RATING: 8/10 CHET BAKERS
I have a confession to make. I'm a hip hop fan, however with few exceptions I'm not too much of a fan of White rappers. There are definitely some good ones out there, however there are a lot who are terrible. There's some out there who are doing it for the genuine love of Hip Hop and they live and breathe Hip Hop, however there's a lot who have less respect for Hip Hop as they do finding a way to make money off of Hip Hop.
I may be White, myself, but I have no patience for people who come into Hip Hop and try to co-opt it for their own personal gain, regardless of race or gender. Not all of them are as reprehensibly offensive as Iggy Azalia with her stump speech-esque vocal inflections, putting on this image of how she views Black people as talking and acting, despite her being from Australia far from the American Hip Hop culture that she now profits off of, however they should be called out, nonetheless.
It's almost like some of these artists are the living, breathing incarnation of Danny Hoch's character Flip Dog from the movie "White Boyz" (and originally from Hoch's monologues). People who have only seen Black people on BET and WorldStar Hip Hop and think that's an accurate representation of Black people, and so they adopt that type of persona and vocal inflections.
As I said, though, there are other artists who don't engage in such fuckery and truly respect Hip Hop and are 100% being themselves. Bubba Sparxxx is one of those artists, I believe. The thing I like about Bubba is that he appears to be just doing him. What you see is what you get, he's not trying to be something he's not. He's not posturing, he's not playing a gimmickey character, he's not trying to piggyback on a trend or anything, he's simply illustrating the life he grew up in.
MORE AFTER THE BREAK
I respect that, and that's why Bubba's one of the few White rappers that I can get with. Having said that, though, he is one of those artists that I have a love/hate relationship with. He's an artist that I genuinely like, and have for a long time. He represents what I like about music: creativity and the meshing of genres. His album Deliverance, to me, is his finest album and was, in my opinion, criminally underrated and underappreciated. He and Timbaland made a potent combination, and you can clearly see the results of that coupling on his first two albums, Dark Days, Bright Nights and Deliverance.
However after Deliverance underperformed sales wise, bringing in roughly 350K in sales, Bubba ended up leaving Interscope/Beat Club and ended up at Virgin where he teamed up with Outkast's Purple Ribbon Records. While I understand Bubba's signing with them (he grew up a fan of Outkast), I didn't much care for the direction that album went. It didn't help that my views were soured with the atrocious Ms. New Booty song and video.
Especially when you look back at a certain lyric he spit on his initial single off of his debut album, "Dark Days, Bright Nights". A little single called "Ugly" in which he says the following:
Though I am country
Don't get the wrong idea
My ego's gettin' bigger
With every song I hear 'Cause y'all been bullshittin'
Spittin' that booty chatter
Out here for two days and
I Came with somethin'
That truly matters
And that's where the love/hate relationship comes in. I absolutely LOVE Deliverance. I can't express that enough. I ended up buying multiple copies of the album because I kept either losing it or it would get stolen. Finally I just bought it digitally and now I have a copy in the cloud. The album was a fantastic mixture of country/bluegrass music and hip hop, although it could have gone farther, I felt.
Listening to Deliverance it felt at times that Bubba wanted to do more songs like "Jimmy Mathis" and "Comin' Round", but the label perhaps did not know if that would sell as well. Or maybe they didn't know how to sell it to the "Crunk" demographic that erupted around the time that the album was released.
Whatever the case, I always felt that the disappointing results of Deliverance paved the way for Bubba embracing the mindless Ms. New Booty type music. And the fact that that song was the highest selling single for him just made my head want to explode. At that point I was kind of figuring maybe I would have to chalk up Bubba as someone that had a lot of potential but got swallowed up by the corrupt studio system.
Sort of how I view Kanye West. I loved his first several albums, but as I've written about before, after the tragic passing of his mother, he changed and he's just so much angrier now and a bit too paranoid and bitter at this point in his career for me to enjoy his music anymore. But I'll always have those first few albums.
