Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Anyone familiar with Downtown Albuquerque, especially its vibrant music scene, is most likely familiar with the band Cowboy Killer. It’s difficult not to notice the confident and friendly personality of this rising artist with the “killer” cowboy boots. Cowboy Killer’s stage name is enough to leave a lasting impression, but it is the rapper’s open demeanor and enthusiasm for Downtown’s eclectic art scene that truly makes his name standout in Albuquerque’s burgeoning rap scene. 

Cowboy Killer is a relative newcomer to Albuquerque. Born and raised in a southern Appalachian Ohio coal-mining town, Cowboy Killer’s Appalachian drawl is still noticeable upon first meeting him. The region’s bluegrass, folk, and country influences are also predominant in the artist’s diction and lyrical style. But, the Cowboy Killer is a rapper by trade and first found his voice and style in the rising Florida rap scene in the late 2010s. What makes his personality impressionable and his musical style stand out is his ability to marry his southern roots with an energetic and even explosive musical style. 

His journey to Albuquerque was almost an act of fate. After coming across Meow Wolf while on tour in the summer of 2020, he immediately felt the pull of New Mexico. His attraction to the Southwest was so much that the Florida rapper decided to leave a scene in which he was an established act, packed all his belongings, and drove to Albuquerque the following month. Despite having a presence on Spotify, success wasn’t immediate for Cowboy Killer. 

“I basically packed up my whole life. I didn’t have a big plan. I planned that this was the move that I needed to make. I needed to be in the wild west. I’m the Cowboy Killer. Why am I in Florida?” In an interview with The Paper. Cowboy Killer, whose legal name is Paul Mifsud recalled that he only had $108 to his name when he first arrived in the 505.

His first few months were spent bouncing from house to house with spells of homelessness as he saved and worked as a salesman for a local solar company. But, it was during this time that he established connections and laid down his roots. Mifsud noted that he took every opportunity that came his way to get his name out there during this time. This included performing at open mics around town, connecting with local rappers and sound engineers, and genuinely opening himself up to Albuquerque’s thriving artistic community. “I performed at every open mic that I could. I went to every single popup. I was just around,” Mifsud said. 

The rapper’s confidence and authenticity soon started to pay dividends. At the end of 2020, as his reputation as an established act grew in Albuquerque, the Cowboy Killer finally landed his own studio, from which he cultivated and grew a community of rappers and musicians from a diversity of backgrounds. “Making all these records there, we brought a lot of New Mexico locals together. We brought people who had never been in a studio before, who just played music in a park, and now all of a sudden, they’re getting on records and getting royalties for songs that they did. And that’s what I do. I’m an engineer first and foremost.”

Photo: Samuel David Katz @samueldavidkatz

From an earlier encounter with the rapper at the beginning of 2021, it was clear that there was always some project that the prolific artist was involved in. Musicians, artists, and characters from every background filtered out of his studio. It was a creative frenzy that never slept. 

In June of 2021, Cowboy Killer released his latest single, “Hopscotch.” This was accompanied by the release of a much-lauded music video, that was a culmination of the rapper’s extensive network of musicians, dancers, and videographers in Albuquerque. The single was titular Cowboy Killer, with many of the sounds featured as a tribute to his musical background in Florida and Appalachia. 

One subject that Mifsud revisited time and time again during the interview was Albuquerque’s openness and appreciation for local artists. “I have never had a city embrace me like Albuquerque,” Mifsud said. While on stage, Mifsud desires nothing more than to return the favor to the fans that come out to see him play. “As any great artist does, they want to amount to something to these people that love their art.” 

Cowboy Killer is currently working on his album titled “Long Live Cowboy.” Mifsud commented that the album will be heavily influenced by the West Coast scene, pop, and his Appalachian upbringing. 

Cowboy Killer’s next live show is scheduled for Sept. 18 at Inside Out bar at Central Ave. and 7th St. The show is titled “Toy Jam,” where attendees will be admitted for free if they bring a toy donation that will be given to a local charity.

To stay up to date with Cowboy Killer follow him on Instagram or his Youtube channel. 

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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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