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1 January, 2001@12:00 am

 What does Cormega have in common with Large Professor and J-Live? Well, like the aforementioned, Cormega’s aborted Def Jam  debut, The Testament, gained notoriety for being one of the most celebrated unreleased LP’s in hip-hop history. What the S.O.S.A. EP did for former Firm cohort, AZ, the heavily bootlegged Testament had a similar ripple effect for Mega, as it kept the streets abuzz during a lengthy four-year hiatus.

With the streets watching, Mega kept his name in circulation by appearing on a slew of high-profile releases. This grass roots campaign was recently capped off by his sterling contribution (“All I Need’) to Hi-Tek’s Hi-Teknology.

With a fresh batch of all new material, Mega’s “official” debut, The Realness, manifests under stealth like conditions. Yet, it successfully conveys what The Testament implied three-years ago; 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” offers vivid street-mathematics with Kool G Rap-like narrative abilities. While “Fallen Soldiers” (and the accompanying Alchemist remix, which includes interwoven bong hits) is a continuation of Prodigy of Mobb Deep’s “Veterans Memorial.” Likewise, Mega’s ode to hip-hop, “American Beauty” is the epitome of East Coast G Shit, where his love for the art is evident—”Primo treated her good, made her the queen of my hood.”

On the Sha Self banger “Get Out My Way” Mega professes, “that Jay-Z/Nas beef doesn’t involve me.” Yet, that does not stop him from entering the fray, or from calling out Nas; “my life wasn’t written, yours was, your living a lie.” Similarly, “You Don’t Want It”, picks right up where “Fuck Nas” left off—”Life’s a bitch, I’m the pimp you owe mad dues too.” Mega and Prodigy’s “Dun & Kicko” is even more intriguing, as it further blurs the lines of division, and adds more fuel to already simmering beefs. Prodigy’s retaliatory strike on Jay-Z is not backbreaking (does not include portraits of S.Carter dressed as a ballerina), but it does reference the gun charge Hova’s bodyguard picked up; “You’s a no book crook, with loose-leaf beef, a backseat criminal who pass the heat.” While on the flip, Mega makes further attempts to soil Nas’ street-credentials— “you never had a life, so you throw other nigga’s lives in your pad at night.”

While quality material is plentiful, there are a few snoozers, and Mega’s effort to slander Nas ad nausea, becomes too much of a factor. These indirect disses pop up on nearly half of the tracks, and Mega’s time would have been better spent elsewhere.

Though the sonic landscape of The Realness is headlined by the Infamous minded Havoc (who contributes a classic scuffed symphony on “Killers Theme 2″) 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 gully lyricism.

While Cormega proves he deserves to be mentioned alongside the elite class of lyrical-pharmacists. He achieves this without the compromises that being affiliated with a major-label encompass (watered down production, or A&R influenced collaborations). While Mega has had to weather Def Jam’s cock-blocking ways, a dismissal from The Firm, and his own inner demons to get here. Mega may never taste redemption this sweet again, as The Realness is one of the best LP’s you will hear this year. Yet, Mega sums up his roller-coaster of a ride best on “Get Out My Way”— “even though mad niggas hated, I remain the most anticipated, those glad a nigga made it, blast your nickel plated’s, and salute the realness cause mad niggas faked it.” Now that’s Gangsta.

  Mixtape D.L.
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