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Monday, June 22, 2015

[Article] Is "Mega Philosophy" CORMEGA's Best Album?

Since a documentary on the making of this beautiful album is soon to be released I would like to go back and see how well Cory McKay's "Mega Philosophy" actually holds up one year later. The short answer is that it probably even better now than it was when it first hot stores, as both the production and verbal intercourse now finally has had the chance to truly sink into us as listeners. Sure there were never no question at any time or point that this was not a very good album, though I remember hearing some "The Realness" fanatics shedding a tear over how they missed the hardcore beats and violent, drug slinging lyrics. In fact I'd go as far as to say that "Mega Philosophy" is Cormega's best album yet. If we first look at the foundation, which is the production, it's from top to bottom extremely well produced and varied enough while never sounding the least forced. After all Queens' legend Large Professor created every single beat on the album, in the studio with Cormega where they worked hard together on the sound they envisioned for the record. This can definitely be heard throughout the first to last track, and as Extra-P revealed in the extensive XXL interview shortly before the albums relase how its making was a new experience to him as no emcee he had previously worked with had been so detrimet and hands-on in adding small samples and a touch of his own flavor to the LP:s sound. The co-production credit 'Mega receives on the back cover next to Large Professor is therefore hardly a fluke or a shady label decision as is so often the case.  

"Mega Philosophy" was also released in a completely instrumental version and if you ask me this is a brilliant companion piece to the original that any fan of the album truly need to hear. It will bring you a deeper respect for not only how well crafted these ten cuts truly are, but you'll also notice that there's plenty of little vocal samples and sound effects that you'd be hard pressed to find under the vocals on the original retail release. Unlike many instrumental editions of already released albums this one is actually a project that stand on its own two legs and are a great listen on its own. Take a track like "Industy" whose chops, wild piano meodies, well arranged drums and short vocal samples from 'Mega and KRS-One will have your head nodding in seconds. After having heard the single countless times and no matter the amount of important truths Corey speaks on the song I actually prefer to zone out to this instrumental. This might also be a result of me having heard the original single countless times by now and it has never really been one of my favorites of mine compared to the rest of the LP.

But of course what really will make this a future classic is mainly Cormega's performance - he is so mature and wise beyond his years here as opposed to much of his earlier material. With that statement I must say that I've been a big fan of Cormega since I first heard him on "Affirmative Action" and later "The Realness" and "The True Meaning", so don't misinterpret the above statement. Everyone who comes from a rough background will need to come to the realization that you can't keep on living that destructive and violent lifestyle forever and is forced to grow up - and that's one major difference between this legenday emcees earlier output and this one. A key track and a personal favorite is "More" where The Professor hooks up raw boom bap drums, addictive piano keys, a beautiful breakdown of sirens and sound effects and best of all a part where the boom bap gives way to African Tribal drums to underline Mega's lyrics. Here 'Mega attacks the entire American "justice" system and the way African Americans have been and continues to be treated yesterday, today and tomorrow. The song is filled to the limit with uplifting and clever quotables - "[They] destroy our mental everyday, we more conditioned, to confirm to ignorance and ignore wisdom/ A darker pigment gets you 50 shots and a cop aquitted, while Mumia dreams of freedom in a cot in prison". And that's  just the beginnning of the first verse, I could quote the whole song but give it a spin instead, but I have to mention this clever line "We more than pant saggin' ignorants/ In fact spelling saggin' backwards is niggas/ Pick up your pants and ehance your apperance because it traps us". Almost like a sequel is the beautiful Maya Acazuna collaboration known as "Rise". With lines like "I put it it all together and realize money causes convention, resentment and moral conviction. Rappers tell you lies and glorifies the ghetto, they never speak of mother's inconceivable cries/ So the oppressive agressive of those sworn to serve and protect us, harm us/ Sean Bell the martyr was a father" there's no question Cormega is one of the illest and most important emcees of our time. Like a sister to "More", the themes and topics here are some of the most potent, truthful and important that Corey has ever spat, and just like the former has a somewhat laid back feel that make sure you don't miss a word, "Rise" too is a mellow cut centered around a beautiful guitar melody and one of Large Pro's many different trademark drums.

