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Pastor Troy: Street fighter II 

The Saddam Hussein of crunk soldiers onward

Pastor Troy is a street soldier. Anyone who has heard his music probably realizes that. His songs are often marching orders where he animatedly barks over the tracks as if he's dressing down a private – or spewing animosity at his enemies.

"More soldiers support me than anybody, man," notes Pastor Troy. He's not referring to street thugs, however, but to U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq and other parts of the world.

"It's a certain kind of music for everybody, and I've found that my strong point is making music for people to release to – adrenaline music. The soldiers can't go to war over there listening to damn 'Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It,'" he says. "You've got to have some music that's going to prepare you for what's going on. And that's the kind of music I make, man, soldier music. I can't wait to see what we're selling on the Army bases and stuff like that. It's really for the soldiers, here and there – soldiers in the street and soldiers over there fighting for our country."

Since the late '90s, Atlanta native Pastor Troy has churned out a slew of super-aggressive albums filled with loud, energetic chants and declarations. Widely acknowledged as a co-founder of the crunk aesthetic, thanks to minor hits such as 1999's "We Ready" and 2001's Face Off, he never became a global symbol of Southern gangster life and ATL decadence. Most of the kids who copied his visual signifier – a long, reedy beard that hangs from his chin like Tutankhamen – have since shaved their faces.

Nevertheless, Pastor Troy has built a dependable audience that buys everything he does. Most people probably don't realize that, much like a death-metal or prog-rock band, there are cult rap artists who can quietly move tens to hundreds of thousands of units and tour to packed nightclubs everywhere. From Tech N9ne in Kansas City, Mo., to Brotha Lynch Hung in Sacramento, Calif., acts like Pastor Troy thrive regardless of media attention, thanks to indelible machismo and dependably rowdy music.

When Pastor Troy announced a new album last spring, it mostly drew attention for its provocative title, Saddam Hussein. "It wasn't nothing about, like, I want to take over the world or I'm a member of al-Qaeda or nothing like that," he says. "Rapping, man, it's all about being a character. That was just my character for this album, just bombing on these boys." According to a press release sent out by his publicist, however, several record distributors threatened to not carry the album, so Pastor Troy was forced to change the title.

Hence Tool Muziq, where hard synths and pounding drum-machine beats bracket Pastor Troy's hollers. From copping "ho's" in the parking lot of a nightclub on "I'm Fucked Up" to "stuntin'" in SUV trucks on "That's the Move," he illustrates the 'hood lifestyle in lyrical slang without bothering to interpret it for outsiders.

"I don't just try to entertain the people. I try to give them something that I know about. And if I don't know about it, I'm close enough to where I can ask somebody and find out," he says. "Like the little guy selling drugs on the corner. I know about that, know what I mean? It's all in our community, man. It was a rite of passage for black males growing up. So for me to talk about it – not glorifying it, but talk about it – these guys can feel that."

Released on the San Francisco indie SMC Recordings, Tool Muziq didn't get a ton of media attention. But it sold enough copies to debut at No. 91 on the Billboard album charts.

"I'm focused on my fan base. I probably have 50-60,000 people I'm catering to per release," says Pastor Troy. "Anything else is to the good."

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