Various Artists

Violator: The Album, Vol. 2

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The second installment from rap overseer label Violator (distributed by Columbia sublabel Loud records) is modern rap at its most volatile and glossy. This compilation piece brings together some of rap's brightest, some of rap's neophytes, and some of rap's most thugged-out. While the iced-out set gets plenty of bad press, their product continues to bring in top dollar, proof positive that rap music is a stable investment for record companies. Even with the musical and marketing frosting, Violator, Vol. 2 does contain some marvelous rough-cut hip-hop music. The irresistible "What It Is" is a powerful combination of an electronically rippling track from Virginia-bred mega-producers the Neptunes and the intergalactic verbal antics of Busta Rhymes. The Neptunes score again with the synthetically pounding "Grimey" by the lyrically vicious Noreaga. Soundbombing also abounds on tracks like the Havoc-produced "U Feel Me"; "Options," featuring Capone and Noyd; and "Come Thru," with Styles and Noreaga. The album sticks with this slick-gangster protocol throughout but falls off musically with tracks from crossover giants like Missy Elliot, Ja Rule, and Fabolous. Also, while much of the production is sharp and focused, there are five or so tracks that could have been left on the studio floor. Despite these diluted aspects, this is a worthwhile album with a fair amount of bang for your buck.

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