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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

[Review] A look back @ CORMEGA's "MEGA PHILOSOPHY"

Since I started this blog about five years ago I always featured an in-depth article/review for the five to ten of my favorite albums of that respective year. I'm a big reviewhead, but writing these takes some time, and I've been quite busy as of late (which is why The Lost Tapes has kind of lacked in updates recently). There was however some absolutely tremendous projects released last year by some of the most esteemed emcees and producers doing it, so I say better late than never to give some of these albums a more thorough spotlight. Since his official debut "The Realness" in 2001, a hardcore QB album filled with rugged beats and equally rugged street stories, metaphorical songs, and agressive diss tracks the album became an instant classic. "The True Meaning" was much in the same vein, though sporting some higher profile producers like Buckwild, Large Pro, Emile and The Alchemist. It also featured more reflective tracks that still stands as some of 'Mega's finest ("Love in Love Out", "Ain't Gona Change", "Live Ya Life", etc.). Although dropping several mixtapes and the street album "Legal Hustle Volume One" it wasn't until 2009 that one of QBs finest dropped his third official LP - an album ("Born and Raised") that showed a much more mature sound of Cormega. With titles like "Love Your Family", "Live and Learn", "Define Yourself", "One Purpose" and "The Other Side" it was clear that Cory wasn't very interested in being stuck on rapping about crack and smack but rather grow as a person while inviting listeners to hear his own personal growth. With backdrops by Large Pro, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Havoc, Easy Mo Bee, Ayatollah, Buckwild and Fizzy Womack it was more a laid back effort, yet an extremely well crafted front-to-back listen.

Which leaves us in 2014 when the long awaited joint collaboration between Cormega and producer The Large Professor, that had been discussed for years, finally saw the light of day. As mentioned earlier, each of his albums up to this point has enabled listeners to follow his growth not only as a talented wordsmith, but also as a man - which gives listeners the feeling of actually knowing the man, much in the same way that Nas has done throughout his career. Listening to "Mega Philosophy" there is no question that this is 'Mega's most personal album to date, venting about the industry and how especially treat black artists, the negativity of being incarcerated, personal issues both about his baby mother and close family members, the marginalization of Africa as a country of old wisdom and knowledge, and much more. Pretty much every song has something to say; even in the opening posse cut "MARS II" there are bars touching on the police brutality and loss of young black life that we see today. It's a short album but from the first to last song the lyrics is incredibly well written, representing Cormega's finest hour as an emcee's emcee (not to say it's his best album overall). A few times listeners will find him rhyme slightly out of pocket, as he sometimes trying to squeeze to many words within a couple of bars, but this is a minor complaint as for the vast majority of the LP he is really on his grind. Guest spots on the album are thankfully limited, but the few emcees who help Cory out, is Raekwon, Nature, and Black Rob as well as the second installment of the posse cut "MARS" which features Mega, AZ, Redman, and Styles P. 

A Cormega album entirely produced by Large Professor has been on mine, and a load of true hip-hop heads, wishlist for years. With previous tracks like "Journey", "The Come Up" and the original "MARS" has proved what an incredible chemistry these two Queens representatives can bring  out in their best moments. In fact both Cormega and Large Professor are two of those rare type of artists which I rarely have heard a wack track from. Add the fact that "Mega Philosophy" was first conceived some two or three years ago and this tells you a lot about the thought and quality time put into this project. At first listen some listeners only knowing this duo's more hardcore material might be a bit suprised as the sound here is, although filled with pounding drums and booming basslines, more laid back, filled with melodic samples that often feel like analog live instruments. Though there are a few harder joints on here, "Honorable", "D.U.", "Rap Basquiat", these are also the songs that find 'Mega in a harder B-Boy stance, showing off his immense skills on the mic. On the other hand of the spectrum are songs like the beautiful "Rise", "More", and the incredible album closer "Valuable Lessons". These are also some of the most reflective and thematically important records on the LP, which Extra-P's prodution really grounds and amplifies with his melodic sample-centered use of keys, guitars and african rhythms (on "More"). The eleven songs found here really showcases how good an album can turn out with just one emcee and one producer if the two have the extreme type of chemistry that these two definitely does. It should also be noted that Cormega himself was heavily involved in the production, picking out samples and working hand-to-hand with Large Pro at times as told in the excellent interview article that XXL published shortly before the albums release.

Clocking in at only thirty three minutes, and as it definitely follows a theme, I'm torn between whether or not I would like to have more songs on here or not. When I listen to the digital version of the album I often add the first version of "MARS", the remixes of "Industry", and the remix to "Joruney" with OC and Sadat X (which in fact was created especially for inclusion on the LP but was scrapped somewhere in the process, perhaps due to the fact that it had been out for too long - I'm still waiting on a CDQ version of that though, such a slamming joint). With or without bonus tracks "Mega Philosophy"  is one of Cormega's finest works yet, and it's amazing how he just keeps on growing as a lyricist. You can tell he means every word, straight from the heart, and he's never been one to shy away from any topic. If you don't already own this, then HURRY UP AND BUY!

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