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Hip-hop images include bling, Krylon cans, strips of cardboard for breakdancing, crunk cups and now, tractors.
Tractors joined the lexicon through Southern rapper Bubba Sparxxx (real name Warren Anderson Mathis). In the early 2000s, Sparxx brought a farm-boy mentality to the genre through twangy beats and stories of life in the fields — a style dubbed ‘country-rap’.
“You drive one hour away from any major city … and you’re in the country,” he said. “My goal was to be a voice for the people not living in big cities.”
Sparxxx grew up on a farm in LaGrange, Ga., far from the subways and spray paint of New York. Though he lived an hour from Atlanta, Sparxxx said the city didn’t yet have a thriving scene. Instead, he gathered information from BET’s Rap City and through the few records he and his friends could get their hands on—- 2 Live Crew and N.W.A. Sparxxx picked up on the issues rappers spoke about, and saw them reflected at home.
“There’s still drugs in the country, and violence going on everywhere — not only in the big cities,” he said. “(My music is) reflective of how I grew up.”
While his first two albums (Dark Days, Bright Nights and Deliverance) focused on occasionally tongue-in-cheek stories from his rural past and samples from harmonicas and fiddles — Sparxxx changed his outlook last year. After working with Timbaland and Organized Noize, he switched to Big Boi from Outcast’s label and collaborated with several producers. The effect was The Charm, a CD scrubbed clean of country-rap.
Sparxxx also gave up drugs and drinking and moved to Tampa for its “sunny days and pretty girls.” He’s still close to home — six hours from his parents’ house — but said the move gave him a more vibrant outlook on life.
“I’d never lived anywhere else, and just turned 30, so I wanted some fresh air,” he said. “Living in this environment, you just end up feeling great a lot of the time.”