Pastor Troy

By Any Means Necessary

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One of the most promising Dirty South rappers to emerge from the underground during the early 2000s, Pastor Troy nonetheless struggled to retain his footing from album to album after making the major-label leap. By Any Means Necessary is yet more evidence of that, as Troy again fails to make the grade he should. His first release for Universal, Face Off (2001), was supposed to have been the culmination of his underground recordings -- a compound album of previously released standouts ("No More Play in GA") and newly recorded highlights ("This tha City"). His second, Universal Soldier (2002), was supposed to have been his national breakthrough, as he collaborated with such hitmakers as Timbaland, Lil Jon, and Jazze Pha in hopes of extending his reach beyond the South and crossing over to the mainstream in the process. However, neither album realized its potential, creatively or commercially: Face Off seemed more provisional than culminant, and Universal Soldier seemed more prefabricated than extraordinary. Thus emerged a problem. Labels like Universal aren't too conducive when it comes to developing rap artists; in fact, they're more likely to drop rappers who don't make the grade than they are to develop them. Which, of course, put the Pastor in a bind when it came time to deliver his third album for Universal, By Any Means Necessary, the title perhaps an allusion to the commercial quagmire in which he'd now found himself. As always, Troy puts in a stellar showing lyrically. He's a thoughtful, personable, and caring rapper who somehow eschews formal cliché without abandoning the essence of his genre (i.e., the crunker side of Dirty South). And his very distinctive voice is a trademark, especially when he overdubs his "uh-huh!"s and "come on!"s. The usual problems arise here, though. Troy may indeed be a gifted rapper, but he's not an especially gifted songwriter. The themes of his songs are rote (a scan of the track titles says it all), and his hooks are ho-hum. If anything, you're captivated by his lyrics and his delivery, not the songs themselves. It would help if Timbaland, Lil Jon, and Jazze Pha reprised the production roles they'd played on Troy's previous album. They're nowhere to be found here, unfortunately, as a lineup of minor-league producers takes their place and sounds pale in comparison (one exception: lead single "Ridin' Big," produced by DJ Toomp). Granted, these more affordable producers turn in serviceable beats, but there's nothing new here in terms of production -- it's the same old Dirty South motifs. None of this bodes well for Troy's future at Universal, nor does it make for an especially exciting listen. Those who are intrigued by Troy's rhetoric alone may find this brief, 45-minute album worthwhile, but most everyone else should give this one a pass and wish the Pastor better luck next time.

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