By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
By Steve Weinstein
It seems fitting, somehow, that the most exciting member of the Hypnotize Camp Posse doesn't even come from Memphis. Late last year, Pastor Troy proved "No Mo Play in G.A." was no fluke when he released a bizarre debut album called We Ready I Declare War, which beats the Three-6 Mafia at their own game. Troy's main musical weapons are a synth stuck on "piano," a willingness to yell every word at the top of his lungs, and a fondness for multitracking, all of which combine to create a cacophony that sounds like a roomful of drunks arguing with an early Steve Reich record. His quirky, wild-eyed style isn't exactly hummable, but Troy often sneaks a simple melody into the racket, and he's not above sending out off-kilter shout-outs to Bill Withers ("Ain't No Sunshine") and the Beach Boys ("Help Me, Rhonda"). His obsession with the church goes beyond simple blasphemy: He dons a priest's robe and a garland of bullets for the front cover, and compares himself to the archangel Michael in a grim shoot-'em-up called "Eternal Yard Dash," rapping, "I got those halos/Hello/Motherfucker/Shit, nigga/I'm talking to you/Slap the clip in the Tec 22." All in all, Troy isn't much more subtle than the Three-6 Mafia, but his songs are less stylized and more mysterioushe creates twice as much musical mayhem with only half as much huffing and puffing.
This spring, Troy reluctantly collaborated with his hometown archrival Miracle to turn "No Mo Play in G.A." into a bass-heavy hit called "Bounce." That single earned Miracle a record deal with Universal Music, and Miracle's success has done little to improve his antagonistic relationship with Troy. (Universal is reportedly working out a deal with Troy, too, and there's talk of a national rerelease of We Ready I Declare War.) In the meantime, Juicy J has distanced himself from Troy's beef with Master P, which may explain why a few No Limit soldiers show up on When the Smoke Clears. But while Hypnotize and No Limit seem to be getting along, a new hometown rival has emerged: A former Three-6 business associate has launched Phatidef Music, which has managed to lure away former Mafia member Indo G. Mere months after its national debut, the Hypnotize Camp Posse is already under siege.
If all this antagonism seems unnecessary in such a diverse musical landscape, then you're missing the point: All this antagonism is precisely what creates such a diverse musical landscape. In some sense, the Three-6 saga might seem like a tale of urban isolation, a reminder of how insular American cities can be. But it's also exciting to watch hip-hop become a kind of domestic world music, spawning hugely divergent styles in neighboring cities that might as well be distant continents. This diversity is the product of mutual disdain, given voice by competing fiefdoms whose only common ground is a shared credo: Think locally, rap globally. Indeed, the limitless variety of contemporary hip-hop is fueled by the parochialism of rappers themselves, who have created a wild sonic universe that wouldn't exist if we could all just get along.