When Bubba Sparrxxx debuted in 2001, it wasn't a surprise that hip-hop had managed to infiltrate the country. The real awakening was that it took the form of Bubba Sparxxx - a big, white rapper from the rural depths of Georgia. But quickly, Bubba proved himself to be a deft rapper and visual lyricist, and his paunch, country drawl was the glue that held it all together. After an instantly successful debut overseen by super-producer Timbaland, Bubba now returns with a sophomore album, Deliverance, ready to show the world that his rising star was no fluke.
Bubba's first single, "Ugly," was also his first big hit. Timbaland - who has shepherded the sounds of Missy Elliott and Aaliyah, among others, on his way to becoming one of hip-hop's production immortals - hooked up a gritty, rhythmic gem with skittering beats and frenetic, swinging guitars. The accompanying videos provided the visuals that hinted at Bubba's outback upbringing - mud, hicks and pigs in the backwater farmlands of Georgia. On Deliverance, Bubba wanted to give context and substance to those images. "To me," he says, "this album sounds like the 'Ugly' video looks. It gives you the story, the reasons, the details behind that picture."
Bubba Sparxxx grew up in the deep Georgia country, just outside a rural community called LaGrange. His nearest neighbor lived a half-mile away. While his real love was football - he played on the state team - his next passion was hip-hop. He would get his music from friends and devour everything he heard. First it was the booty-shake of 2 Live Crew, then the slick, laid-back tongues of the west coast gangstas, then eventually the Dirty South crews in his own backyard, groups like Goodie Mob and Outkast.
Bubba would rap, battle and otherwise hone his skills. While living in Athens, GA, he eventually hooked up with a producer (Shannon Houchins) who worked with Jermaine Dupri. The two worked on tracks together and in 1999, Bubba independently released his debut, Dark Days, Bright Nights.
That album would be the same title of Bubba's major label debut in 2001 - but this time, Timbaland, whom Bubba just met (through Jimmy Iovine), spearheaded the record. Timbaland was so taken with Bubba's potential as a hip-hop talent, he made him the inaugural release on his own Beat Club Records. The mix of Bubba's country rhymes and Timbaland's syncopated beats was intoxicating. Dark Days, Bright Nights would debut at number 3 on the Billboard albums chart.
Bubba's success was immediate - but that didn't necessarily satisfy him. In fact, he felt tortured by all that came with having achieved his goal of putting out an album. He had come out of literally nowhere to a plateau of rap stardom and still he began to question his own talents and his own significance. It led to depression, with Bubba retreating back home to Georgia and becoming reclusive. He sat at home, re-assessing his career, creative thrusts and goals.
"I really wanted to take a step back and see why I mattered," Bubba explains. "Why did I matter? Why would anyone want another album from me?"
The self-analysis proved fruitful and Bubba began finding the answers he was looking for. He emerged from his depression and channeled all his doubts, ambitions, confidence and fears into making Deliverance. "A lot of people thought I was going to be a one-hit wonder, so I had that chip on my shoulder," he says. "But I also had this fear like, 'Wait, what if my career really did end today? How much is left for me to say that I haven't had a chance to say yet?' That really motivated me."
As a result, Deliverance is an intensely personal piece of work, exploring depths of life and society that few rap albums reveal. "I wanted to tell my story in a way I haven't done before, things I've been going through in my life," Bubba says.
For example, on "My Baby's Gone," Bubba wallows in the self-inflicted pain of driving his woman away with a selfish lifestyle, ruminating on the family that could have been. On the title track, against strummed guitars and hand-claps, Bubba reflects on the risks and rewards of his own improbable life story - a boy from the country making it as a world-famous rapper.
Elsewhere, on "Nowhere," Bubba connects the aspects of his rural life with the tales told mostly by urban rappers. "The same things go on everywhere, whether you're from the city, the country or wherever," Bubba says. "People die, people struggle, people win, people lose. That's one of my favorite songs I've ever done."
The song features newcomer Kiley Dean, a sultry, southern singer also in Timbaland's Beat Club camp. Like the debut, the majority of Deliverance is overseen by Timbaland, who composed some of his most sophisticated, soulful beats for this album.
Bubba says that while their first union proved prolific, the sonic chemistry between them this time was stronger than ever. "We've learned a lot from each other in the last couple of years," he says. "Our bond is stronger. So now, just like you hear a Missy song and you know it's got that Missy/Timbaland chemistry, we found that signature Bubba/Timbaland sound." The lead single, "Jimmy Mathis," is a perfect example: Timbaland flips the instruments of a back-country hoe-down into a raucous hip-hop banger, with Bubba's syrupy flow swinging underneath. The introspective blues of the title track underscore the musical breadth and talents both rapper and producer possess.
The seeds to Deliverance actually began with the production team, Organized Noize, who Bubba also worked with on his debut. His sessions with them were the first he did for Deliverance. Organized Noize's dark, soul-searching funk for groups like Goodie Mob and Outkast put the Dirty South on the map. Says Bubba, admiringly, "They're the pioneers of Georgia hip-hop. Their vision of hip-hop pretty much shaped my own."
Organized Noize's experience with using live bands came into play on songs like "Like It Or Not" and its showboating horns, and on "Back In The Mud," an uptempo, drum 'n bass-like throwdown.
The overall result is not only a new step for Bubba and the Dirty South but for hip-hop as a whole. "I feel that my ear candy is a little different from the ear candy most people are receiving right now," Bubba says. "I think people will really grab a hold of it. There's a lot more country in this country than there is city, and I think a lot of people will be able to relate to what I'm saying."
--- from the official Bubba Sparxxx website