I'm sure by now, most of us are aware of the huge risk of failure that compilation albums have. Usually, the executive producer tries to make an album that "has something for everyone," and ends up having only a few songs that appeal to you. Other times, the label's CEO (usually a wack rapper) wants to highlight himself as a company figurehead, rather than letting the best artists shine. And the last problem is when a label only has one or two talented artists; the rest are just there because they know someone, or because they have a gold chain with the label logo. Group albums, as opposed to compilations, often suffer from monotony. Since the emcees rhyme together regularly, their styles have blended to a point where it's hard to differentiate between them. If you hear the same flow back to back, the posse cuts inevitably reach a point where you can't stand to listen to them anymore. The 804 Compilation manages to avoid all group/compilation pitfalls and puts Virginia hip-hop on the map in major way.
First of all, the artists featured the most are also the artists with the most skill. While no one stands out as being wack, it's safe to say that the top three SupaFriendz (Danja Mowf, Mad Skillz, and Lonnie B) are on a higher level than everyone else on the album. Skillz is perhaps best known for his Soundbombing 2 appearance, and debut album "From Where?" Danja Mowf received Wodie.com's first "album of the month" honor for his classic release, "Word of Mowf." And Lonnie B's better known for his guest verses, battles, and DJ skills. On the mic, the three compliment each other perfectly: Mad Skillz
has the arrogant demeanor of a true veteran, Danja has a natural flow & charismatic presence, and Lonnie B is the ideal blend between street rapper & skillful artist. All three come with ridiculous lyrics, so there's never a
need to fast forward through a verse.
When Southern emcees have good rhyming ability, it's the best of both worlds. Usually, emcees of this caliber spit over traditional, Premier-style production, which can get predictable. The difference here is, you can hear tight lyrics and entertaining flows over a variety of production tempos, without having to hear someone brag about his gold teeth or some guy he killed just before recording the song. I can't speak for everyone, but I don't relate to the regular killin'/slangin'/ballin' subject matter that saturates today's hip-hop content. This album has some topics that really
hit home with me; "Fatal Attraction" and "Friend Zone" are two that come to mind. The first deals with women that just can't take no for an answer, a humorous spin on a situation that can be pretty miserable. The latter deals with women that give you mixed signals, only to confess that they just want to be friends. Nice production and a Biz Markie cover help to make this a memorable track.
The Lonnie B solo, "Everyday Hustle" is another good example of a day-to-day topic, handled with sincerity. While Lonnie's skill and passion cannot be denied, neither can his uncanny resemblance to Jay-Z. The deadly virus, Jiggamortis seems to have spread from NY and Philly to the VA region, with symptoms appearing on every track featuring Lonnie. On the subject of sickness, "Cadi Man" is one of the most infectious singles of the year. With an addictive hook, head-nodding beat, and easy-to-remember lyrics, Jo Doja created one of the album's most sure-fire hits. Doja also teams with Lonnie and Danja for the club-anthem "Throw Dem Bows," a riot-starter in the making.
The SupaFriendz aren't the only artists featured on "Word of Mowf" to pop up again. R&B crooner Shawn Chappelle, and male vocalist Duane Fowlkes, both return for solo joints, providing a smooth change of pace for the compilation. While neither track is an album highlight, they are good for contemporary R&B songs. Shawn's voice is absolutely beautiful, and Duane takes the D'Angelo/David Hollister approach to male R&B (as opposed to the shamelessly flamboyant Sisqo method). Something from "Word of Mowf" that didn't appear on the 804 Compilation was the innovative song concepts. While Danja Mowf's rhymes have improved (see: "Matador"), his subject matter is no longer progressive. This isn't disappointing if you're not an original Danja fan, but a leap from "Questions" to "M.O.N.E.Y" may come as quite a surprise to some of you.
Compilations can never be perfect, but this album accomplishes its purpose. It showcases VA talent, creates anticipation from more SupaFriendz solo projects, and draws an audience that "Word of Mowf" could not. Songs like "Let Me Find Out," "Consequences & Repercussions," and "Supa" are further evidence that this crew is not to be played with. With tight lyrics, great production, and some genuinely fun hip-hop music, this album will go down as one of the most consistent releases of 2000. Could I be overrating this it because Danja Mowf posts on my forum? Or because we're all from the south and quality hip-hop is hard to come by? You should tell yourself, "Let Me Find Out," and peep the album firsthand. If you wish to purchase a copy, you can do so online at danjamowf.com.