Pastor Troy - By Choice or By Force   
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written by Ashley Tannehill    
It’s the pastor. He has a counter-culture sermon, solidified by a discography boasting album titles such as By Any Means Necessary and We Ready- I Declare War, and a history marked with a demolishing run-in with the No Limit Soldiers. He shepherds a congregation that, although mostly regional, is devoted, and turns their heads every time he fires a shot. And this time Pastor Troy has fired a bomb: By Choice or By Force.

The war declared years ago (against No Limit) gains momentum with Murda Man II, and hones in on new targets, stated specifically: BME, Lil Scrappy, Lil Jon, Don P, Big Sam, Crime Mob, and Oobie. The song plays over a plaster of gun shots, simplistic beats, and adlibs that could rouse a club crowd into a fight. However, only when the bass is so loud that it drowns out the cyclic lyrics is the song worthwhile. The same concept rolls over into the following songs, creating an amorphous flush of drum cadences, and lazy, nearly indistinguishable variances with the beats that are blanketed with repetitious hooks and the appropriate drop of adlibs.

Finally, the Pastor delivers a word that hints at a higher lyrical strength and thwarts the rolling cacophony with the eulogistic Crossroads. These shifts from crunk and clamor, to more grounded and meaningful concepts are slices of the Troy who pops into the mainstream every few years full of drive and heart to sermonize listeners into a shudder.

Then he recommences with the momentarily crunk, but ultimately fluttering lyrics void of staying power and splashed with aged adlibs. He pieces together a collaboration with Rasheeda, pours bass over boring lyrics to create standard strip club songs, and uses a Tony Montana line from Scarface, “Who do I trust?”, to smother a hook and surround it with feeble verses. Troy concludes By Choice or By Force with the pleasant surprise, Vegas, which is the first “non-cookie cutter” beat partnered with imaginative lyrics that could spark a bit of hope in the hearts of listeners.

Ambivalence toward the album lies not in the content, but the subjectivity of listeners. Pastor Troy does not have a mainstream congregation. His style is conjured deep in the dirty south; his lyrics are dirty and hardly deep. To some, his rhymes might appear nursery, his crunk a tad too crunkified, and his sound cacophonous. But for others, it is this standard stereotypical southern style that makes him great, and with which the pastor will continue to preach to the congregation that continues to flock. The disparity, however, is not between the standard mainstream music and dirty south regional club-bangers, but in the standard dragging into stagnant, tiresome, and ultimately lazy.

By Choice or By Force represents an unnecessary regression, and a crutch for potential. Troy’s collaborations dropped from Timbaland and Bun B (on Universal Soldier) to Rasheeda and Kira, and his album cover to a two-page sample. His skill is evident but cowering without embrace. Troy stuffed one line clichés into hooks, scribbled down suitable versus, and released an album. His work lacks the once-apparent hunger and fire that allowed him to grow and improve as an artist. The pastor continues to move his congregation, but merely from one sermon to next, disregarding advancement, insight, and originality. By Choice of By Force sure did fire a bomb, too bad it stunk.

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