June 27, 2007

Cormega - The Realness (July 25, 2001)

Cormega "Here's some extra butter for those rolls, by the way, did I tell you I was in The Firm?" Yankovich (not his real name) has gotten some flack on this site (mainly from me) ever since I reviewed The Firm's shitty album. However, Cory McKay had seen some rough times in the music industry, even before Nas shouted him out on "One Love" off of Illmatic. So I thought that I would give him a fair shake, since I think of myself as unbiased (unless you name is Curtis Jackson, and you happen to suck).

After appearing on "Affirmative Action" (on It Was Written, Nas's second album), Cory signed a deal with Def Jam, who at the time probably would have signed a rapping toilet bowl if it sounded tight over some Trackmasters heat. He recorded his debut album, The Testament, which was promptly shelved, even though Mega toured the album (check out the live album from the Survival Of The Illest tour to hear Mega's contributions) and buzz had been building steadily. The title track included a subliminal diss towards Nas, which makes sense, as he had been kicked out of The Firm around this time. "Dead Man Walking" was banned in the United States for its graphic depictions of violence. (Yet I can still go to the theater and watch Hostel 2?) "Killaz Theme" had leaked online, and the Mobb Deep-guesting song seemed poised to blow Mega into the stratosphere, or at least, into the apartment building across the street. Yet Def Jam locked the disc in its vault, and it was destined to join the ranks of unreleased material from KMD, Large Professor, and Ya Kid K. (It was later released by Cory himself, but that fact is irrelevant for now.)

Cormega left Def Jam empty handed, and had to start from scratch. He came up with The Realness, his official "debut", and with it he introduced the hip hop masses (sixteen people) to his smooth yet gritty delivery, and his coke-filled raps (kind of like Clipse, but not as funny). He also displayed a true love of hip hop, and a true hatred of Nasir Jones on more than one track. The album barely sold enough copies to fill a baby's shoebox, but The Realness is still considered to be classic underground Queensbridge hip hop.

And so...

1. DRAMATIC ENTRANCE
Well, that title is fucking great. Mega actually sounds pretty good here. J-Love's production, though, is lacking something. Like melody, for example.

2. AMERICAN BEAUTY
So Cory watched that Kevin Spacey flick, and then produces and rhymes on a track about hip hop, a la Common's "I Used To Love H.E.R." ? Yeah, that makes sense. Cool ass beat, though.

3. THUN & KICKO (FEAT PRODIGY)
Good like finding those two terms in the dictionary. Cormega and Mobb Deep usually work well together. Here, Prodigy and Mega take turns spitting thinly-veiled venom in Nas's direction. This beat knocks.

4. THE SAGA
Not feeling this song. Mega's hooks leave a lot to be desired.

5. R U MY N---A?
Considering I don't know you personally, I'd be surprised if I was.

6. UNFORGIVEN
Short and sweet. Even the high-pitched vocal shrieking never gets annoying.

7. FALLEN SOLDIERS
Uses the same sample as Jay-Z's "Like That", but freaks it better, and with a more majestic sound, if that's even possible. Good show!

8. GLORY DAYS
Reminiscent of any of the slow tracks from It Was Written. In a good way, of course.

9. RAP'S A HUSTLE
Note to Mega: the metaphor in the first verse, where your pen is like your ho? Doesn't work. Otherwise, this song is pretty good, even if the hook blows.

10. GET OUT MY WAY
The beat here reaches out and shakes the shit out of you. (I'd like to hear M.O.P. rock over this one.) Surprisingly, it comes from ex-G-Unit president Sha Money XL. I know, right? Curtis never got any hot beats like this one.

11. YOU DON'T WANT IT
I admit, it would be hard for me to follow up "Get Out My Way", too. I like the "I don't hate you, I despise you/I call you cocksucker 'cause that describes you" couplet, though.

12. 5 FOR 40 (ACAPELLA)
I don't usually like acapella tracks on rap albums. So I don't really like this track. I've heard worse spoken word poetry before, though.

13. THEY FORCED MY HAND (FEAT TRAGEDY KHADAFI)
Mega and Tragedy rap about dropping acid, listening to Third Eye Blind, and hitting on white chicks at the club. Just kidding!

14. FALLEN SOLDIERS (REMIX)
The Alchemist may have produced the remix, but that doesn't mean it's any good. The beat sounds awful, and makes me want to rip my ears off of my head. Too dramatic, maybe?

The original pressing has a hidden track after "Fallen Soldiers (Remix)":

BONUS: KILLAZ THEME (FEAT MOBB DEEP)
Awesome, awesome, awesome. There's really nothing more to say.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Holy crap, The Realness is actually pretty fucking good. Nas may have fucked up royally by replacing Mega with some guy called Nature, but Cory delivers the goods on his first official album. Well played, sir. And I advise any aspiring emcee to immediately move to Queensbridge and drink some of their water.