Now don't be fooled into thinking that there's no hardcore jams on here because there obviously are and we're gonna break  a few of them down in just a second. There's just one more of those siblings of songs I just feel I need to touch upon a little extra, which I feel together forms the albums core, and that is together with "More" and "Rise" the album closer "Valuable Lessons". Another relatively laid back jam with a sung hook by relatively unknown guest artist Jarrell Perry who does a great job. I've read a wack review saying that "Valuable Lessons" was hampered by a cheesy chorus which really undermined the songs potential. I think this is straight up BS (well HipHopDX isn't exactly known for their great reviews) - the song itself is one of the albums best and an absolutely excellent album closer where Cormega take the time to get maybe more personal than he's ever been on wax before. Although it bugs me how short the album is, which I'll be getting into soon, I coudn't think of a better way to close this LP. The tracks foundation is an irrestible mix of an accoustic guitar riff, a vintage vocal sample, accoustic background piano and that perfect drum programming that helps Large Pro's beats always knock hard as hell no matter how laid back the instrumentation is. Split into three verses, the first deal with fake friends, and how the older you get and the more problem you get yourself into you are often left on your own - something I'm sure a lot of us slightly older people here can relate to. "I risked my life for niggas who didn't write or visit, during my time in prison I realized my friendship isn't what I invested,and I'm tired of giving with no reciprocation. Thankfully times are different...". The second verse gets even more peronal as Corey airs out his dirty family laundry, including drug use, gossiping and even how his own grandmother was robbed by younger relatives, something a lot of emcees wouldn't ever dare to touch upon us. But "Mega Philosophy" from start to finish is 'Mega's journey and where he has now ended up in his life, which is why I think the three songs discussed here are the center pieces of the projet. The final verse of the album is directly dedicated to one person, McKay's ex-wife and how a great thing like love can turn to heartache and hate. If you ever had bad experiences with women in your life (and who haven't) this verse is so rewind heavy that it's just ridciolously filled with jewels. "You'd rather hate me than be mad at yourself. Now you free, we no longer trapped in lies, you never find happiness until you're happy inside".  The hook actually fits the song perfectly and the last bridge/outro really puts the dot over the i as Perry croons "Now I can finally sleep at night... I can finally sleep at night", of course meaning that our hero is on his way to overcome all of this bullshit. What a wonderful and clever way to close an album of this spiritual nature.

I mentioned the three songs described above as the center pieces of the album, but since I view this album as a 5/5 masterpiece that doesn't mean that the remaining eight tracks are any less dope - its just that they are other type of records than the extremely motivational and mature tracks that together form a new era in Cormega's music. "Rap Basquiat", for example, shows us how truly unbelivable the chemistry between Extra-P and 'Mega really is - the beat with it's high-powered vocal sample loop, the sampled Fender bass and boombastic drums married with the veteran spitters equally brilliant flow. I can't hear this without shaking my head at how dope his delivery has become over the years and how incredible Large's beat is. There's not many guests featured on the album, a great thing, and the few who do appear are chosen with the utmost care. Early on we are introduced to the one posse cut on the album - "M.A.R.S." featuring AZ, Styles P, and Redman. I really don't feel Redman fits in on the LP at all, but it's not much to complain about since especially AZ and Styles does a terrific job as they so often do. I also like how the album opens up with a posse cut as it reminds me of the '90s where that was pretty much a standard practice. Raekwon appears on "Honorable Mention", the first single and only to be released on physical (7" single) - most likely the hardest record on the album which explains why they went with it as the first single whereas a track like "More" might have turned off some of those "The Realness" fanatics. Rae and Mega always had a great chemistry together, going as far back as 2000 when the latter appeared on a very rare remix of The Chef's "Yae Yo" (if anyone have this please post it in the comments or e-mail me)!

