Cowboy Killer: How The Appalachian Rapper Ended Up In Nashville Signed To Yelawolf’s Label

Despite the menacing moniker, versatile “trap grass” rapper Cowboy Killer hasn’t actually killed any cowboys—or anyone, for that matter. He’s too busy murdering the mic. Hopping on Zoom, his eclectic style stands out immediately; he’s a little bit country, a little bit Hip-Hop and a whole lotta personality, 

Born in Appalachia, Cowboy Killer (real name (Paul Mifsud) spent his formative years living on a farm with a single mother, who raised horses, pigs, cattle, goats, pheasants and rabbits—not exactly a Hip-Hop haven. But bubbling beneath the surface was an innate interest in music, specifically ‘90s and early 2000s rap. 

“I was just a country boy living in the middle of the woods, listening to 50 Cent, Eminem, DMX and Biggie,” he tells AllHipHop. “I kind of saw hip-hop as a father figure in some way. In the early days, I didn’t have any collaborators, so I just created music because I was just curious how to even get on a record, so I bought a mic and a little interface.” 

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But at 17 years old, Cowboy Killer was shipped off to Asheville, North Carolina after inevitable teenage apathy set in.

“There were a lot of family issues and abuse at home,” he explains. “I was just dealing with a lot of stuff. We had a very broken family dynamic and because my mother was raising us on her own, she was really struggling. She’s a great woman, but she couldn’t take care of me or figure out how to keep me from staying out of trouble at school.” 

By this time, Cowboy Killer had stopped going to his classes, although he did ultimately graduate from high school in North Carolina. There, he built a studio, started recording more and met more like-minded people. But once he returned to Appalachia, he fell into old patterns and was faced with a decision. 

“My homies were like, ‘Look, man, if you wanna take this serious, we’re going down to Orlando and if you wanna come with us, come with us.’ And so I did and spent five years there, just grinding.” 

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Finding work as an engineer, Cowboy Killer had the chance to work with several burgeoning Florida artists, including Ski Mask the Slump God, Anonymous Killer and Very Rare All Stars. But behind the scenes, Cowboy Killer was making material on his own and once he started playing it for people, he was quickly dubbed “Him McGraw,” a reference to country star Tim McGraw. Armed with the confidence he needed, he uploaded his debut solo album to SoundCloud and was off to the proverbial races. 

In 2020, with pandemic in full swing, Cowboy Killer landed his first placement on Lupe Fiasco and producer Kaelin Ellis’ EP HOUSE featuring the late Virgil Abloh. 

“It’s technically Virgil’s last collaboration,” he says. “Everybody’s idea of a home is different. That was the first time that I’d gotten a major placement and in the middle of the pandemic. It was weird because everyone was kind of sitting still, while we looked like we’re going up.” 

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Around that time, Ellis took a trip to New Mexico and was so impressed with Albuquerque’s deep-rooted culture, he encouraged Cowboy Killer to visit. He was supposed to be there for three days—but it turned into two weeks. Once back in Florida, he made a spontaneous decision to pack up his beat up Honda Civic and return to the Southwest. 

“I got back to Florida and was just in a bad spot,” he remembers. “So I took the $150 I had, got in my car and drove all the way to New Mexico. I didn’t even know if I was gonna make it, but l found a way.”

Often described as the “Wild Wild West,” Albuquerque, or Burque as the locals call it, is a sprawling desert oasis with big city problems but a thriving Hip-Hop community that truly represents all elements of the culture—from b-boys and b-girls to graffiti writers, DJs and MCs. Outsiders sometimes have a tough time settling in but not Cowboy Killer. 

“They embraced me with open arms because they knew, ‘Hey, this guy’s the truth,’” he says. “I ended up building a studio, hustling and getting my money up. I got an office downtown right on Central Avenue. I was literally building the community, like ‘let’s network, let’s connect and let’s bring the Hip-Hop community together.’”

Cowboy Killer flourished in New Mexico for two years before relocating to Nashville. But he looks back on his time there with fondness, saying, “New Mexico, to me, is where my career really took off. It was the training grounds for sure. That’s where I built my confidence. It’s where I learned how to record. It’s where I learned how to collaborate and how to deal with stressful situations where there’s guns, drugs and women in the studio and you got to deal with it.” 

Three years later, Cowboy Killer just dropped his first collaboration with Yelawolf and is signed to Wolf’s label, Slumerican.

“Bob Barker,” produced by Yelawolf’s longtime creative partners DJ Klever and WLPWR, the track is accompanied by a golf-themed video boasting a cameo from Bam Margera (for the uninitiated, Yelawolf is as much an ill skater as he is a talented rapper). “FRFR,” produced by Fresh Ayr Jelly Roll’s DJ Chill, serves as Cowboy’s first official Slumerican release.

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It’s a small taste of what Cowboy Killer has cookin’—but it never would’ve happened without his stint in North Carolina. 

“I went to rehab and graduated high school in North Carolina,” he explains. “I met a man named Warren and when I moved to Nashville after New Mexico, I ended up linking back with him because he had moved here. We were sitting in the car—it was a rainy day and we’d just gotten some Japanese food—and he was telling me he knew [Wolf’s manager] Edward Crowe.

“They met up a couple days later and took a trip down to Kentucky. He played my Long Live Cowboy album front to back. He called me and was like, ‘Let’s set up a meeting.’ That meeting turned into me eventually signing with him as my manager. One day he called me and was like, ‘Hey, I played this song for Wolf. He wants to go to studio right now.’”

In a nutshell, that’s how Yelawolf works. When given the option, he’ll typically choose to go to the studio.

“He’s a workhorse,” Cowboy Killer says. “We were just kindred spirits right then and there. I saw so much of my future in him. I appreciate Wolf for what he’s done for me; taking me on a national tour, putting me on a stage at the Harley-Davidson shop in front of thousands of people for the first time […] Like, I’m from the country, for real. But I know Hip-Hop saved my life.”

Whatever the future holds, Cowboy Killer has only begun to write his next chapter—we’re just lucky to be along for the ride. His latest album, Trap Grass, can be found below.