Monday, April 18, 2011

Rapaholic™ Presents: Cormega (Discography)

An underground and critical favorite, Cormega was the rare hardcore rapper to win praise from all directions, and while he never quite crossed over like some of his New York City peers, he maintained a respectable independence over the years nonetheless, self-releasing his work on the Legal Hustle label. Born Cory McKay, Cormega grew up in the same Queensbridge housing projects that were home to a generation of rappers, most notably Nas, Mobb Deep, AZ, andTragedy Khadafi, and a previous generation that famously includedMarley Marl and the Juice Crew. 

Following some early guest appearances on releases by DJ Hot Day(e.g., "Set It Off" on PHD's Without Warning, 1991), Cormega did time, which put his rap career on hold for a few years. In 1994, Nasmentioned him by name on Illmatic, on "One Love" ("And night time is more trife than ever/What up with Cormega, did you see him, are y'all together?"), and upon Cormega's release from jail in 1995, he was featured as a guest on Nas' second album, It Was Written (1996), on "Affirmative Action" with AZ and Foxy Brown. Plans were made for a group -- named the Firm, led by Nas, with production byTrackmasters and Dr. Dre -- that would reprise the collaborative nature of "Affirmative Action" over the course of an album. Cormegawas excluded from the project, however, replaced by fellow Queensbridge rapper Nature. A rift between Cormega and Nasresulted, leading to some bitter exchanges over the years (the two later patched up their differences, reuniting to perform "Affirmative Action" with Foxy Brown live on-stage in December 2006). 

Also upon his release from jail, Cormega signed a recording contract with Def Jam that seemed promising at the time. During 1995-1996, he went about recording his debut album, The Testament, with such producers as Sha Money XL, Havoc, Jae Supreme, and Hot Day. Def Jam never released the album, unfortunately, and Cormega was forced to wait out his contract, which didn't expire until 2000. In the meantime, he made rare appearances, including features on theHow to Be a Player soundtrack (1997), Mobb Deep's Murda Muzikalbum (1999), and Nas' QB Finest compilation (2000). Finally free of his Def Jam contract, Cormega founded his own independent label, Legal Hustle, and, via a partnership with Landspeed Records, released his debut album, The Realness (2001), comprised of newly recorded material. The album was critically acclaimed and peaked at number 111 on the Billboard 200 (more tellingly, number four on the Top Independent Albums and number one on the Top Heatseekers charts). A second album followed, The True Meaning(2002), and was likewise critically acclaimed, earning Independent Album of the Year at the Source Awards in 2003. The album cracked the Top 100 of the Billboard 200 (peaking at number 95). 
Cormega then took some time off to raise his daughter, born in November 2002, before he resumed music operations. In 2004, he returned with Legal Hustle, a collaborative album, and Special Edition, a two-fer including both The Realness and The True Meaning. In 2005, he released The Testament, his unreleased Def Jam album from ten years prior, to which he had recently secured the rights to the master tapes, and in 2006 he was co-featured on My Brother's Keeper, a collaborative album also billed to Lake, a fellow Queensbridge rapper of some renown. In 2007, Cormega releasedWho Am I?, a DVD documentary covering the time period of 2001-2005; a CD soundtrack comprised of newly recorded music was included as well. Also in 2007, he released Got Beats?, an instrumental show featuring an impressive roster of producers, including DJ Premier, the Alchemist, Ayatollah, and Ski Beatz.

