Bubba Sparxxx – Deliverance

I liked Bubba’s debut, but I only really loved a few tracks on it, some really interesting hints at something new, some fecund mix where Timbaland’s customary brilliance (which we do take a bit for granted, I think) met a fresh approach, a rural rapper not at all coming over as a curiosity or soft option, a new hip hop talent with roots in country rather than soul or funk (or as well as: Like It Or Not shows he has the funk too). I’m not sure how much attention this second album has had, but I think it’s fulfilling a lot of that promise.

Bubba himself is finding his own voice more. He was overly influenced by Eminem often on the first, and his voice doesn’t have that nimble wit or technical skill, but it has an emotional force Eminem’s irony and gags rarely permit him to access. And we have a pretty new accent to hip hop, the southern vowels in which seem to offer some interesting new rhythmic possibilities. He’s staking out slightly new ground lyrically too – I think he’s grafting some of the best sincerity of country music to hip hop’s street parlance, and finding a substantial charge of feeling in the blend.

Musically, much of it is a really strange and fresh melange of sounds. Track 3, Comin’ Round, was the one that made me prick up my ears and suspect I was hearing a special album: it centres on a country/folk fiddle sample, and Tim integrates it into something really new and affecting. Other tracks use live instrumentalists to much the same effects – I suspect that Timbaland hadn’t worked with a lot of Southern fiddlers before, and he rises to the challenge impressively. Maybe Bubba’s debut was the training ground, the practice run, and we have the real thing here, one of the very best hip hop albums of 2003 (which I think has been an exciting and innovative year in the genre), which lives up the standards right to the storming, rocking end with Back In The Mud.

And how many meanings can you find in that album title?