s the most visible practitioner of hick-hop and someone inspired by "country folks that never had shit," Bubba Sparxxx could have further indulged the rural music influences that Timbaland helped paint so well across Deliverance. But recognizing lackluster sales when he sees ‘em, The Charm finds Bubba turning further toward the sound of now: the ATL sound that he utilized with less fanfare on his previous release.
Stripped of fiddles and twangy vocalists, Bubba doesn’t signify country as much as he claims it nowadays, but the verse "I'm a country boy but that big-city bottom fill me up with joy" on "Ms. New Booty" only leads to the album's creative ... nadir, in which Bubba philosophizes on butts with the Ying Yang Twins. Couple that with the remarkable disaster of "Run Away" (either Bubba's worst song or his attempt to kill TRL fans), and you might suspect that the once-"Ugly" MC has gotten lost.
He hasn't. Critics and banjo fans might be pissed that the rural influences are gone, but Bubba was never a hayseed, and what made Deliverance so good wasn't just the unique and expressive production (half of which, remember, was by Organized Noize), but Bubba's skill as a rapper. Except for Ghostface, he's probably rhyming as well as anyone around right now (and with Cee-Lo on fire in Gnarls Barkley, we might be seeing the new New South composed of old Georgians). On the disc's last track, Timbaland comes back to support the rapper as he takes over the city and demands our gratitude, all the while disguising it as a party anthem.
That camouflage covers the rest of the album. Bubba heads for the clubs some, but he's always turning over tight rhymes. On "As the Rim Spins," he explains that he's at the peak of his powers, but that he's been working extremely hard, combining the rap memes of personal braggadocio and intense work ethic: "I ain't slept ten minutes / No shut eye til this business / Right here is finished." Organized Noize's production feels like they've been staring at a moving wheel while they float around, making the song catchy, distinct, and formally cohesive.
On the album's other finest track, "The Otherside," Bubba, aided surprisingly effectively by Petey Pablo and Sleepy Brown, points out his confidence but turns a club number into a powerful stance of ambition and inner strength. While taking on all comers and offering to help out another guy's frisky lady, he delivers the line that most encapsulates his style: "I'd rather watch my mama get low / Than quit, that's fo' sho" reveals the humor and determination that, along with technical prowess makes Bubba so engaging an MC.
Bubba's got a right to be confident. He knows that, thanks to him, "everybody's singing now, 'cept for the fat lady." Oddly, as Bubba pursues a more traditional sound, he's hewing more closely than ever to his vision. He'd have only been pandering (to his fans) had he felt forced to make another countrified album; as he acknowledges here, "I showed 'em how much being country is worth / Just bought me a Dodge, a hemi." Bubba's got a dollar or two already, and he's not catering (to the charts) by being less country—he’s catering to his fans by staying true to himself.