It seems like Country Rap is starting to take over mainstream. With the recent success of Colt Ford and The Lacs along with current “rap style” hits by country mega stars Jason Aldean (Dirt Road Anthem), Toby Keith (Red Solo Cup) and Tim McGraw (Truck Yeah), one would think that this is a new concept. But if you are a true hip-hop historian you would recall that this movement actual began in 2001 with the release of Bubba Sparxxx’s debut album “Dark Days, Bright Nights”. The video for the first single “Ugly” featured Bubba and pals in the mud with pigs, on tractors and performing in front of a house covered with bug lights. If that’s not the epitome of Country, then nothing is.
The platinum certified “Dark Days, Bright Nights” debuted on Interscope Records in October 2001 and was produced by Houchins and superstar producers Timbaland and Organized Noize. It was follow-up by the critically acclaimed 2003 release “Deliverance”.
“I remember thinking, as a 12 or 13 year old kid, that the spirit of hip-music wasn't a whole lot different than the spirit of "outlaw" country music I had grown up hearing around my pops and uncles.” Bubba recalls. “The rebellious nature of say NWA, or 2 Live Crew, or The Geto Boys, in the late 80s, early 90s just wasn't that different from the movement that guys like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver and others created by simply being themselves and saying what they wanted. Not to mention things were changing in rural areas, during my teenage years. The various drug epidemics had penetrated my neck of the woods, and the "reality" of life in the country had begun to shift. Folks were still hard working, and had traditional values, but drugs, and violence had become more prevalent, as a new generation of boys and girls, became man and women, in this environment. In some ways, the lower class, even out there where we were, started to identify as much with rap music, as country. This coincided with hip-hop, and rap exploding on popular culture, so the merging of the two genres, in terms of people.
“With the first album "Dark Days Bright Nights" we knew the people we wanted to reach, but didn't necessarily know how to reach them. This would really be the case with “Deliverance”, a couple years later. We had hooked up with Organized Noize, and Timbaland, two of the most accomplished, and respected names in urban music, and they had really bought in to what we were trying to do. This was an exciting time! We were very successful with the first album, taking baby steps toward bringing the two worlds together. The lyrics, and imagery were definitely country but the music was still pretty urban leaning. In retrospect, that's probably right where we needed to be at that time. As we prepared to record the 2nd album, "Deliverance", it was actually Timbaland, who decided the music needed to match the lyrics and imagery. “
“As bold as "Deliverance" was, it was probably too big of a leap forward to win commercially when it was released in 2003. We were still marketing, and promoting the "old way" and spending tons of money at radio and trying to get MTV and BET to play the video. It was also at a time when Lil John had the whole world "crunk."
Looking back, it's actually pretty remarkable that the song and album "Deliverance"did as well as they did. We just didn't know how to reach the people we were representing. Keep in mind there was no YouTube, and the Internet was still an infant in terms of the impact it would soon have on music. Interscope Records did the best they could, based on the way they did things at the time, but in the end we all failed miserably in thinking of ways to market an album so outside of the box.
I will slap anybody who questions my right to sit at this table, and eat. We fought wars for this, and it wasn't always this easy.