pastor-troy-1.jpgEight years ago, a then up-and-coming Pastor Troy was eager to be heard. So he did what any rapper would do, he dissed one of the biggest artists at the time to make a name for himself: Master P. Playing David to the P’s Goliath, Troy took shots at the No Limit tank with his riot-inciting single, “No Mo Play in GA.” The ploy to gain notoriety worked like a charm and provided a modest buzz for the Atlanta native’s ’99 debut, We Ready—I Declare War. The album, which introduced a hybrid of crunk meets gangsta rap, birthed a loyal congregation of fans and spawned a musical collaboration with Ludacris (2000’s “Get Off Me”). After two more notable indie projects, Troy landed a three-album deal with Universal Records in 2001. Three albums and three years later, the Southern general only scored one crossover song, the Timbaland-produced “Are We Cuttin’” off 2002’s Universal Soldier. With his contractual obligations fulfilled, the Leader of the Wicked Church subsequently returned to his underground roots and dropped three more albums independently. Troy’s latest, Tool Muziq, was released this week through his new company, Money and Power. The LP, however, almost never saw the light of day due to its original title of Saddam Hussein. The controversial name drew protest from distributors and retail stores, forcing Troy to change it altogether. With drama abound, tracked down Pastor Troy to discuss his infatuation with the former Iraqi dictator, the fallout that ensued and rumors he’s signing with Cash Money Records.

Why did you originally name your latest album Saddam Hussien?
When I did that, I was talkin’ about my position in the [rap] game. [Saddam] was known as the bad guy and [someone] who didn’t play around. [Retailers] took it out of proportion. They thought I wanted to take over the world or some shit.

Did you catch flack from the Armed Forces?
No. I got much love for the troops and they got love for me. The troops make up a lot of my fan base. They wasn’t trippin’ on the [original] album title, they was just waiting to hear it. They know I wasn’t rappin’ about no “I hate America” shit. I have a big military following.

In past interviews you’ve said that this is the album that you always wanted to make. What do you mean by that?
No censorship. I got all the tracks I wanted to use and there wasn’t any money issues. It’s everything I wanted it to be, no flaws on this album.

Is that to say you haven’t been making what you’ve wanted to over the last few years?
Not necessarily. As an independent [artist], you may not be able to get all the big name producers you want to use, but you can still say whatever you want, for the most part. Then on a major, you got the million-dollar budget, but they try to censor you sometimes. With this album, I was able to get the producers I wanted and say what I wanted.

In April, a North Carolina man killed two police officers and the authorities tried to blame his actions on him supposedly listening to your song “Murda Man” from Face Off II. What were your thoughts when that happened?
It was crazy because they really tried to play that up. I was fucked at the same time and his story was bigger than mine. They’ve been tryin’ to blame music for everything since 2Pac’s days. We sold 75,000 copies of that CD—I don’t know what the hell was wrong with his. My heart goes out to the families affected, but you can’t blame music for that. Everybody got problems.

How do you respond to folks that say you fell off after going major?
I’m just tired of folks talkin’ ’bout Troy this, Troy that, Troy fell off. I told myself, let me get in their ear again. People at the radio stations—the personalities—they all affiliated, so they can influence each other. I was hearing them sayin’ I was half-steppin’ with my music. People say I reached my full potential. I’ve been selling 50,000 copies with my independent albums. So, I really don’t know what they’re talking about.

Could it be because you’re not in the public eye as much?
I have real fans, though. I love my fans and as long as they know and respect me, that’s all good to me. But it got to the point where I’m thinkin’ like I’m the most feared rapper in the game. When you hear me next to these new dudes that’s out now, it’s like comparing real Air Force One’s to those plastic ones at the flea market. I ain’t got no calls to be on no Ludacris albums, Jeezy albums, T.I. albums… But when they were tryin’ to get fans, I was gettin’ calls. I was in this game by myself and I helped let them in. They needed allies. But now, it seems like I don’t have allies myself. I appreciate people like Chamillionaire, Rich Boy and Polow Da Don reaching out, though.

How has the transition from being a major label artist back to being independent been for you?
We was still eating good being independent. The indie game is the way to be right now. It’s like gamblin’, but I love it. The only thing I don’t get being independent is videos. But I’m about to shoot a video for “Hey Mama” [from Tool Muziq]. If we get some good videos under our belts, man, we might go gold with this album. After that, don’t call me no more, I might not wanna talk. [Laughs] But I’m not trippin’ off going back to a major right now. They gotta bring a Brinks truck. What I’m doing right now is setting myself up for a good position. There’s guys on major labels right now that aren’t doing what I’m doing.

Was there any truth to the rumors of you potentially signing with Cash Money Records?

I’ve been talking to Baby, Slim and Wayne. We’re all entertaining it to this day. Just for them to have the opportunity to snatch up anybody in Atlanta and want me—that’s respect. They know that my fan base is real and that I’m real about what I say. I ain’t no sell-out. It ain’t nothin’ for me to hit the club, from the Taj Mahal to a hole in the wall.

As a trailblazer of the Atlanta music scene, what do you think of the music coming out of the A now?
It’s so crazy. I’m not a fan of the shit now. Majors are coming in and they just want to eat. That Shop Boyz shit [“Party Like a Rock Star”] gonna make so much money off ringtones, they don’t care about what the album does. I been reppin’ this shit for 10 years. My first album came out in 1999. Since then, we’ve rapped about the dope, the cars, the hoes—all that shit. What now? After Tool Muziq, I’m doing a rock album. Mavado is my rock name; I got a real tight rock voice.