PastorTroy.jpgEmerging from Atlanta’s underground in the late ’90s, Pastor Troy was a different breed of Southern MC. Screaming unabashedly violent threats in one breath and insightful reflections on God and morality in the next, he had more in common with rival rapper Master P than ATL’s then-dominant Dungeon Family. PT seemed to set his sights on crossover success when he signed with Universal, but released three albums that failed to live up to his potential. Now Troy is eager to return to his signature Southern street music with his seventh solo disc, Stay Tru.

With so many clones successfully smoothing out his rugged ad-lib–fueled style for mass consumption, Troy’s frustration seems apparent on the P No–produced “Well Un Huh.” Backed by a moody, synthetic soundtrack, he fires off: “A lot of niggas bitin’, but them niggas ain’t PT/Don’t nobody rock no ad-libs like me.” After that, the championship-belted MC proves his relevance by crafting compelling tracks like the strip club assault “Where the Hoes” and the thinly veiled Lil Scrappy diss “Watcha Say.” But it’s the Drumma Boy–produced “Off in This Game” that displays Troy’s most impassioned bars: “My nigga just got 20 years, no parole/Got me shedding tattoo tears, bless his soul… We sick of sellin’ dope/We know who the boss/You muthafuckin’ crackers, all we take is the loss.”

Unfortunately, there are only fleeting moments of introspection here, which leaves Troy’s questionable song-crafting ability open to scrutiny. On “Heard the Party,” PT’s rowdy call-and-response hook sounds unbearably awkward over Shawty Red’s laid-back clapping guitar loop, and the lazily scripted “Lyin’ Bout Her Crib,” which borrows its plotline from Biggie’s “I Got a Story to Tell,” suffers from a cheesy R&B hook. While Stay Tru captures the gritty side of his persona well, perhaps Troy should have thought more about where his true appeal lies.—BRENDAN FREDERICK