Studio Albums

Cormega - The Realness (24 July, 2001)
With a fresh batch of new material, Cormega's "official" debut, The Realness, manifests under stealth-like conditions. Yet, it successfully conveys what his aborted Def Jam debut, The Testament, implied three years previously -- that Mega is one of the most promising thug poets to emerge in quite sometime. Though the usual live-guy repertoire and topic matter is recycled, Cormega paints with a broader lyrical brush then most hood aficionados, as his articulate verses far surpass the limitations of what the typical halfway crook is capable of expressing. Displaying a gripping range of vocal gifts, "The Saga" and "Fallen Soldiers" offer vivid street mathematics with Kool G. Rap-like narrative abilities. Likewise,Mega's ode to hip-hop, "American Beauty," is a continuation of Common's "I Used to Love Her," where his love for the art is evident: "Primo treated her good, made her the queen of my hood." Though the sonic landscape of The Realness is headlined by the Infamous Family members Havoc and Alchemist, it is a handful of upstarts (Jay Love, Big Ty, Sha Self) who carve out the LP's sound identity. This cast of rising and unknown names turns in a yeoman's job behind the boards, meshing a diverse assortment of ominous synth and keyboard arrangements around Mega's deep lyricism. While Mega has had to weather Def Jam's businessman ways, and his own inner demons (jail time) to get here, he may never taste redemption this sweet again.

Cormega - The True Meaning (June 11, 2002)
The True Meaning picks up where Cormega's stellar debut, The Realness (2001), left off, showcasing earnest, heartfelt, and sometimes sharp-edged rhymes over gritty street-level beats. "Love in Love Out" -- where Cormega answers Nas' "Destroy & Rebuild" over a crackling sample of the beat from Isaac Hayes' "Your Love Is So Doggone Good" -- is sure to garner a lot of attention, but there's plenty more to The True Meaning than that one song. The streetwise title track is an obvious highlight, graced with a soulful Diana Ross sample for its hook. Other standouts include "The Come Up," a Large Professor production that includes a verse from the Main Source legend (the only guest rap on the entire album); "The Legacy," a stunning Alchemist production with a backward-looking lyric; and "Built for This," a tough rap with a great beat by J. Waxx Garfield, who is credited with three songs overall.Cormega stands tall as a fearless, confident rapper over the course of The True Meaning, calling himself "Queensbridge's most respected rapper" on "Ain't Gone Change," a show-stopping a cappella that sets up the title track perfectly. The True Meaning is an impressive album on many counts and is sure to please hip-hop purists as well as anyone who enjoys well-crafted, intelligent New York rap.

Cormega - The Testament (Feb 22, 2005)
Cormega's long-unreleased debut album, The Testament, finally got an official release in 2005 after nearly a decade of bootlegging. It's not quite the masterpiece it's been rumored to have been, but it's a great album nonetheless, especially for a debut -- a fascinating relic of the mid-'90s East Coast gangsta scene that spawned a number of classic debut albums, among them those of the Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Jay-Z, Mobb Deep, and Raekwon. The back-story goes like this: Cormega burst on the scene in 1996, when he guested on "Affirmative Action," a high-profile posse cut from Nas' sophomore album, It Was Written. He was fresh from prison, in a gangsta state of mind, and lyrically gifted. Def Jam brought him aboard quickly, and The Testament was the result, except it never saw the light of day, shelved for years until Cormega obtained the rights to the tapes and finally released the album on his own Legal Hustle label in 2005. Clocking in at a dozen songs in 40 minutes, the releasedTestament is unchanged from its original version. Cormega wanted it released as it had been intended, and the result is a raw, emotional work by a young man with a lot on his mind and blessed with the means of rapping it eloquently. The production is handled by an array of beatmakers, among them Nasheim Myrick, Sha Money, and Havoc, and the pervading aural mood is somber and foreboding, very much in step with the mid-'90s East Coast gangsta style, especially that of Mobb Deep. Though there aren't any particularly standout tracks here (perhaps why Def Jam balked), there isn't any filler either. Every track here is part of the bigger picture, exploring a different mood and telling a different tale, and guests are few and far between. Again, though The Testament isn't quite up there alongside the half-dozen or so masterpieces of its era, like Ready to Die or The Infamous, it's definitely up there -- one of the best mid-'90s gangsta albums, no doubt. Too bad it took so long to get the album released -- too bad for Cormega above all, for one senses that The Testament would have made a strong impression during its time, even if it wouldn't have been a big commercial hit (it lacks a pop edge -- again, not unlike Mobb Deep in particular). Heads would have loved it, for sure, as would have the streets, and thankfullyThe Testament can now get its due, albeit belatedly.

