Dark Days, Bright Nights
In rap’s 25-year history, it has had more than its fair share of novelty acts. Sequence to Joel Ski Love, JJ Fad, Vanilla Ice, Gerardo, etc., have all gone the way of the dodo. However, the rap world did take notice when Dr. Dre struck it rich(er) with Eminem. Star-making producer, Timbaland (of Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, Ludacris, and Nas fame) has taken a page from the G-Funkster’s book and has found a white rapper of his own. Bubba Sparxxx is a 24-year-old rapper from LaGrange, GA (i.e., The Boondocks). Straight outta Redneckia, Sparxxx claims the dawn of “the New South” — a dystopian vision of good times, great sex, and devastating poverty, where black and white are just the same and the Confederate flag is nowhere to be seen.
Dark Days, Bright Nights is a double maiden voyage, being the artist’s debut and Timbaland’s first release from his new label, Beat Club. It is also the mixed bag that the title connotes. This album starts off strong with a large chunk of the Timbaland-produced tracks in the beginning. One first thinks that a new, clever voice is being debuted at the rap cotillion. Bubba’s rhymes are delivered with a certain wit that titters and makes one forgive them for being a little imitative (sometimes making you think you’re listening to the lyrical negative of Goodie Mobb), and Timbaland’s beats drive the gluteals to shaking. “Ugly,” the first single off the album, exemplifies this, and “Bubba Talk” is a real jewel — where both artist and producer hit their stride. “Get Right” and “Twerk A Little” also make you feel Timbaland’s finger on the dance-rap pulse.
However, this is not Timbaland’s joint (he only produced six of the 18 tracks), and Dark Days, Bright Nights becomes dark, indeed. Organized Noize (Outkast, Goodie Mobb) contributes two tracks to the album, but they’re basically phoning it in. Producers Khalfani, Gerald “Geo” Hall, and Sparxxx’s partner in crime, Shannon “Fat Shan” Houchins deliver the rest of the album. Bubba would’ve been better served by using Master P. bloopers, where his rhymes fall as flat as the beats.
It appears that Sparxxx’s skills were mainly dictated by the talent surrounding him. With Timbaland, he sounds like a refreshing twist in the pop rap cocktail. Without him, Bubba’s the definition of derivative, and makes you want to rewind to 1995, when the Southern rap sound was something new and exciting.
It’s hard to say which way Bubba’s fate will take him. If this had been all Timbaland, we’d all be hailing a new prince in rap. Uh-huh, uh-huh. Without the man’s production, no review would’ve been written. The disk is enjoyable enough, but I won’t waste any superlatives on it. Timbaland, however, would’ve done himself, Sparxxx, the listening public, and his new label a big favor, if he just would’ve taken total control of this project. Too bad he didn’t.