Hip-hop has become increasingly homogenized, capitalized, marginalized and, now, diversified? Even more surprising, this diversification has come from the last group you’d expect: whites. In 2001, Bubba Sparxx emerged in the shadow of Eminem, joining forces with Timbaland to introduce his brand of Southern hip-hop, which he lovingly calls “New South.” New South isn’t Nelly’s Dirty South; it’s a Southern-fried blend of hi-tech beats and real country grammar (and manners) with a bluegrass flair. Take, for instance, the first few tracks of Bubba’s sophomore effort, Deliverance. “Jimmy Mathis” and “Comin’ Round,” on which Bubba speaks of “New South’s imminent progression,” feature samples of songs by instrumental country group Area Code 615 and the Yonder Mountain String Band, respectively, which explains the Deep South humidity that saturates the album. “She Tried,” a eulogy for a dead relationship that features live fiddle and steel guitar, is as ominous and dramatic as anything produced by Eminem. “Nowhere” and “Overcome,” which find Bubba rising above adversities of all shades, subtly incorporate gospel influences, coloring Timbaland’s standard beats with live strings, brass and a choir. The weakest tracks (“Hootnanny,” featuring Justin Timberlake, and “My Tone”) pale only in comparison to the album’s first half. The album’s overall style is inventive and fresh, and the backwoods rapper often comes off like a hip-hop Huck Finn or the redneck version of Marshall Mathers’ trailer-park trash: “I’ve been traveling for some time/With my fishing pole and my bottle of shine,” he sings on the title track. Deliverance bubbles with social commentary (the life-affirming “New South” and “Warrant”), shedding light on the fact that the same troubles affect both sides of the track.
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