There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
About a minute into The Charm, Bubba Sparxxx becomes what a lot of MCs claim to be: a guy with nothing to lose. “I been a star/My name rings bells,” he raps. “But it means not a thing if you can’t bring sales.” That’s pretty much been the case for the rapper since 2001, when he called out the New South in his hit “Ugly” and wore redneck drag in the song’s video. You see, Bubba is a white man from rural Georgia—the Chattahoochee Valley, the setting of James Dickey’s Deliverance—who thought he could square his race with his anointed status in hip-hop by trying some reverse minstrelsy. He even called his 2003 album Deliverance, and despite a fine O Brother Where Art Thou–inspired title track, it dropped off both hip-hop and country fans’ radar screens more or less immediately. Third long-player The Charm opens with Bubba back in his home of LaGrange, Ga., consoling himself with the fact that “until he died, most of y’all ain’t fuck with Biggie Smalls.” But self-pity isn’t as much fun as a song about ladies’ rear ends, and the Top 10 success of the new album’s second track, “Ms. New Booty,” suggests that hanging up his overalls is the smartest thing Sparxxx has done since abandoning longtime collaborator Timbaland for executive producer Big Boi. The fellow Peach Stater clearly knows how to make a song about shaking it work: He recruited Ying Yang Twins for a guest spot and built the thing around vocals instead of schtick. The Twins are infectiously cheezy-skeezy on the chorus, true, but Sparxxx is surprisingly authoritative on the verses. In fact, his rapping proves fairly interesting throughout the album—and not just lyrically. (Though there’s that, too: “Run Away” chronicles his surprise discovery that he’s gonna be a dad; “That just means there’s three of us,” he reassures his partner.) He uses pauses the way some rappers use crutch words like “man”: to add an extra layer of rhythm. So why are we only finding out now that the bozo in the mud-stained Earls is a pretty good MC? Blame Timba, whose sole contribution to The Charm, “Hey! (A Lil Gratitude),” has the album’s best beats but stupidest lyrics. Over thudding drums and syncopated guitar, Sparxxx mentions that he’s country 60 or so times and tells us he’s back on “that dirt road.” Before he gets too far, let’s hope he remembers the ass that saved his. —Andrew Beaujon