Now to the final part of this article about how this album that after having marinated for almost a year has grown to be even more brilliant than when it first hit stores, likely because it was such a mature and introspective Cormega album that we might not have expected it. However, I'm all for quantity over quality but when a bunch of excellent tracks are left off a 30 minutes short record it does bug me a bit. After only roughly thirty minutes no matter how perfect the soundscapes, the lyrics, the flow and the production are, your mouth will definitely be watering for more. In my opinion they should have put a blank track of silence for 1-2 minutes and then added all of the Cormega/Large Professor songs made between "Born & Raised" and "Mega Philosophy".The album was in the works for about three years so you can count on there being lots of tracks left off the final product which in a way speaks well for the two artists integrity and how exact they knew what they wanted from the project. 


When asked how the album came about they both said it was beause of the insane response to "Journey" ("Born & Raised"). In that same interview they said that in honor of this they were definitely include the monster posse cut remix using roughly the same beat, but adding new verses from Cormega, Large Professor (this is another thing, I would've liked to hear a couple of verses from Extra-P on the LP), one of my all time favorites in OC and the almighty Sadat X. "Journey" was definitely a stand out on the preceding album and making a Part 2 as a posse cut was just a briliant idea. I loved how they was to pay homage to how the process started by including it on the album, but unfortunately it was scrapped and the only version that exist is the exclusive DJ Rated R mixtape premiere. Also in 2012 a single was released under Cormega's name said to be from the album called "M.A.R.S." - another posse cut produced by Large Pro and featuring Roc Marciano, Saigon, and Action Bronson that gained a lot of hype amongst underground heads at the time. In fact I would have a hard time deciding which of the two "M.A.R.S." cuts better sutied for opening the album. The one they went with is probably more in tune with the rest of the disc, but at the same time the predecessor is a HARD ASS joint, and as you know from my compilations I always figure it's a great way to kick things off with a real raw banger. The track however ended up on Large Pro's 2012 solo album "Professor @ Large", despite not even featuring so much as an adlib by That Guy With The Glasses. That same album also featured another very dope joint produced by Large Pro, with Cormega, Tragedy Khadafi (who was perhapst the one person truly missing from the album IMO) and Large. The final 2012 cut was possibly not ever intended for the album in question but it's not an impssobility either, and more than that it's an absolutely excellent cut in a way remiscent of "Fresh" from "Born & Raised" as it sees the younger Queensbridge native team up with some of his hip-hop heroes from way back in 1986. I'm talking about the Large Pro/Cormega assisted Public Enemy joint "Catch The Thrown". This is an excellent mix of the politically charged styles of CHUCK D and Corey's reflective yet street oriented gut punching attacks on the powers that be. It is not entirely impossible that this was recorded for "Philosophy". I imagine tons of music must have been recorded for the LP and perhaps Chuck D reached out to Large for a beat and he gave them this complete with the Mega verse. Also not too long ago Large Pro himself uploaded a 1:30 snippet of a song called "NGA" from the "Philosophy" sessions; see below.