BUY OR BURN? By all means, buy this shit. The original pressing may be impossible to find, but, Mega re-released The Realness as half of a two-disc set called Special Edition, and that can be found anywhere. Literally. They sold it at my nephew's Scholastic Book Fair, no lie.

BEST TRACKS: "Killaz Theme"; "Thun & Kicko"; "American Beauty"

(Disagree with the above review? Do you think it's accurate? Either way, leave some damn comments!)

-Max

THE TEASER:

16 comments:

  1. Nice review. I ought to check this out.

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  2. "Mega and Tragedy rap about dropping acid, listening to Third Eye Blind, and hitting on white chicks at the club."
    Brilliant!

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  3. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJune 28, 2007

    Thank you for reviewing some material from Cormega, the rawest rapper in the game. He's been criminally underrated almost as long as he's been an underrated criminal. This album made for a much better debut than The Testament would have, despite the berserk tile track of the former, which sounds like a master assassin repeatedly stabbing Kanye West's first ever beat. Back to The Realness; I can't believe that you failed to mention the lack of an intro. Unless you meant "that title is fucking great" because it's not titled "INTRO." Someday, some idiot will start his album with DRAMATIC INTRO. I feel grateful that you reviewed this after my comments defending him, so I'm going to give it the full treatment. Sorry if it comes off as the full groupie treatment.
    1. DRAMATIC ENTRANCE
    I absolutely loved Dramatic Entrance the first time I heard it because I couldn't believe that I was really about to listen to almost 30 minutes of unheard material from one of my very favorite rappers. He starts it perfectly, too. "A man is condemned or exalted by his words. Exalt me. This is what y'all n-words wanted. (spoken, starts rapping) Streets was waitin'/Here I am a beast awakened..." Love that it's just one long verse without a hook. Mega has typically had weak hooks so he often just does without them. I strongly urge the rest of the Hip-Hop world to follow suit. I'll even throw down on some kind of occupational rehab for all the 3rd string R & B chicks that would be out of work.
    2. AMERICAN BEAUTY
    Solid rhyme despite being somewhat derivative by this point. It does reveal Corey's affection for hip-hop which is usually reserved for hippie types that rap about their feelings. The beat is the real story here though. The main part of it has since been used by several rappers, most notably Jadakiss and Nas on Jada's second album, but this was the first time I had ever heard it. I'm no sample hunter, but I'd like to know if Cormega created this masterpiece or just had the good sense to share it with me.
    3. THUN & KICKO feat Prodigy
    Love it. Still get amped on my 500th listen. Prodigy was still qualified to be a professional rapper and Cormega's verse reveals the depth of the anger that he felt for Nas. The almost constant shots fired at Dr. Knockboot are one of the album's few negative qualities but this song is wonderful. This is the best attack ever launched against the kid with the unchipped tooth. I would rate another offering from the baby faced crime emperor, Love In, Love Out, as the second best of all time. While that track deals with their beef on a personal level, Thun & Kicko is filled with outrageous threats and claims of a closer connection to cocaine. It still rules today because Cormega supplements the vitriol with multisyllable rhymes and one of his best displays of beat riding. This song should be on every one of the 2 million beef mixtapes that have been created, yet I've never heard it anywhere except for when I play The Realness. Kind of bogus, as that would be much needed good promotion for Cormega.
    4. THE SAGA
    Lousy beat contributes to one of my least favorite songs on this album. However, it does reveal Cormega's introspective side which is one of his greatest strengths. While he is the line for line champion of glorifying cocaine, the Queensbridge Kingpin also acknowledges the damage that drugs inflict on people.
    5. R U MY N WORD
    I like this song despite the beat sounding half finished. This is perfect material for Mega's beautiful blend of emotional story telling and staunch refusal to go 4 bars without mentioning cocaine and the activities associated with it. This track shows that Cormega has morals, unlike that backstabbing South American druglord from the Entourage movie.
    6. UNFORGIVEN
    Crushed it. "I'm contemplatin'/ my soul is in a custody fight with God and Satan..." No hook, no complaints.
    7. FALLEN SOLDIERS
    Another exhibition of realness from the man "blunted on a wanted poster with a golden millimeter." Cormega's recognition of the dangers associated with drugs and violence leads to a reverence for the people who were able to survive it. This comes across well here. What I'm trying to say is that Cormega writes good love songs. As for the beat, this song was floating around before Jay-Z's rendition. It didn't have as much bass to beef it up or the cool effect on the chorus so it wasn't as good but the melody was there. The rhymes were thankfully updated for The Realness. On the unreleased version, Mega says, "Your brother Havoc got a platinum gold chain." Told you he had the beat before The Jigga Man.
    8. GLORY DAYS
    Not half the love song that Fallen Soldiers is. The rhymes are okay but too slow for Cormega. Features a shoutout to all his favorite drug dealers towards the end. The beat sounds like it came from The Lion King. You kind of have to wonder why he not only kept this song on the album but placed it immediately after the track on which he executed the concept to perfection.
    9. RAP'S A HUSTLE
    I enjoy the beat and support his effort at a metaphorical verse. Like you said the first verse where he raps about stealing another rapper's pen falls flat. Mega predictably tries to redeem himself on the second verse by comparing his rap game to the crack game. Remember though, he's very good at rapping about cocaine. The only part of the hook that I don't like is "Money talks and bullshit walks."
    10. GET OUT MY WAY
    I've actually heard the instrumental on MTV. God bless whatever DJ played it. This is basically just another attack on Nas but Mega sounds good when he's angry. This song is another nice example of Cormega riding a beat well, an ability he lacked on his earlier efforts. Probably one of the best songs he's ever had that actually has a hook on it.
    11. YOU DON'T WANT IT
    Another song that had been going around before the album came out. Beat is weak and sounds unfinished. The rhymes are typical Mega though and would have sounded nice over a harder beat. Despite not being a very good song, it's worth listening to just for the joy that is "I don't hate you, I despise you/ I call you cocksucker cause it describes you."
    12. 5 FOR 40
    An ode to the trafficking of cocaine. Mega had been tinkering with this verse for years and he unleashes the fully realized version here.
    13. THEY FORCED MY HAND feat. Tragedy Khadafi
    Sounds like it should have been on The Testament. The Realness sounds better than The Testament.
    14. FALLEN SOLDIERS (Remix)
    The verse about his mommy is good but the beat sucks. I remember being pleasantly surprised that it contained different rhymes than the original. That should be mandatory. Keeping the same hook is allowable.
    KILLAZ THEME feat. Mobb Deep
    Another "unreleased" track. Even though it meant that I had already heard 4 out of 15 tracks on an album that I had waited a very long time for, I was happy to have a non cassette copy of this classic track. Remember when Mobb Deep used to rule? This song is from that era.

