Bubba Sparxxx: 4th Time's A Charm?
Armed with the biggest radio hit of his career [surprisingly surpassing the spin total of his first smash single, 2001s Ugly], the 30-year-old was supposed to be reclaiming his position in the game as one of hip-hops most commercially viable artists. Instead, in what will surely come to be known someday as the ringtone era, fans flocked to the song but discarded the artist. The Charm was largely ignored by consumers, much like Bubbas critically acclaimed 2003 sophomore disc, Deliverance, had been. Both releases to date have failed to total the roughly 700,000 copies sold of his 2001 debut, Dark Days, Bright Nights.
And so, after two more attempts at striking gold proved unsuccessful, the man born Andy Mathis finds his career in transition. Having recently relocated to Tampa, Florida to escape the hustle-and-bustle of the ATL, Bubba is regrouping. He has quit drinking and smoking, dropped 40 pounds, and subsequently found a new clarity and focus on his life and career. The first product of this newfound focus is Bubbas all-original material mixtape, Survive Til Ya Thrive, which hits the streets on August 17th [Check out "You Know What I Like" here].
In this exclusive interview with HipHopDX, Bubba speaks on all the recent newness that has emerged from his personal and professional revival: a new mixtape, new album, new label home (possibly), new collaborators, and a new determination to attain that ever-elusive intangible that for an artist no amount of plaques can match in worth - respect.
HHDX: Youve hosted mixtapes before, but never done one of your own. So why did you decide to do this Survive Til Ya Thrive tape?
Bubba Sparxxx: Basically in the past, man, I just been lazy. And I hated the mixtapes, because I grew up in an era when people released an album once every two years, and you didnt have to hear no music in between. You didnt have to flood the streets with a 100 songs. So I always was like, Why I wanna do a mixtape, when you supposed to just wait and buy the album? But when I cleaned up I was just on a whole nother level as far as my focus. And I was like, You know what, Ima do a mixtape.
HHDX: Who laid down beats for the songs on this mixtape?
Bubba Sparxxx: Actually, I went on my myspace and I solicited some beats [from] some cats called The Beat Gods. They submitted some beats to my myspace page. Tony Galvin came thru with some beats for me. The Nazty One, whos down with the C.T.E. camp, is doing some beats for me. Nard & B, who are managed by Big Kuntry from P$C, gave me some beats for the mixtape. Rico Wade from Organized Noize came thru with a beat for me. A lot of people just showed love. I aint spend a dime on it.
HHDX: Are there any features on this tape?
Bubba Sparxxx: Yeah, I got Attitude from Birmingham. Hes been my homie for the longest. Hes doing his thing over there at Warner Bros now. He wrote [Nelly Furtados] Promiscuous, so hes been doing his thing. Of course the homie Dirt Reynolds is on there. Dirts been down for the longest. Hes been on all three of my albums, formerly known as Duddy Ken.
HHDX: DJ Burn One is helming your mixtape. Hes also A&R for your New South label. So who all is signed to New South Entertainment?
Bubba Sparxxx: Just Dirt Reynolds and myself. Im signed to my own label at this point. [New South] aint on Virgin no more. Were looking at a lot of different possibilities as far as which direction were gonna go, whether were gonna go the independent route or whether were gonna stick with the majors. Weve been in contact with both. But itll be a New South situation no matter where I go. There are a lot of artists thats down with New South. A cat named 66240 from West Virginia is a hell of an artist thats down with the camp. Hes somebody that we might put out there in the right situation.
HHDX: So just for clarification, youre no longer signed to Purple Ribbon?
Bubba Sparxxx: No, Im no longer signed to Purple Ribbon. Ill forever be down for Big Boi though.
HHDX: Do you still work with Big Boi in any capacity?
Bubba Sparxxx: Nah, I havent spoken with Big Boi in quite some time. But obviously, with me moving down here to Tampa, I havent been able to see him. But we got a lot of mutual friends. So I know hes doing well. Hes doing the acting. Itll always be a lot of love from me for Big.
HHDX: So you didnt have a falling out like he had with Killer Mike?
Bubba Sparxxx: Nah. We didnt have a falling out or anything like that. And to be honest, I havent spoken with Killer either. Im down for Killer too. But I havent spoken with him, so I dont even know what the root of their problems are.
HHDX: So are there any plans going forward to work with Big Boi again?
Bubba Sparxxx: I never rule anything out. But I cant say that theres anything in the immediate plans, no.
