(To capitalize on its recent release, today's Reader Review discusses Cormega's latest album, Mega Philosophy, which is notable as having been produced in its entirety by Large Professor. Shoe-In takes a break from all of that Hit Squad stuff to lend his thoughts: leave your own comments for him below.)
Quick question: How many rappers have caused you to change your mind about their work? We're talking a shift from, "Oh, he's absolute cow dung!" to, "God DAMN, this dude can spit!"
Ever since 2009, I can confidently say that Cory McKay, who joined a lucha libre stable under the name Cormega, has changed mine.
For years, Cormy has struggled under the shadow of his former friend Nas: his relationship with Escobar resulted in him getting mysteriously kicked the fuck out of the hip hop supergroup The Firm, whose remaining members (AZ, Foxy Brown, and Nas, obviously) then rushed to sign with Dr. Dre, Ph.D, who replaced him with a different Queensbridge rapper who called himself Nature for some reason I'd rather not research.
Everything kept going downhill from there, as Cormy went on to be kicked out of another faction, this time Def Jam Records, who shelved his first attempt at a debut solo album, The Testament. This forced him to escape to the underground, where he released project after project of varying degrees of quality. Not to say that Cormy is a shitty emcee, of course: far from it. Mega has slowly moulded himself into one of the sharpest writers: his lyricism and effort are undeniable. But the main problem I've had with him is his poor beat selection, since I believe using too many no-names causes consistency to drop considerably. Each and every one of his previous albums contains a bunch of tracks that you really can't take seriously (e.g., “Montana Diary”, “Rap's A Hustle”, etc.).
During the recording sessions for his second album, The True Meaning, Cormy came face-to-face with the man who helped shaped Nas's career, because whether anybody likes it or not, producer/rapper Large Professor is equally responsible for the awesomeness that is Illmatic as Nas is himself, since he was the guy who Nas collaborated with the most on his debut. (Actually, production credits imply Nasir worked with DJ Premier just as much as he did LP, but I digress.) I've long held an admiration for the man's work in this genre, which was renewed when I came across his shelved debut, The LP (which Shoe-In also wrote about here). Bottom line: William Paul Mitchell is the fucking man.
Their lone collaboration on that project, “The Come Up”, didn't necessarily set the hip hop world on fire, it paved the way for future link-ups such as “Sugar Ray and Hearns”, which, despite how much I objected, LP did not produce, and “Journey”, off of Cormy's fifth album Born & Raised. Although he had collaborated with other high-caliber producers such as DJ Premier, Pete Rock & Buckwild on that album, Mega sensed that he was on to something with Extra P. “Journey” was a flawless track that ranks right up there with the other classic tracks in Large Professor's production championship belt. So, since being called a “professor” implies you possess certain degree of intelligence, LP contacted our host to propose a full album-length collaboration. What he didn't expect was that Cormy was just about to call him to propose that very same idea. And the universe was thrown into an endless abyss of confusion.
Nah, that universe bit didn't really happen, but wouldn't that have been dramatic as fuck?
Anyways, after promising the fucking thing for years, Cormy has finally dropped Mega Philosophy, with its wall-to-wall production from Large Professor, onto the unsuspecting masses. With this album, he claims he will earn his rightful place among the hip hop elite. So, does he?
Mega Philosophy, lady and gentleman:
1. A NEW DAY BEGINS
We begin with some dude passionately shouting about something about outsiders claiming to be hip hop scholars while ignoring some of the key people who helped shape the art form. Whatever. After the speech, Cormy spits a single verse over a smooth musical backdrop with no real “beat” to grab on to. Hey, at least it's not an intro or spoken word.
2. MARS (DREAM TEAM) (FEAT. AZ, REDMAN, & STYLES P)
Huh. The sequel to a similarly structured song on Extra P's recent album (Professor @ Large's “M.A.R.S.”, which featured Mega Montana alongside Action Bronson, Roc Marciano, and Saigon) shows that our host isn't fucking around. He certainly knows that once people merely glance at that guest list that this track will become an instant priority. So, yeah, this song is the fucking tits. Everybody on here comes correct, and I'm very happy with Redman's first outing over an LP production. His Bruh Man reference produced a chuckle out of me that I don't usually get from most hip hop records these days. Props to AZ's diss to George Zimmerman, too. (I just like the fact that the guest list on this spiritual sequel fits the “M.A.R.S.” acronym just as well as the previous roster did, although this will seriously limit future installments, I assume.)
The lead single. This cut is getting a lot of love from the Interweb, and with good reason, as Cormy steps up his ever-present critique of the music industry. This is a big step forward from the guy who wrote “Testament”. Props for mentioning Lauryn Hill and Styles P's respective predicaments, though. And points have to be awarded for the single's cover art, especially as he includes the late Guru and Pimp C in that group. Not that we don't miss everyone we've lost in hip hop, but those two don't get mentioned nearly as often as the rest for some reason. I wish LP would have spit some bars on this, as he's been fucked over by the industry even more than our host. (You two have also probably noticed the remix Mega leaked to the Web shortly after Mega Philosophy dropped, featuring Craig G, Masta Ace, and Kool G. Rap of the motherfucking Juice Crew, to which I ask, why in the fuck would you leave that off of the proper album?)
