Artist: Bubba SparxxxTitle: DeliveranceRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Toshi Kondo

With talk of the New South’s recent impact on hip-hop, Bubba Sparxxx’s lack of mention is as conspicuous as the colorful tattoos on his forearms. Then again, listening to his sophomore release Deliverance, makes it clear that he may be from the same state that produced T.I., Bone Crusher, and Killer Mike, but his vibe is completely different. What Sparxxx lacks in crunkness, he more than makes up for with profound, thought-provoking material that will put to rest any whispers of him being a one-hit-wonder.

The album’s sonic DNA is more than adequately constructed by Timbaland and Organized Noize. Many beats seem tailor-made for Sparxxx, incorporating elements that have a very rural, but uncontrived sound. Timbaland’s use of instruments like harmonicas on “Jimmy Mathis” and a fiddle on “She Tried”, gives the album a very unique sound that has been heard from few Dirty South artists. Over these barnyard instrumentals Sparxxx does an excellent job of analyzing universal themes without betraying his rural roots.

He speaks on the unfortunate consequences of absent fathers on “Comin’ Round”, assisted by a Yonder Mountain String Band sample on the hook. He admires from afar saying, “For the young boy, Daddy gone five weeks/ He’s only 14 but he’s grown by me/ Cause he keep the heat on and his little sister fed/ With his knowledge of the land and the tools of the shed.” Riding soft guitar strumming and Timbaland’s beatboxing on “Nowhere”, he juxtaposes working farmland to pumping on the block with grindin’ being the common thread between the two.

The title track, Sparxxx’s most ostensible attempt at a radio single, produces what is easily the best track on the album. Loud handclaps, melodic guitar strumming, and a soulfully sung hook by Timbaland, provide the soundtrack for a five-minute synopsis of Sparxxx’s trials and tribulations since taking the hip-hop world by storm two years ago. The track’s intelligent and elegant words give indisputable evidence of his lyrical growth.

Although the rural feel of the album is very palpable, it is taken too far in some instances. “Hootnanny” serves as notice that even if you grew up in a rural area in Georgia with your nearest neighbor half-a-mile away, there is never, ever, ever, ever a good reason to use the word hootnanny on a track. Another disappointing development is a perfectly dope Organized Noize track being ruined on “New South” with a hook that sounds like Mike Lowrey’s police chief doing breathing exercises in Bad Boys II.

Many say the sophomore slump occurs because an artist has their whole life to prepare for their debut, while six months to a year is allotted to record a second album. Feeling pressure, many artists will revert to the safe formulas and recycled subject matter, resulting in commercially successful, but uninspired albums. Instead of trying to reproduce “Ugly” or gimmicky pigpen imagery, Sparxxx uses Deliverance to delve into aspects of his upbringing and ends up with a portrait that no other MC could have painted.