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by George Hagan
25 May, 2004@12:00 am
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“What up with Cormega?/ Did you see him, are y’all together?” – Nas from “One Love”

     The lines above from the classic ’94 album Illmatic served as the excellent introductory platform for Mega Montana to step up and get his own in the game. But even the co-signing from an established emcee, and in this case, arguably one of the best ever, can only take a rapper so far. Cormega has wisely done his part by taking the rock handed to him, and steadily honing his craft to the point where he’s currently set himself apart from the pack of other reality rap emcees scrambling for the spotlight.

      The new album, Legal Hustle presents the Queensbridge MC in the best form he’s ever been. Although he’s not quite spitting those “diamond-cut vocals that carve sculptures,” Mega is definitely repping better than the majority of rhymers out there. Cuts like the Ayatollah -produced ode to the old skool “Bring It Back” show just how sharp Mega’s skills have gotten, and also display his extensive knowledge of hip-hop’s foundation. Cormega also does a fine job of mixing fresh faces into the mix, both on production (Ax tha Bull) and on the microphone (Dona Montana) to create impressive results. Dona is the first signee to Cormega’s Legal Hustle imprint, and she definitely shows a lot of promise. The femcee sounds like a slowed-down Foxy Brown with a deeper voice, and she has a penchant for dropping poignant, heartfelt lines about the everyday ghetto struggle.

     But, it’s the high profile guest appearances that make this release solid. The reigning kings of heavy metal rap, M.O.P. back Mega up with seamless chemistry on the Emile-produced “Let It Go”, resulting in a knockin’, raucous bangfest. Ghostface Killah, probably the most consistent performer in the game right now, delivers another excellent frenetic-paced, crime narrative on the Feil Brothers-produced, “Tony/Montana”. The best collabo though is delivered on “Sugar Ray & Hearns”, a track that features fellow Queens native, Large Professor. Both MC’s sound greatly inspired on this one, and clocking in at an all-too-brief 1 minute and 24 seconds, another 16 bars by both rappers would have definitely been in order.

     The album was originally conceived to be a mixtape, and therein lies the major flaw in the album. There is definitely a lack of continuity and synergy between the 16 tracks on the LP, but there are enough quality joints on the LP to make this problem overlookable. All in all, Legal Hustle is a satisfying listen, and represents another major step forward in Cormega’s continuous evolution.

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