Cormega - Who Am I? (Oct 23, 2007)
Queensbridge representative Cormega presents WHO AM I?, the soundtrack to the documentary of the same name, which chronicles five years of the underground MC's career. WHO AM I? sees Mega Montana laying down more introspective street vignettes over expansive East Coast tracks. Mega recruits a slew of unlikely guest MCs, including Keak Da Sneak, Jacka, Yukmouth, Dwele, and Little Brother as well as New York affiliates such as Lil Fame of M.O.P., Styles P, Hell Rell, Agallah, and Tragedy Khadafi, among others. Replete with that mob-flick gangsta rap that Cormega does best, WHO AM I? is one of the tightest albums to come out of NY in 2007.

Cormega - Born and Raised (2009)

Born And Raised is the fourth studio album by the hip hop artist Cormega. It was released on October 20, 2009, after being pushed back several times; the album was originally to be titled Urban Legend but was changed to Born And Raised after rapper T.I. used the original title for his 2004 release. The album has been met with mostly positive reviews from both fans and critics so far. 
The song "Fresh", featuring Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, Grand Puba, PMD and DJ Red Alert was leaked onto the internet in the middle of 2008. This caused Cormega to replace the original version, produced by Emile, with a remix by Buckwild re-titled as "Mega Fresh X" for the retail album.


Cormega - Hustler/Rapper (Feb 26, 2002)
Shortly after the release of Cormega's long-awaited debut album, The Realness, Body Shop Records issued this mixtape of previously released recordings by the Queensbridge rapper. If you don't mind wading through the hodgepodge of brief snippets and freestyle rhymes, there's some good stuff here, especially for fans.

Cormega - Legal Hustle (May 25, 2004)
Ever since Cormega made his debut splash in 1996 on "Affirmative Action" alongside his Queensbridge colleagues NasAZ, and Foxy Brown, the well-spoken rapper went through a lot of ups and downs. Legal Hustle, his third solo album, is certainly one of his high points. It dropped in the wake of two critically well-received albums -- The Realness (2001) andThe True Meaning (2002) -- and represents a step forward for Cormega. The increasingly enterprising rapper ropes in some backup help after handling his first two albums largely solo. Most notably, he introduces Doña, a Foxy Brown-without-the-bling MC who graces four tracks here, and he collaborates with a number of other rappers: M.O.P. ("Let It Go"), Tony Touch ("Hoody"), Ghostface ("Tony/Montana"), Kurupt and Jayo Felony ("Deep Blue Sea"), AZ("Redemption"), Large Professor ("Sugar Ray and Hearns"), and more. It's an impressive guest list and makes Legal Hustle largely a group effort. In fact, not counting the intro, there are only two solo tracks here -- very much contrary to past albums. And those two solo tracks happen to be standouts: "Beautiful Mind" kicks off the album with a touching self-production that wonderfully appropriates the piano riff from Marley Marl's classic "Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz," while "Bring It Back" is a heartfelt hip-hop homage à la "American Beauty" from The Realness. These tracks, along with "Let It Go," "The Bond," and "Monster's Ball," are among Cormega's best to date. These standouts and the numerous guest appearances aside, Legal Hustle isn't nearly as solid as Cormega's past two albums. It feels thrown together at times because of the collaborative emphasis.

Yes Sir! Rapaholic™ is back! Its been a while that we didnt get in touched, so here we are! Coming with all new/old discogs. 2011 year opening with Cormega (Full discogs) - studio albums, compilations, collabirations* and mixtapes*. 
*coming soon


1 comment:

Fareed said...

Good to be back bro!:)