When I met Richmond rapper Danja Mowf he was lugging around copies of his self-produced CD, Word of Mowf, in a duffel bag. Mowf, a classic Southern gentleman, gave me a free copy and only asked that I “show a brother some love.” No question. Still unearthed by commercial radio, Word of Mowf is a hiphop gem. The artist’s influences date back to the golden age of rap. Sounding like the lisped love child of Chubb Rock and Organized Konfusion’s Pharaoh Monch, Mowf rediscovers humorous storytelling à la Slick Rick on cuts like “14 Ladies,” “Phone Tag,” and “Jack-n-da Weedstalk.” He trades polished punch lines with Mad Skills on “Mowf of Madness” and meticulous metaphors with Kalonji on “Espionage,” carefully mining the basic elements of hiphop. Though Danja Mowf is not as verbally complex as many East Coast independents, his lyrics show more thought than the fool’s gold on the radio and make more sense than much of the dispassionate gibberish that passes for underground these days. Mowf digs deep into his experiences and observations to produce the pearls of wisdom that keep this otherwise mischievous, lighthearted album grounded in reality. “Strange Fruit” is a graphic first-person description of a lynching with a disturbing finish. This song, along with the equally grave “Like Flies” and “Question,” proves that Danja Mowf is more than just another local rapper hurling sticks and stones. Word of Mowf attests to the quality of treasure that can be found in our own backyard.

—Neil Drumming