No one who has seen both men with their shirts off would ever mistake Bubba Sparxxx for Eminem, and anyone who’s listened to their music knows the dissimilarities don’t stop there. The manic pop-cultural sniping of “The Real Slim Shady” was so engrossing that few people ever stopped to point out that Eminem hasn’t launched an army of white hip-hop clones, which puts the few white rappers working today in the difficult position of constantly having to compare themselves with him. “Eminem’s incredible, but did I really have to say this / For y’all to leave my soul at rest and add me to your playlist?” Sparxxx gripes on “Nowhere,” from his second album, Deliverance (Interscope). Sparxxx sounds more sure of himself here than on his debut, Dark Days, Bright Nights, and Timbaland, his main producer, has developed a more fitting context for the MC, looping the Yonder Mountain String Band on “Comin’ Round” and creating his most nerve-shattering hi-hat stutter to date on “Warrant.” As always, no one bites Tim’s best beats like the man himself–he even swipes the chorus and backing elements from Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River,” daring you to say he’s run out of ideas. Rural touches like the “Comin’ Round” loop or the dirty harmonica lick from “Jimmy Mathis” give Sparxxx, who hails from Georgia, something in common with Outkast, though he’s neither a thoughtful player like Big Boi nor an interstellar freakazoid like Andre 3000. In fact, he’s sui generis–a big, humble rapper with a playful drawl. Any frustration at his incomparability reveals nothing so much as our own lowered expectations for hip-hop–we’ve been conditioned to presume derivativeness. Obie Trice headlines. Monday, November 24, 11:45 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Anthony Mandler.