)," a dull retread that sounds a few years old).
The Impolite Gentleman (2008)
Due in August.
The leadoff single is "I Like It A Lot," produced by Mr. Collipark.
Like it or not?