Cowboy Troy and 'Hick-Hop'

A Texas rapper sets his rhymes to country beats. Host Jennifer Ludden talks with singer Cowboy Troy about the hybrid music style he calls "hick-hop." Troy's new album is called Loco Motive.

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JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

You've heard of hip-hop, but what about hick-hop? Well, here's one example.

(Soundbite of "I Play Chicken With The Train")

Mr. TROY COLEMAN (Cowboy Troy): (Singing) Hi!

LUDDEN: Troy Coleman, better known as Cowboy Troy, is an African-American artist who hails from Dallas, Texas. This spring, he released his first major-label album called "Loco Motive"--that's two words--in which he raps over funky beats and country twangs. "I Play Chicken With The Train" was his first single from that.

(Soundbite of "I Play Chicken With The Train")

Mr. COLEMAN: (Rapping) From mic to cassette, deep into your ear, my voice is your choice that you wanted to hear. Southern boy makin' noise...

LUDDEN: Cowboy Troy joins me now from member station WPLN in Nashville.

Hi there.

Mr. COLEMAN: Good afternoon. How are you today?

LUDDEN: I'm great, thanks. Can I ask you, how do you describe your music?

Mr. COLEMAN: Well, to many, hick-hop music is a combination of my favorite country instruments. They're your pedestal guitar, your Dobro, your fiddle and your banjo. Add some shredding rock guitar riffs and then you have me running off at the mouth over the top of all that.

LUDDEN: And where'd you come up with the idea to put this all together?

Mr. COLEMAN: Well, I think that if you have ever spent any time, for example, in country bars in Texas, as have I and many of my friends, you'll notice that during the first 45 minutes or so of a show, the band or the deejay is playing traditional top 40 country music. However, during that last quarter of the hour, the deejay begins to play either rap, rock or, you know, some sort of dance music, and the dance floor always gets packed during the rap portion of the hour. And that let me know that I wasn't the only cowboy that like rap music as well as country music. And so I figured, why not make a style of music that appeals to me as well as to my friends and something that I know that there is a market for?

LUDDEN: So who have you listened to all these years? Who are some of your favorites?

Mr. COLEMAN: Oh, my primary influences musically are Charlie Daniels, Jerry Reed, Metallica, Run-DMC, L.L. Cool J, Dwight Yoakam, you know, people along those lines. I mean, it does sound like an odd combination, but if you really sit and listen to some of the stuff in my music, you'll kind of be able to pick out who influenced which songs and things of that nature.

LUDDEN: One of your songs on this album, it's a duet. It's called "If You Don't Want to Love Me." Part of it at least starts out talking about a tired married couple. Let's hear a bit of it.

(Soundbite of "If You Don't Want to Love Me")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) If you don't want to love me, I'll find somebody else who will, find another kind of thrill, find another way to fill this loneliness.

Mr. COLEMAN: (Rapping) A married couple with kids and a family pet. He takes for granted that it's all good and things are set. But she feels no passion in the romance. It's been a year since they had their last slow dance. Even worse, her husband...

LUDDEN: Have you tried to write in a more traditional country style, or is this just the way the lyrics come to you, and you say, `Well, I'm just going with it'?

Mr. COLEMAN: Well, I've written songs that were traditional in style, but for me, hick-hop just kind of comes a little bit more natural, I guess. I mean, you start listening to old Charlie Daniels records and listening to old Jerry Reed records, the delivery a lot of times is considered--it was called recitations at that time, but if you listen to it now, you'd probably call it a rap, because it was mostly spoken and everything rhymed.

LUDDEN: Musically speaking, what does it mean to be a black cowboy in 2005.

Mr. COLEMAN: Yeah. Well, I mean, it means about the same as it did, you know, when I was a kid living in Texas. I'm accustomed to being an oddball in the group, as it were. I mean, I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, you know, middle class ever since I was a kid, so it's not uncommon for me to be right now one of, you know, a few country artists that are black in country music. So it's a neat deal for me, just to be able to make music and have a good time. I really don't get so much wound up in the ethnicity of the matter.

LUDDEN: Your biggest single so far, "I Play Chicken With The Train"--tell me about that.

Mr. COLEMAN: That song really talks about--poking a little fun at myself and a little bit of fun also at the music industry and trying to see which one of us is going to flinch first, whether or not that light at the end of the tunnel is the 5:15 or it's actually a way out for me.

LUDDEN: Let's hear a bit.

(Soundbite of "I Play Chicken With The Train")

BIG & RICH: (Singing) You know that I play chicken with a train, play chicken with a train, train, uh-huh-huh, uh-huh-huh. Yeah.

Mr. COLEMAN: (Rapping) Hold 'em up. Here we go. All the hicks and chicks feel the flow. Big black train comin' 'round the bend. Go on, kinfolk, tell your mom and them. Chugg-a-lugga, chugg-a-lugga, chugg-a-lugga. Who? The big blackneck coming through to you.

LUDDEN: And you refer to yourself as a blackneck in these lyrics.

Mr. COLEMAN: Yeah, a black man basically with a redneck attitude, kind of a cowboyish kind of guy, you know, kind of out there, fun-loving but, you know, not so out there that, you know, people think, you know, you're a menace or anything like that.

LUDDEN: But how'd you come up with the term?

Mr. COLEMAN: Oh, just based upon, you know, my friends who tend to have redneck attitudes. I said, `Well I guess that makes me a blackneck since I'm hanging out with all of you.' And...

LUDDEN: I mean, I can imagine that some might find that offensive, that African-Americans--you know, redneck would be bad enough. Blackneck--some might take offense there.

Mr. COLEMAN: They might, but I haven't had anybody say that they're offended by me referring to myself as a blackneck. I haven't...

LUDDEN: Your family, what do they say?

Mr. COLEMAN: My family laughed about it the first time they heard it. They thought it was a neat deal.

LUDDEN: You're on tour now. You're going around the country. So who's showing up? Who's the audience?

Mr. COLEMAN: Well, I mean, there's just about anybody that you can think of. You have your NASCAR dads and your soccer moms showing up.

LUDDEN: One doesn't normally think of a country music audience and hip-hop audience overlapping.

Mr. COLEMAN: Well, that would be a traditional concept or an idea that people wouldn't think, but if you really listen to the lyrics of the songs, I mean, many of the themes that are within the music on either side of the fence are quite similar. I mean, a lot of people that listen to rap music like to talk about the cars that they drive or the trucks that they drive. And similarly, in country music, they like to talk about what they drive as well.

LUDDEN: Cowboy Troy. His new album is called "Loco Motive."

Thanks so much.

Mr. COLEMAN: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. COLEMAN: (From song) Ha.

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Loco Motive

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Album
Loco Motive
Artist
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Label
Warner Brothers
Released
2005

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