Musical Monday: Bubba Sparxxx

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So you know how your freshman year in college, when people are trying to get to know each other, someone always asks, “What kind of music do you like?” Actually, this is still a good indicator for me of whether I’ll get along with someone or not. But back then, most people would say something like, “Oh, I like everything. Except maybe rap and country.” Well, then I’m sorry, but you don’t like “everything.” I realize that those people were trying to be adaptable and not send any potential new friends running, but dude, that’s so boring.

I would never call myself an aficionado of rap or country, BUT(!) I do like the occasional rap or country song. I have plenty of random singles on my iPod from the likes of Jay-Z, Outkast, and Garth Brooks. I can’t say I own any complete country albums. But I do own two complete rap albums: License to Ill by Beastie Boys and Deliverance by Bubba Sparxxx. It just hit me that they’re both white. How odd. Beasties are just nostalgic and fun to me, and remind me of some good friends and some crazy times. Bubba Sparxxx is unique in many ways, and that’s why I like him.

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Being from the deep South (LaGrange, Georgia), his lyrics reflect a sort of deep-seated anger (but also an inner strength) that I think a lot of extremely poor people in the South experience. I know the people he raps about. I have met some of the characters in his songs. He writes about the poor white South’s own personal version of the ghetto, which is arguably no more positive an existence than urban black ghettos, only no one really talks about it. And like some black rappers have done for the young black community to empower and motivate them to think differently about their circumstances, so Bubba Sparxxx does for a different segment of the population.

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Just as the perspective of black youth today is still influenced by the experiences of their ancestors in oppressive conditions, there are aspects of the poor South’s plight that go back to the Civil War and the years afterwards spent trying to rebuild what was lost. I think Bubba Sparxxx hits on this concept without coming across as a racist redneck. I don’t think there is anything racist about him. And we would all do well to look at the similarites he’s pointing out between low-income, disadvantaged people in general, regardless of skin color.

One of his themes lyrically is the idea of a “New South,” which he believes we are experiencing today, and which he encourages young people to nurture. Think about the concept of “Old South” and all the negative things it stood for (some of which linger even now). He’s in effect preaching the opposite, telling people to rise above their differences and their circumstances, and to be proud of who they are and where they come from. But he also jokes around about the dumb redneck stereotypes, because as those of us from the South know, those stereotypes exist for a reason, and there really are some people like that.

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I also really like the fact that he incorporates some traditional Southern-sounding music into his songs. The Deliverance album features Yonder Mountain String Band, which is one of my favorite “jam grass” bands from Colorado. Even though they’re not technically from the South, I respect the fact that they are carrying on the Southern musical tradition of bluegrass. He has sampled their original tune “To See You Comin’ Round,” about which YMSB’s bassist, Ben Kaufmann, had this to say:

“I think it’s great. Timbaland is responsible for the original mix, and it could be a revolutionary idea. In the song, the beat is still there and what really comes through is the voice and the fiddle. I’ve always thought that you could take acoustic instruments and hybridize that sound with the hip-hop beat to get an acoustic hip-hop experience. There can be no limits.”

bubba2 Buy it or download it here.

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