Last but definitely not least we were treated to two remixes of the main single "Industry". The two very different versions were leaked for free to the net as promo material to boost the sales of the recently released "Mega Philosophy". The first remix entitled "The Juice Crew Remix" is an absolutely beautiful take on the original, and to be fair I'd got to say I prefer this version. The chilled out beat with it's smooth female vocals, dual accoustic piano melody and bridge set to vintage hip-hop drums really has a nice summer vibe anthem to it, which was kind of missing from the original despite the use of the same beat... and while Kool G Rap, Masta Ace, Craig G and Cormega all speaks their mind on the shady industry it isn't done in the same dark, depressing mood as on the solo version. The second installment, simply known as The Alternative Remix, is more of a sequel than a remix as it comes equipped with a completely new beat and all new verses. Since it was first made available as an exclusive free download in a rather prety damn shitty sound quality sometime in 2014, I had a hard time to truly appreciate the brilliance of this powerful, dark and brooding sequel until Large Pro included a mastered version of it on his recent "Re:Living" LP. Inspectah Deck can be very hit or miss these days but here he viciously murders the atmospheric but drum heavy remix with lines like "Nowadays everybody want to get on, they don't want to put in work, they just riding a long/ Pretty hoes in the videos styling in thongs, a few views on YouTube but who's buying the song?/ WorldStar don't give a fuck how you bodied the work, they'll desecreate your mixtape so KanYe can twerk". The same can be said about Roc Marciano, Sadat X, Lord Jamar and of course Cormega who hasn't even come close to spit a corny line on neither the entire album or the released songs from the sessions which I compiled for you below (making the album 60 minutes). In that same interview with XXL published a week before the LP:s official release date of July 22, Corey McKay reveals that he "got some remixes coming. We got one with the Juice Crew - me, Craig G, Masta Ace, and Kool G Rap. And then I got one with me, Lord Jamar, Sadat X, Rock Marciano and Inspectah Deck. Two remixes of 'Industry'" - confirming that all of these songs mentioned under this second section of this article (except for perhaps the Public Enemy/Cormega/Large Pro collabo) was recorded and in the can by the time the album came out.

With just eleven songs and a running time of 33 minutes it's not only Cormega's shortest album, it's also his most focused and to be honest his best work yet in my honest opinion. With each listen this album has grown even more on me, there are absolutely nothing that comes even close to filler, and there's a thin red line running through the project both from a lyrical and a production standpoint. In a way I could see why they woud ditch the bonus tracks and sequels mentioned above since they don't quite fit into the mold of the main album. Still as good as Large Professor's and Cormega's chemistry is here, I strongly recommened listening to it as released, with all the bonus tracks and also give the fully instrumental album at the very least one chance. I had the pleasure of seeing Large Pro and Cormega perform in Copenhagen around 2011 (what's up Rob), probably right as they were beginning to produce this album and I just hope that I will get to see them share the stage again very soon. I really don't like to give out ratings but rather let the review/article speak for itself, but this is a modern hip-hop masterpiece if I ever heard one so the rating can of course be no less than 5/5.

12. "Industry" [Juice Crew Remix] (Ft. Kool G Rap, Craig  G & Masta Ace)
13. "Journey" [Remix] (Ft. Sadat X, OC & Large Professor)
14. "Catch The Thrown" (Ft. Public Enemy & Large Professor)
15."Industry Part II" (Ft. Inspectah Deck, Rock Marciano,& Lord Jamar)
16. "Focused Up" (Ft. Large Professor & Tragedy Khadafi)
17. "M.A.R.S." (Ft. Action Bronson, Rock Marciano & Saigon)



  1. Such a great album but it is more like a EP than album with its length. Wish it had more songs. There is also a MARS the one with az red styles over the original beat from larges album

  2. John - i understand what you mean, but we have been spoiled by these long ass albums that was introduced by the compact disc. 30-40 minutes is a standard jazz album, punk albums are usually 25 minutes (from what i heard, punk is one of those styles i never could get into), but before CD your album was rarely longer than 40 minutes. i'd much rather take a 35 minutes long album that's close to perfect, than one with an additional 5-6 songs that's 3/5-ish...

    i don't know if you read the whole article but please do, i spent almost 3 hours on this and i collected all of the songs from the "Mega Philosophy" sessions (except "NGA" since we only have the snippet) in HQ MP3 at the bottom of the page. they are marked so that you can just add them directly after "Valuable Lesson" and suddenly you have a 60 minutes album by Large and 'Mega. all those tracks were done in those sessions, if you don't want to read the whole article though i would appreciate it - read from the section called "THE LOST & FOUND TRACKS FROM MEGA PHILOSOPHY"

    oh wait you say that the "Mars" track that ended up on the album, with Red, AZ and Styles exist on the same beat that Roc Marcy, Action Bronson, Mega and Saigon used? do you have a link?

  3. I read the article great job I get were you coming from I pretty much added all those songs plus journey original to make it longer. Also here is link

  4. Can you re-up the bonus tracks please