Editor’s note: Every Friday, HLN brings you the "My First Time" series, which explores the first time your favorite celebrities did something significant or memorable (so get your mind out of the gutter!).
In this installment, country singer and rapper Bubba Sparxxx -- whose latest album, "Pain Management," was released earlier this year -- opens up about his personal struggles and getting back to his country roots.
HLN: Your music is a mix of country and hip-hop. What was your first favorite country song? Also, our first fave hip-hop song?
Bubba Sparxxx: My first favorite country song was Hank Williams Jr.’s “Country Boy Can Survive.” He was one of my dad’s favorites. I grew up on a farm and just remember hearing that song and taking pride in that and it really resonating with me. As far as the first rap song I’ve ever heard, it was the Beastie Boys’ “Brass Monkey.” I was in third grade and I’d fake [being] sick in school and call home. This particular time, my brother picked me up and was playing the Beastie Boys' [first] album. I remember hearing it and [thinking], “Whoa, what is this?” That was the beginning of my love affair with hip-hop.
HLN: Why did you decide to merge country and hip-hop?
Sparxxx: Culturally and the way I lived, I identified more with rural life, with being a country boy, but as far as music, I always loved hip-hop more. So it was always my goal to marry the two in a cool way.
HLN: Do you feel your new album, 'Pain Management,' does that?
Sparxxx: Absolutely. I think it’s a continuance of my second album, “Deliverance,” which was very critically acclaimed but didn’t do as well commercially as we had anticipated. It was ahead of its time, so I went in a different direction, but overtime, when I actually took some time to step away from music, I reflected and saw what people had appreciated about me, and it was the “Deliverance” album, which was very country-themed.
HLN: We’re seeing a bit of an evolution of Bubba Sparxxx -- what brought it on?
Sparxxx: I went seven years without putting out an album. I had a lot of personal struggles in that time. [I was] growing up. Hip-hop, for the most part, is a youthful movement, and now I’m in my early 30s and [thinking], “What do I have to say at this point? Where do I fit into this culture?” It took me awhile to learn that I could take some of my personal struggles, share them and help a lot of people that way.
HLN: Personal struggles do make for some of the best country songs. What do you open up the most about on your new album?
Sparxxx: My most honest moments are reflecting on the fact that I’ve made mistakes and that I was an absolute train wreck at one time, personally, in the business sense, creatively. I didn’t know who I was or what I was trying to do. I had a very, very serious drug problem at one time. I’m not bashful about that. I want to let people know this is a serious situation and that I’d been through a lot.
HLN: So how would you describe the place where you (and your music) are today?
Sparxxx: It’s a very honest depiction of not only what I’ve been through, as far as personal struggles, but the positive aspects of what it’s like to have made it to the other side of those struggles. I am a stronger person because of what I’ve been through and I’m a better person for what I’ve been through. Also, country living. I wouldn’t say the country aspect of who I am is any more or less important than the fact that I’m Christian or the fact that hip-hop’s a part of who I am. All these things are going to shine through in the music, so why should I discount the country component in it?
HLN: Tell us a little more about what country living is like for you and your family.
Sparxxx: We grew up hunting and fishing. I don’t necessarily hunt as much anymore, but I still love, as much as I can, to go fishing [for] bass, catfish and bream. I grew up with anything you can imagine being farm life: We owned cows and had some pigs. When I was younger, we used to act real silly, riding around, look for a mud hole in a truck -- that’s redneckin’ right there! On a more spiritual level, the church is a very important component of how we grew up. Family, holidays with family. Very, very important.
HLN: Do you have any favorite holiday traditions? Christmas is right around the corner…
Sparxxx: We have two traditions on Christmas that I’m really fond of: We always play Monopoly the night before -- literally, the whole family. It’s a heated, very contested game of Monopoly that we play on Christmas Eve. And the last thing that happens before we all go our separate ways for the night is my dad reads “'Twas the Night Before Christmas.” He stumbles over it, and every year we anticipate the certain parts where he makes mistakes, so it’s always funny, we have a good time with it.
HLN: If you weren’t doing music, what would you like to do?
Sparxxx: Honestly, in a dream scenario, I would be a high school history teacher and football coach. Football is my No. 1 passion. I love the game of football. I’ve always had an affinity for history -- I get that from my dad -- World War II history in particular, Greek history, Roman history. So that’s probably why I would lean in that direction. Two of my nephews have graduated college and are high school football coaches, and a third one’s about to follow that same path. That’s just really important in our family and I think in the rural South, period.
HLN: Will we ever see in a classroom? Or will you continue on your music career?
Sparxxx: I’m just going to continue to be brave and courageous and try to figure out ways to infuse different cultures and genres of music. I have a song called “Ride Outta Town” on my album that I’d say [has] hip-hop, dance, dub step, blue grass, country, funk, all incorporated in this one song. [You’ll see] a lot more of that.