4. MORE (FEAT. CHANTELLE NANDI)
Cormy gets his preach on over a dope LP production that utilises his strong ear for bass along with some soft strings sprinkled here and there, along with our host's new vocalist, whose singing I couldn't really decide on. The end result does the job surprisingly well, because although Cormy's preaching comes off as a bit forceful, it suits him, weirdly enough. This album is slowly becoming quite the force. This is also the second song in a row where LP would've fit in nicely.
Another Cormy acapella. The lyrics are good, though. Next!
6. D.U. (DIVINE UNITY) (FEAT. NATURE)
The working relationship between Cormega and Nature is one of the absolute funniest things I've ever seen in hip hop. First, your friend kicks you out of a group you helped form, and replaces you with some other random dude. Then you dis the shit out of both of them. And finally, you make up with your replacement, but not your longtime friend. Yep. Anyway, these two have hooked up in the past on a remix of an Alchemist cut called “Professional Style” that also featured common Firm relation AZ. That track was even remixed by Cormega and The Revelations for his compilation album, Raw Forever, complete with redone lyrics from all parties involved. As for this song? Well, the chemistry is surely there, but the star of the show is the instrumental, which elevates the street imagery and boasts to a truly respectable scale. This shit was stupid nice.
7. HONORABLE (FEAT. RAEKWON)
Cormy's pulling out all the stops on this, huh? The Chef comes correct on his second Extra P outing (I think we're supposed to be counting LP's production on Busta Rhymes's “The Heist”, which included Rae, Ghostface Killah, and Roc Marcy in the mix, as their first collaboration), where he and our host use the same formula as "C.R.E.A.M.", in that Rae is once again the party enamoured with the street life while Cormy plays the Inspectah Deck role of the cat who thanks his newfound spirituality for getting him the fuck out of that life. I am in no way saying this is as good as “C.R.E.A.M.”: I'm saying the formula is a tried and true one that works on this track.
8. RAP BASQUIAT
Aside from “MARS (Dream Team)”, this song has the best beat so far on Mega Philosophy. LP's drum break samples are fucking awesome, and he even plays with the breaks during Cormy's performance to amplify the energy of the track. Accordingly, Mega steps his delivery up to a fever pitch, which gives his boasts a certain authority that improves the overall product. True shit: I haven't heard Cormy sound this aggressive since The Testament. The guy at the end, though? An annoying piece of shit who was entirely unnecessary to the proceedings.
9. RISE (FEAT. MAYA AZUCENA)
Maya Azucena reunites with Cormy after their stellar posse cut to benefit Haiti, “I Made A Difference”, from 2010, which also marked the first time I had ever heard Reggie Noble spit conscious rhymes. LP and Maya prep the track nicely enough for Cormy to go in full introspective mode, and seeing as I love me some introspection when done right, this shit is right up my alley. This is the second time in a row a track ends in a crappy way, though, as LP brings down the beat, leaving Maya sounding pretty paranoid as she hums on to the end of the track. Still, this was the third song on here where Extra P's bars could've fit like a glove.
10. HOME (FEAT. BLACK ROB)
To be honest, I have never cared for Black Rob, even when his Life Story album filling up households and cars nationwide. (Um, “Whoa!” was popular, but I'm pretty sure Black Robert was never as hot as you're describing, and I lived through that shit.) But ever since he left prison in 2010, he's been making moves with the right people: I enjoyed his showing on Smif-N-Wessun and Pete Rock's Monumental collaboration album. He's not a lyrical wizard or anything, but at least he doesn't drag songs down. On “Home”, he helps keep things moving, although I could probably attribute that to the producer's moulding of the beat to fit his heavy voice. Oh, and Cormy's his usual self here, as well. A good wind-down from the previous tracks.
11. VALUABLE LESSONS
A quick sample from The True Meaning's “Take These Jewels” precedes a somber acoustic-sampling beat that provides the canvas for the final track on the album, where Cormy spits three verses, each one about a different type of relationship: friendship, family, and love, respectively. He ends his album on a very personal note, and LP's beat is a very fitting musical backdrop for the proceedings. And with that, we're done.
THE LAST WORD: With Mega Philosophy, Cormega has finally delivered what has been missing from his catalogue: A damn fine album that is complete with excellent performances and quality beats from a bonafide legend. Large Professor has finally collaborated with an artist who has shown time and again to be worthy of his beats. (LP, I know Neek The Exotic is your man, but he hasn't delivered on his “Fakin' The Funk” potential for over twenty years now. Maybe he should quit rapping. And L.E.O.? Really, William? You fucked up on that one. Hard.) The only thing would have made Mega Philosophy perfect are some bars from Extra P himself, and trust me, many opportunities presented themselves. But make no mistake about it: this is a fucking awesome album. Cormega, you may now take your rightful place among the elite in hip hop. Very well done, sir.
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below, like I told you before.)