v/a :: Violator the Album V2.0
Label: Violator/Loud Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
It's safe to say that last time around the "Violator" compilation
album wasn't taken very seriously. The album and associated record
label were spawned from 'Baby' Chris Lighty's management company of
the same name; and a majority of the rappers whose careers he has
successfully guided appeared on it. The LP could have been as large
as the album song "Heavy Weights" with Big Pun, Eightball and Fat Joe; but
instead featured half-ass contributions from both established and new
rappers alike. Many heads openly hated the dance club single "Vivrant
Thing" by Q-Tip (and/or questioned his career choice) while the
album's few gems such as the (allegedly) post-retirement flows of Mase
on "Do What Playas Do" or the Busta Rhymes "Bus-a-Bus Remix" were
overlooked completely. Too much filler and too little genuine
talent made most purchasers feel they were the ones
who got violated.
Things have changed since 1999 though. Lighty wisely chose to break
with the once formidable Def Jam Records and link up with Loud Records
for this new improved release. In sound and style, "V2.0" is as big
a quantum shift as Windows 95 was over it's predecessor Windows 3.1.
The spartan Neptunes sound of the lead single "What it Is" with Busta
Rhymes and Kelis exemplifies the attitude - lean, mean, and clean.
With Busta's magnetic personality coming off even louder at a near
whisper, he injects the track with ALL the energy a certified
banger needs. Not content with this success though, the Neptunes
strike while the iron is hot on the immediately following "Grimey"
by Noreaga. While not as lean as it's predecessor, the track still
relies on Noreaga's aggressively energetic flow and humerous quips
like "so much brains I'm startin to feel smart."
This isn't even Noreaga's best offering on this album though - he
really blows the door off the hinges on the duet "Come Thru"
with 'Holiday' Styles from The L.O.X. The production by Self is
simultaneously odd, humerous, and totally perfect - combining
excerpts from the Vanity Fare song "Early in the Morning" with
a thumping bassline and clever thug-isms by Noreaga that prove the
rapper is seriously underestimated by his contemporaries:
"I'm sick of rappers talkin bout, all this cheddar
And when you see them in the streets, got a bullshit Jetta
I'm like dawg - stop frontin, you shouldn't be braggin
And why the fuck you got rims if you push a Volkswagen?
I spit vicious; let my bank account switch digits
And if money was height - you'd be midgets"
This album is full of such unexpected and pleasant surprises. One
of the oddest is Goodie Mob member Cee-Lo blazing up a high-octane
energy dance called "Sexual Chocolate" with his voice oversampled
to TWICE the normal speed of his Southern drawl. Before you
scream in terror, keep in mind that Sir Mix-A-Lot successfully
used the same technique on "Buttermilk Biscuits" - and on this track
Cee-Lo's voice is MUCH better recognized and identifiable.
Up-and-coming rap crew The Outfit greatly benefit from the haunting
violin sounds of their spine-tingling debut track "Die 3." Ja Rule
and Missy Elliott hook up to swing an ep on "Ex" - short for ecstasy,
of course. Newcomer JoJo Pellegrino even gets away with doing a
re-interpretation of Eric B. & Rakim on "Fiend" that won't
insult fans of the hip-hop classic; in fact, it pays nice tribute
while at the same time featuring smart brag raps like "MC's get
brain tumors/I'm Anthony Sr., they Jackie Juniors."
There's something for nearly everybody on this album. The D-Funk
singing of Butch Cassidy perfectly matches with the cold as ice
"Kiss you now, you die now, why later?" flows of Jadakiss and
Prodigy on "Livin' the Life." The very convincing "Next Generation"
manages to mix up the funk of Teddy Riley and James Brown
while Pellegrino mixes up raps with everybody from Cadillac Tah
to Fabolous and Remy Martin. The only cheap move on the whole
CD is re-using the beat from Busta Rhymes' "Bla-dow!" for the
song "Can't Get Enough" with Meka, Spliff Starr and Rah Digga -
but the since the original was not a huge hit for Busta they can
probably give this loop a little more shine. It's also a little
confusing as to why the songs "U Feel Me" and "Options" were
both crammed onto track 11 instead of being seperate cuts, but
listening to both songs is so pleasant this is a minor complaint.
Even LL Cool J sounds surprisingly raw on "Put Your Hands Up" -
a quality track many haters would never recognize as being yet
another Swizz Beatz production.
By avoiding the mediocre mistakes of the first edition and giving
up a collection full of well-conceived and profesionally rapped
tracks, the stars come off as truly collaborating on a great
project instead of throwing away leftovers from their own LP's;
and the newer artists gain stature from sharing their spotlight.
This album is everything "Violator the Album" wasn't
and has truly earned the right to be called "V2.0" - it's an
upgrade worth owning even if you never installed the original.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: August 7, 2001