The 80s and 90s are often hailed as the golden years of one-hit wonders, but the 2000 bling era in Hip-Hop created its fair share as well. MIMS, D4L (R.I.P. Shawty Lo), J-Kwon, Lil Romeo, Rich Boy, DJ Unk, Jibbs, Young Dro, and the list goes on as long as the Bush years. One artist that could mistakenly be slapped with this label is Georgia-born rapper Bubba Sparxxx.
Of course, Bubba had plenty of material before and after his 2005 Gold-certified banger “Ms. New Booty.” Astute Hip-Hop fans may remember that Bubba had already been in the Billboard Top 20 in 2001 with “Ugly,” featuring Timbaland. His debut album, Dark Days Bright Nights, was certified Gold, and he was signed to Interscope. Bubba Sparxxx was far from unknown, and served as a unique voice in the southern Hip-Hop that dominated the decade. Bubba Sparxxx, whose real name is William Mathis, possessed a charismatic drawl and deep southern-boy tendencies that spoke to a lot of people as rap started to become ubiquitous throughout the country. Bubba Sparxxx has continued to create ever since, with several albums, EPs, and group projects. Unfortunately, Sparxxx has not seen nearly the amount of chart success he had pre-2006.
So what is a rapper whose last hit was over a decade ago, despite consistent effort, supposed to do? These are the circumstances that led to Bubba Sparxxx coming to a different College Park, and playing MilkBoy Arthouse’s one-year anniversary show. MilkBoy is a company based in Philadelphia that joined with the University of Maryland to collaborate with students on creating a space that benefited the community artistically. After months of deliberation and planning, a two-story building on Baltimore Avenue became a bar/music venue hybrid.
The night began early and was supported by several acts, but most of the crowd did not populate the venue until just before the Bubba Sparxxx set was scheduled to begin at 11. The headliner arrived to the venue at 11:15, and about 45 minutes after he was scheduled, Bubba Sparxxx took the stage to an excited group of a few dozen mostly drunk college-aged patrons.
Bubba Sparxx probably could have phoned in this performance. He probably could have taken the gig less seriously due to its college location and audience. Bubba came on stage on his own, with an impromptu DJ, Asher Meerovich, that had performed earlier that night in the band Tomato Dodgers. According to Meerovich, who also booked the show, this was because Bubba Sparxxx’s original DJ had recently experienced “legal complications.” Through this adversity, Bubba Sparxxx shined.
What may be a surprise to much of the public is that Bubba Sparxxx does not look like he did back in the Ms. New Booty video. He is in solid shape, sporting a trendy haircut and shades, aesthetically reminiscent of a down south version of El-P. Somewhat.
Despite his new look, Bubba Sparxxx sounds just the same as he always has, his drawl in full effect and his flow as southern ever. The early 00s down south feel at the beginning of the set eventually gave way to his newer material, which seems intended to be as trendy as possible. The trap drums and triplet style flows feel somewhat out of place with an artist like Sparxxx, but he tries to make it work as much as possible.
Mathis took plenty of time to address his crowd, drawing comparisons between College Park, Georgia and its Maryland counterpart. Maryland’s position under the Mason-Dixon line was tested when Sparxxx asked how southern the university really was. The crowd proved that it could hang with the reddest of necks, with many even rapping right along with the headliner. The rapper’s enthusiasm was contagious, and the whole crowd moved along to the music, interacting with the artist in between songs. Despite the inherent ratchetness of Bubba Sparxxx’s music, the artist made sure to choose his words carefully, at several points remarking how the times have changed since his heyday. He seemed to appease the college-age crowd by acknowledging objectification in music, and successfully navigating through the minefield that is performing at a university campus.
As expected, Bubba Sparxxx ended the show with “Ms. New Booty.” He performed the song as normal, which had the crowd going wild, but he was not finished. As he presumably has all across the world, the show ended with a Ms. New Booty Contest, where six women came on stage and competed for the chance to be named College Park, MD, Ms. New Booty. At the end of the contest, Bubba Sparxxx proclaimed, “There can be no losers,” and named every contestant a winner.
Bubba Sparxxx’s performance at MilkBoy Arthouse was a joyful experience for those in attendance. Sparxxx’s charisma can still hold a crowd of any size nearly 20 years into his career. Bubba Sparxxx was truly one of a kind when he came out in 2001, and continues to be a unique force in Hip-Hop. Furthermore, if you haven’t listened to “Ms. New Booty,” in a while, it holds up.
These incredible photos from Bubba Sparxxx’s performance at Milkboy Arthouse, in College Park, MD, on April 26, 2018, were taken by StayUp.News senior content producer and photographer Jack M. Angelo:
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