Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

When Cowboy Troy made an appearance at the May 17 Academy of Country Music Awards, he joked about the odds of which would happen first: Garth Brooks coming out of retirement or Troy himself having a No. 1 album.

Troy clearly came much closer than he ever expected. "Loco Motive" bowed at No. 2 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart, with sales of 51,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Nevertheless, Cowboy Troy (born Troy Coleman) knows he is up against some tall hurdles in the country music community, being the first artist to creatively combine country and hip-hop music into a mixture he describes as "hick-hop."

He says hick-hop utilizes "country instrumentation," including banjo, dobro, fiddle, acoustic guitar and pedal steel, teamed with "shredding rock guitar riffs and a rap delivery."

Despite the challenges that kind of genre-straddling presents, Troy has had the benefit of media exposure most new artists can only dream about, thanks to his association with Big & Rich and their Muzik Mafia artistic collective.

On May 19, two days after the release of "Loco Motive," the striking, 6-foot-5-inch artist performed on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." He has also appeared in Big & Rich's video for "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" and performed on the duo's debut album.

He rapped in front of thousands of Tim McGraw fans when he joined Big & Rich to open McGraw's concert dates last year. McGraw became a fan and asked Troy to write a rap to accompany McGraw's hit "She's My Kind of Rain," which the two then performed together nightly. Troy also got significant exposure on last year's Muzik Mafia tour, which was turned into a series for CMT.

Troy grew up in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, listening to country music and says it "seemed like the most natural fit" for his own musical ambitions. But he was also a fan of rap and began combining the genres as a way to "have a little fun with making music." He has been performing in clubs since 1989 and previously released two independent records.

Troy's association with the Muzik Mafia sprang from a long friendship with Big & Rich's John Rich. That connection landed him a deal on the Muzik Mafia's Warner Bros.-affiliated Raybaw imprint. Troy says had it not been for his Mafia pals, he would still be in Dallas managing a Foot Locker.

Rich, Big Kenny and Warner Bros.' Paul Worley produced "Loco Motive," and many of the Muzik Mafia regulars make guest appearances, including James Otto, Jon Nicholson and Lyric Street artist Sarah Buxton. McGraw also appears on the album.

Troy says he is not sure why there are not more African-American country performers, speculating that "maybe they don't feel as encouraged by their friends and family." But he adds that he does not feel as though he is carrying a banner or paving the way for other black artists. "That would get more into a political thing," he says, "and I save the politics for those in Washington. The pressure on me comes from my own desire to succeed."





Excerpted from the June 4, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.

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