However a strange thing happened in the career of Bubba Sparxxx. After the release of his third album "The Charm" (on Purple Ribbon), he kinda went away for awhile. He put out a mixtape of indie Southern artists called "The New South" on his own New South Entertainment label, but for the most part I didn't hear a whole lot from him. Then seven years later in 2013 he put out his independent release "Pain Management", and I was pleasantly surprised that this was sort of how I always viewed how he wanted to do music.
The first single, "Country Folks" feat. Danny Boone & Colt Ford filled me with the excitement that I got when listening to Deliverance. THIS was the Bubba that I first came to like. The Bubba that did "Ugly" and "She Tried", rather than the "Ms. New Booty" era Bubba.
And Bubba's opening verse lays it out clear that this is not a mistake to think that:
I'm out here on a thousand acre plot of land
And I can't hear 'em hatin on me, I'm a modest man
Talkin with Jimmy Mathis and he got a plan
And when he talk I listen to him, that's a lot of man
He said we need to take it back to the root of it
I put on for the country, that's the truth of it
I'm talkin last millenium we was reppin it
Before anybody had accepted it
Bubba's finally just throwing all the negativity that he would get from some folks to the side and just saying "Fuck it, I'm doing what I like.". Too many artists end up trying to please everyone, and end up pleasing no one. It's good to see Bubba come to that realization and just do what he feels is right when it comes to his music.
His previous album, Pain Management, also introduced me to some artists that I had never heard but I liked, namely the aforementioned Danny Boone & Colt Ford. I really dig them on "Pain Management" and the newly released indie effort "Made on McCosh Mill Road", and look forward to buying some of their music.
I read last week that Bubba's new album was released on the 24th of this month, and it kind of took me by surprise, because I was like "Wait...he's got another album already???" It's good to see Bubba back on his grind and putting out music regularly. And the fact that he's free of the nonsense of the major labels means he's pretty much free to do the music that he wants to make, rather than what some corporate people think might sell.
Listening to Made on McCosh Mill Road, I can see this as a great departure from his previous work. It's much more of a meshing of hip hop and country than his previous efforts, even Deliverance. With the addition of numerous indie artists such as Kyle Cook, JJ Lawhorn and the previously mentioned Danny Boone, this has a real homey countryfied vibe to it that I think accentuates the hip hop just perfectly. Or to put it like the old Reeses Cup slogan: Two great tastes that taste great together.
I've seen a lot of people refer to music like this and the group Gangstagrass as "Hick Hop". I'm not sure how I feel about that, to be honest. I think labeling things like this lends more credence to those that say it's a gimmick or schtick. It puts you in a box and you're forever referred to as that. You can't do anything other than that, because that's what you're known as. You're the Hick Hop artist.
It's like when D'Angelo came out and they didn't know exactly how to sell it so Kedar Massenberg came up with the term "Neo Soul" in order to market artists like D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others. That label because sort of a curse because it allows people to pigeonhole you and dismiss you, in my opinion. I love the artists in the so-called Neo Soul movement. And the term has a certain catchiness to it, I won't lie. Just not entirely sure about it.
And Hick Hop just seems fairly derogatory to me, but maybe that's just me. I know some artists that are in that genre and they seem to embrace it so hey...more power and all that.
"Made on McCosh Mill Road stands out as a snapshot of the real Bubba Sparxxx. Named for the road he grew up on in his hometown of LaGrange GA, the album showcases the life that he led, not the superficial fake lives that many rappers portray. The video for the title track is filmed on the actual farm that Bubba grew up on, giving the fans a glimpse into his actual home life that he came from.
No fake drug running like Rick Ross, no fake car theft rings like Akon, this is just Bubba being Bubba, and making music the way he wants to make. The most authentic way he knows how.
Standout tracks include "Made on McCosh Mill Road", "Past is Practice" (the vocals by JJ Lawhorn are fantastic! and "Better Be Country", although really it's all pretty well done. There's a few tracks that are a bit slower tempo than I would prefer, but all in all it's a solid release, and one that you should get if you like good hip hop music, and especially if you like Bubba's music.