Pastor Troy has an idea why he's a Georgia phenomenon but has been unable to break nationally with his ultra-crunk music.
"I kick it pretty hard, man," the Atlanta rapper/label owner said. "I had to come with something more club, more radio-friendly. I accomplished that with a joint produced by Timbaland."
Indeed, the thumping "Are We Cuttin'," which also features Ms. Jade, has been making waves in the South and was also featured on the soundtrack for "XXX." The high-energy cut, culled from Pastor Troy's Universal Soldier album, due in stores September 24, has helped Troy garner attention in regions that normally wouldn't embrace him.
"I needed that to do exactly what it's doing: broadening my horizons, pumping me up in different areas," Troy said. "It's doing that."
But there's more than a single cut to lure hip-hop fans to Troy's percolating party. Timbaland also appears on and produced the bass-heavy "Tell 'Em It's On," and UGK's Bun B teams with Troy on the bouncy "If I Wasn't Rappin'."
Long-time Troy fans will also be pleased. "Who, What, When, Where" contains the type of stripped-down drama Troy is famous for, while "I Pray For" features the spiritual son of a pastor extending a hand to God. "I pray for peace and equality, opportunity," he raps on the cut. "Everything that I feel is due to me/ Both of my parents, mother and father/ Praying to God."
For Troy, balancing street raps and God comes naturally. "There's a lot of pain in the South, a lot of history, religion," he said. "Growing up like that, it's going to be related back in the music.
"I look at it as the most personal relationship that you can have," Troy continued. "God knows my heart. I hope that one day I'll be a model citizen in his eyes. Hopefully my good will outweigh my bad and he'll let me into heaven. The good I thank Him for. The bad I apologize for."
The bad to which Troy refers was his first money-making enterprise: selling drugs. But the pain and violence which hustling brought weighed heavily on his mind, as he saw people die from the game often depicted in the most positive ways in rap songs. Troy gave up slanging when he found out he could make more money selling CDs. About four years ago, he pressed up 2,000 CDs and sold 1,000 of them in one weekend. His take-home cash: $10,000.
"That little dope that I got hidden over there, you can have that sh--," he remembered thinking. "Music got me that day. I'm rapping."
Troy quickly became a favorite in Georgia, largely because of his 1999 album, We Ready I Declare War, which included the Master P dis, "No Mo Play in GA." Although the song earned him his rep, it also caused complications when he was trying to get label deals. At the time, Master P was one of the hottest acts, and it was widely rumored that P told Universal Records — which signed Troy — not to work with the up-and-coming rapper. Even though We Ready I Declare War was pulled from record store shelves before gaining national steam, Troy had already established himself as a Southern star.
Subsequent D.S.G.B. (Down South Georgia Boys) and the Congregation compilations on his own MADD Society Records established him as an independent powerhouse before Universal re-signed him and released his Face Off album in 2001.
By staying in the streets, distributing his own CDs and repping Georgia to the fullest, Troy did for Atlanta what Jay-Z did for Marcy Projects.
"I represent Georgia so hard that little dudes that are graduating from high school tell me, 'Georgia want me to come down there to go to school. I'm going because of you,' " Troy said. "University of Georgia owes me some money. I done sent them about four or five stars. The football team down there loves me."
And there's little chance Troy's fans will get upset with their own underground champion getting the exposure he's gunning for with Universal Soldier.
"They ain't got no problem with seeing me on MTV," Troy said. "They'll love it because they know I'ma be actin' a damn fool."