HHDX: Can you elaborate at all, if it was just a situation where Big didnt wanna work with Virgin anymore so he kinda had to dismantle Purple Ribbon?
Bubba Sparxxx: Nah, I think Purple Ribbon is still doing its thing. But you gotta understand, it was a joint venture with New South and Purple Ribbon and Virgin. So we really had a lot of autonomy, as far as us, New South. We had a lot of control over the project as well. And Big Boi was there to put the superstar extras on it. So when the urban department [at Virgin] kinda fell apart, when Jermaine [Dupri] left, they became kinda lost in the woods as to how to do urban music. Everybody kinda just went there separate ways [after that]. I mean, Big Boi will be the first to tell you that we just hit a lick together. We got them folks to give us a bunch of money, we put out an album, and that was it. They paid us crazy! We both saw seven figures from Virgin Records.
HHDX: Why dont you think your sole Purple Ribbon release, The Charm, sold more than 250,000 copies?
Bubba Sparxxx: Cause of Virgin, honestly. They had an 11,000 [spin] record [in Ms. New Booty]. They shipped 400,000 units. During a slow period thats still supposed to sell 100,000 the first week. And we do 50,000. Something wasnt in place at the retail level. They just didnt have it together. I have no qualms in saying that. Its nothing personal. Its just that Virgin Records was, and is, a mess.
HHDX: Switching gears here, why is the new solo album youre working on called Twice On Sunday?
Bubba Sparxxx: Everything that I do everyday, Ima do it twice on Sunday. Ima go that extra mile. Its like, we do this everyday, but on Sunday, when everybody else is napping, Ima do it twice.
HHDX: So when realistically do you think Twice On Sunday will drop?
Bubba Sparxxx: Probably spring of 2008.
HHDX: Are you working with Collipark, Organized Noize, Timbaland
Bubba Sparxxx: Yeah, all the usual suspects. Ima try to get with Timbaland again. Even though I havent spoken to him in awhile, Ima try to get with Tim. Polow [Da Don] will be on the album. Mr. Collipark, Organized Noize, and Ima give a lot of up-and-comers a shot this time around. I can bring light to any beat. I dont necessarily think that for me to have a hit record I need a superstar producers name attached to it.
HHDX: Now you mentioned Timbaland. He only produced 1 song on The Charm. And you werent on his album, Shock Value. So what is your guys relationship at this point?
Bubba Sparxxx: Really, we dont have one at this point. I know if I see Tim its all love. Ill always have the deepest amount of respect for him. But we dont speak regularly. He works very closely with Polow. And Polow is like my brother. So I keep up with him thru Polow, and Attitude as well. Attitude is around Tim quite a bit. I keep up with him thru them. And he kinda keeps up with me thru them too.
HHDX: Youve mentioned Polows name a couple times. Is he the new production guide in your series of producer mentors?
Bubba Sparxxx: I dont necessarily think hes my production mentor. I dont think Ive really had one of those since Timbaland.
HHDX: You wouldnt consider Collipark one?
Bubba Sparxxx: Yeah, I would consider Smurf a mentor. I learned a lot from Smurf. Rico Wade, Timyeah, I kinda see what youre saying now. But pretty much anything Ive ever done in my career I ran by Polow and Rico Wade. Those are two people that before I make any drastic move, Ima run whatever Im doing by them. Between Polow and Rico, the way they think, Ima get the right answer.
HHDX: Could you possibly be taking your New South label thru Polows Zone 4 label?
Bubba Sparxxx: Thats a possibility. Thats something that has been discussed.
HHDX: Wouldnt that put you back at Interscope? Do you have a problem going back to work for Jimmy Iovine?
Bubba Sparxxx: No. I wouldnt have a problem with that at all. I think Interscope Records is a phenomenal company. And I think that Zone 4 and Interscope South, both of with Polow runs, are the future of Interscope.
HHDX: My final question is on a totally different topic. When I spoke to Big Boi last year about you for Down magazine he said that he signed you because youre one of the elite MCs of the South. Do you still feel the need to prove to the masses that youre one of the Souths elite MCs?
Bubba Sparxxx: I gotta be honest, Im a little miffed when I see, like in Ozone, people always talking about the top MCs in the South and my name doesnt get mentioned. Its a little confusing to me. Because if you go back, if you check my track record, all 3 albums, line-for-line, I gotta be in the Top 10. Im not saying Im Top 10 MCs period. But if we talking about the South, you gonna be hard pressed to find 10 guys you can put in front of me.