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  4. AlmightyKDJuly 10, 2007

    Was it the verse about 'Mega in "One Love" which led to the anticipation of what he would bring to the hip-hop world upon his release from prison??? Was it because he was perceived as the sidekick to one of the greatest MCs ever?? Was it the disappointment when we thought he would be a member of The Firm and was latter replaced by Nature? I felt the same anticipation until I heard 'Mega rhyme and was greatly disappointed. I can't figure out what the fascination is in my opinion is one of the most overrated rappers ever. Cormega has one of the worst flows I've ever heard At times it sounds like he is struggling to put words together, subject matter is on point, you can feel the angst in his lyrics but fails to capture the listener due to his sub par delivery. Why buy this album when you can buy a Nas album instead??? Def Jam made the right decision. Is it just me or does 'Mega sound like he's rhyming with a mouth full of chicken??

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  5. I can see what Almightykd is saying here because is voice does sound fucked up. Like he's not confident w/ his own raps but I still like the guy. This is real good CD but not so much because of Cormega but because of the amazing production but a bunch of no namers (except for Havoc obviously). Also, I thought this album sold extremely well, actually when I think of independent hip hop albums that have made a lot of money this is the one album I think of. Didn't Cormega sell like 100,000 copies of this? Isn't this the album that got Cormega his fans? That's what I always thought. Anyway, I like the reviews and that fact that you know what the fuck you're talking about. I don't see that a lot, on-line or talking w/ friends. Keep up the good work.

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  6. I just felt obligated to say that this shit is hot!

    Anyway would be a better person for listening to any of Cormega's albums(except for Legal Hustle, that shit sucks).

    Think early Mobb Deep or Nas, but you know, having actually lived that life rather than just writing about it.

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  7. I liked cormega a lot more before i found out he punches in almost every line on every song. Dude's flow is minimal at best.

    Still like him, just lost respect i guess.

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  8. RocknessMonstahMarch 17, 2008

    dude don't punch in every song thats some bullshit. you can tell when somethins punched.

    i'm surprised you guys don't like the saga. that is one of the deepest songs on the album

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  9. AnonymousJune 03, 2008

    25 Million Copies sold! One of the few Hip-Hop/Rap albums that I know that went DIAMOND

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  10. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJune 09, 2008

    The last comment was clearly meant to be posted to The Fugees review right? Or perhaps there's somebody out there even more delusional about Mega than myself?

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  11. that beat on American beauty was used in Juice also, towards the end i think.

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  12. When I burned this I got a trojan that fucked my whole computer, after purchasing it I believe that was a fair price to pay, it's actually quite good.

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  13. To comment on what RocknessMonstah said...

    I quite enjoyed The Saga Remix, the original as well, but I have a weak spot for piano loops

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  14. I just gotta say he's one of the reasons why I lOVE UNDERGROUND HIP HOP. CORFUCKING MEGAAA!!!!

    Guy got talent. and i'd give this album 4.5. Your review 5.5 cause you just put my thoughts into words.

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  15. Prodigys verse on Thun and Kicko is aimed at Jay-z

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  16. This album's amazing! This review is awful, although this was made in 2007, so I understand. Still though, some of the tracks you bash (such as the Alchemist Remix) are fire!

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