Cowboy Troy

The most impressive thing about Cowboy Troy is what it took to make a black country rapper feasible. Hip-hop, the great assimilationist art, had to become the dominant musical form. A long line of experiments, from Charlie Daniels's spoken-word songs to Timbaland's hoedowns with Bubba Sparxxx, had to lay the groundwork for this collision of marketing-savvy genres. It still might not work -- Loco Motive, Troy's debut, won't be blasting on 125th Street in New York, and whether it makes the playlists at Southern barbecues remains an open question -- but if the Cowboy doesn't cross over, it won't be for lack of sound-shaping skill. His patrons and producers, Big & Rich, have overseen a great Kid-Rock-gone-full-blown-hayseed effort, with prominent pedal steel soaring above the guitar crunch and Troy's good-natured, ready-to-party rhymes. The only disappointment is how seldom he uses a traditional country strength -- great storytelling -- to correct a current hip-hop deficiency.

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