Monday, March 14, 2005

Act II:... like ya know!

The ‘Who’s Next?’ wheel never stops spinning. A few years ago I would have bet the house on a couple of odds on favorites. Regular Joe and Bubba K stared superstardom in the grill. But all grills that glitter could be just gold (at best). Both parlayed the “I’m just a regular dude” line and without irony. But both would-be kings followed different suits.

not your average joe
Mr. Jump Off: Potential heir-apparent to the mixtape throne vacated by the Jackson 50. The underground quotable ‘Focus’ introed his odd flow and tone, freestyles like ‘I Wish’ kept the streets buzzing but Kool and The Gang carried him on ‘Pump It Up’ which Just Blazed into heavy rotation. His singles emphasized punch-lines, vocal play and the odd interjection when he could have easily leaned on his drug history. Filler weakened his album but it was mostly filled with personal stories told in his distinct percolating low tones. The LPs stalled sales could be put on Def Jam’s back for not playing up the everyman status but quite honestly even his biggest supporters knew the album didn’t have a ‘Pump It Up’ follow-up and his introspective rhymes didn’t fit into a radio format (“Just give me ten minutes”? Probably not…) He tried a return to mixtapes and even had some potential media interest with the G-Unit ‘beef’… but he lost momentum… and then seemed to show up on too many R&B remixes for anybody’s good.

not just another bubba
Bubba Sparxxx: The NEXT Great White Hope. Ties: Exploding NEW South, Timmy’s Beat Club, Rico’s Organized Noise. The ‘Ugly’ success was beautiful and ‘Dark Days Bright Nights’ showed him to be not only an honest and adept MC but something of a ‘Southern gentleman.’ Balancing raunch with heart, street toughness and familiarity with average guy empathy and humility. ‘Deliverance’ was the rare sophomore surge of quality songs in production and character. Critics agreed but reframing ‘O Brother’ in video and Timbaland’s ‘country’ samples didn’t catch the music buyers.

Joe and Bubba mad strategic moves last year that were a bit surprising. Joe, recognized for going SOLO on his debut album and only marginally related to fellow mixtape MCs, developed ties to the final phase of Rocafella through the State Prop ‘gang.’ Although the connection to Beanie Sigel’s straightforward style is apparent the environment of ‘gun and drug’ talk closes a distance from those subjects that Joe seemed to be maintaining. Bubba raised a few eyebrows after the Beat Club relationship dissolved and he showed up on the ‘Southern Smoke’ series edging closer to crunk than one would have predicted. His relationship with Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon makes sense especially after one of his best appearances on the Dungeon Family’s ‘White Gutz’.
Although being affiliated with the Roc and the ‘Kast seems like money in the bank so did Def Jam and Beat Club. And to see talented MCs like Peedi Crakk and Killer Mike handled improperly by the same groups reinforces the idea that nothing is a sure bet.

Joe Budden, Coke, Newz – I Wish
Beanie Sigel, Peedi Crakk, Joe Buddens, Young Chris – Flatline Remix (from Roc Royalty)
Bubba Sparxxx – New South (from Deliverance)
Bubba Sparxxx – Pocket Full of Midz (from Got That Purp)