You might remember Bubba Sparxxx as a leading face of early 2000s country rap, a rising act mentored by Timbaland and a friend to Big Boi. Or maybe you just remember him by that one huge 2005 hit, “Ms. New Booty.” (Yeah, the thumping “bootybootybootybootybooty rockin’ everywhere ROCKIN’ EVERYWHERE” dance anthem. That one.)
Backed by Virgin Records, “Ms. New Booty” quickly rose to the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 charts, and landed the LaGrange, Ga., native on red carpets alongside then-titans Ludacris and the Ying Yang Twins. The song was successful enough that Bubba decided to jump Virgin’s ship and start his own label. But by 2008, we stopped hearing from him altogether. What was kept fairly mum about the peak of his celebrity — the time Bubba now calls “the ‘Ms. New Booty’ days” — is that the then-29-year-old was battling a crippling addiction to opiates. His career high was met with a new low, he said: “I was completely miserable. It was a mess.”
Nearly a decade later, after intensive therapy and escaping to a farm, Bubba Sparxxx opens up to BuzzFeed about his heyday, the hiatus he took from his passion, and, most recently, an effort to make another attempt at music.
I left Interscope [in the early 2000s] and signed with Virgin Records in 2004. During that time, about 2003, I had developed an opium addiction. It really came to a head in late 2006 — at the height of “Ms. New Booty” — I began going to treatment. I was at the depths of addiction at that time.
I was completely miserable. We had a lot of good times, but that period of time landed my best friend in rehab. We were by all accounts just a trainwreck. It was just a mess. Sometimes you just start moving so fast and you’re doing so much. You’re looking for any edge just to make the workload a little more enjoyable. I really didn’t care a whole lot about how I looked. For most rappers, that’s the most important part: the presentation. I still handled most of my business, and whenever I wouldn’t be going through withdrawals, it happened sparsely enough that [other people didn’t notice]. I was just sick.
Around that time, I left Virgin and I signed with E1 Records. I stayed clean for a while. I’d go away from music, and then I’d get clean, then I’d come back to music. But around that time, I was using again. During that whole time.
I had a pretty serious relapse in 2008 and went back to treatment. I was living in Tampa, Fla., at the time, and I got arrested in Clearwater Florida. (I had pills on me at a restaurant; it wasn’t a narcotic. I just didn’t have a prescription. But charges were later dropped.)
That was an embarrassing situation. It was a wake-up call. [The lowest point] was when I had to talk to my mom after I was arrested. I’ve been to jail a few times in my life, but this time was different. It was on the 10 o’clock news down in Tampa, it was on the front page of newspapers, it made various tabloid sites. It was really important that she hear from me first before she read it. That was tough. I didn’t have any credibility with her. I reached the point where I couldn’t even tell her the truth and have her accept it.
I was tired of running out of drugs. I rolled into rehab like, I don’t have a drug problem. I have a problem without drugs. That’s what it was. At that time, I felt like if I had drugs on me all the time, I wouldn’t have a problem; if you don’t know anything about opium withdrawals, it’s a “shut you down” kind of thing. It’s like having the flu but you can’t sleep. It aches. Vomiting. Diarrhea. That’s what made me realize I had a problem. That’s how out of touch I was with reality.
Then I moved back to Georgia. From late 2008 to late 2010, I didn’t even go to the studio. I wanted to have a good life, and it seemed to me at that time, the music and lifestyle weren’t allowing me to have a good life. I was at a point that I had gotten so miserable, I had to find a different way to live — or, really, not want to continue living.
[From 2008 to 2010] I lived out on a farm [in Georgia], I just buried myself in that. I had a bunch of cows, ponds fully stocked with fish. I just lived that life. I would still go do shows, but I really was just taking it easy. I was doing a lot of research within myself and went through a lot of therapy. Just a lot of things to take care of myself and nurture myself.
I was growing up and easing into my thirties. I was kinda, like, at a point where I didn’t know what I had to say. What would be my message? What is it that I really, really have on my heart that I needed to convey?
One thing I discovered was exercise (chuckles). That became my major new addiction. I ran quite a bit and lifted weights often.
It wasn’t until 2011 or 2012 that I really started recording again. I had made some real progress in terms of lots of therapy, and really, really felt good with where I was as a person. At that point, once I ironed out all those issues internally, then I craved music again. I’m back at it now.
I’m enjoying the ride right now, and people tell me all the time I look younger and fresher than I did when I entered the game at 24. It’s not that I’ll ever aspire to achieve pop-culture celebrity status, if you will — and that’s not necessarily my goal — but I do want to reach a point where people acknowledge me. I do feel like my story was incomplete. I feel like I was capable, and I am capable, of achieving so much more. It would have been ideal if I hadn’t taken a seven- to eight-year hiatus in between, but I did. And if hadn’t taken a break, I wouldn’t be here today. I’d be dead. I wouldn’t change a piece of the journey because the journey is what made me who I am today.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
You can stream Bubba Sparxxx’s latest album, 2014’s Made On McCosh Mill Rd., here.