The most impressive thing about Cowboy Troy's major-label debut 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' spoken-word songs to Timbaland's hoedowns with Bubba Sparxxx, had to lay the groundwork for this collision of marketinae playlists at Southern barbecues remains an open question.
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But if the album doesn't cross over, it won't be for lack of sound-shaping savvy. Cowboy Troy's 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. For all the sap "If You Don't Wanna Love Me" drips, its drama still offers the sturdiest bridge across a yawning cultural chasm.