Golden era Queensbridge artists seem to be cursed. The unfortunate fate of QB legends who've created classic is that their fans want them to recreate their past work, over and over again. Nas even addressed this on Kanye's 'We Major': "He said, 'Nas what the fans want is Illmatic ... " For Mobb Deep it's 'The Infamous,' while for Cormega-N-Noreaga, it's 'The War Report.' Classics are always in demand, and it gets increasingly harder to recapture that freshman hunger as the years go by.
The respected fellow Queensbridge rapper Cormega isn't as acclaimed, but he also hasn't quite met the appraisal of his debut. The 41-year-old is well-aware that his underground classic, 'The Realness,' is still favored by his fanbase — which spans across generations.
Fourteen years later, he's nervous, and it's not because he's still chasing a classic. 'Mega Philosophy' finds him going down the newer path of enlightenment. Instead of trying to prove his Queensbridge battle stripes, Cormega attempts to educate — or "drop jewels," as he says.
“I took a lot of risks in this album, because … a lot of time when you start getting educational and giving people jewels, people aren’t ready for that," Cormega said. "Sometimes people still want ‘The Realness’ Cormega. I just had to ask myself if I was willing to take that risk."
He still considered 'Mega Philosophy' risky despite having one of hip-hop's most respected producers, Large Professor, in his corner producing the entire album. Production-wise Large Pro is on point, whether it's on the fresh-sounding nostalgia of 'Rap Basquiat' or the rugged drum patterns on 'Honorable' (featuring Raekwon).
Cormega leaked the album's first single — 'Industry,' a rundown of an unsympathetic music industry — back in March, and the positive feedback for that, as well as his other leaked songs, took away some of the anxiety. Although there isn't a verdict yet on the 'Mega Philosophy,' Cormega may be able to rest easy on giving the young listeners what they need.
"The worst junk food you could ever feed a child is ignorance," he says. "I just want to give them some jewels."
The new direction hasn't removed Cormega too far from when he was making some of the best tracks and verse of his career. Before the release of 'Mega Philosophy,' the rhymer talked to The Boombox about his five essential songs. Check them out below.
'Affirmative Action'with The Firm (Nas, AZ, Fox Brown)
“I perform ‘Affirmative Action’ at every show. That’s one of the most popular records I’ve ever done. I think that was a great platform for me to be reintroduced into the world [after doing time in prison]. I don’t even think that’s one of my best verses. Lyrically, it pales in comparison to many of the lyrics of my songs. But the energy of it was perfect.
“I wasn’t nervous about doing the song. I felt comfortable; I was amongst friends. I was nervous about being home and living up to expectations. When I came home, the expectations placed upon me was incredible. People expected some incredible, incredible s---, and at times it felt like it was hard to live up to those expectations. But I did what I had to do and now I’m here."
"It’s just a win-win situation with that beat. You just gotta rock that beat. Once that beat was there, I just did what I had to do. I just wanted to do something where I go lyrical.
"There’s a lot of MCs that’s lyrical as f---, but you can’t listen to their words. Their words are just words. There’s no substance to the song; just a bunch of fancy words with no meaning. I try to go lyrical but then drop jewels on the song and go witty at the same time. Put it like this: A lot of the lyrical artists are boring as f---, but their s--- is lyrical and scientific. It sounds boring when you put it in context. On ‘Beautiful Mind,’ I wanted to have fun with it, be witty, be deep and be lyrical."
'Tony/Montana'feat. Ghostface Killah
“Ghostface’s verse was incredible. Ghostface was an example where you gotta go aggressive. Ghostface killed that verse so bad, there wasn’t much that could be done. That wasn’t even my original verse. I had a different verse, but I went with that verse because I wanted to do it like on some Kane and G Rap s---. G Rap would rap with all that energy and Kane would rap a little laid back, but still assertive. That’s what I actually did, but it wasn’t the best I did in hindsight because Ghostface’s delivery and energy was so crazy that he definitely outshined me on that track."
“Put it like this: It was the first and the very last time that s--t happened [laughs]. If someone goes at it like that, I’m going apes--t on the track.”
Mega Fresh Xfeat. DJ Red Alert, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, Grand Puba and PMD
“It was a proud nostalgic moment and I was proud of it for [the big features]. That’s what that was. I was definitely proud to have a record with those guys. It meant a lot for me because I understand their impact and I’m from that era.
“I knew I had to come up with some s---, but I never try to compete with artists of that caliber — like I’m trying to outdo them. I’m just trying to have fun.
“There comes a point in time where you turn down the competitiveness and you turn up the respect. I got respect for artists, so I’m not going to compete with people I respect. If I’m on a song where someone spits some incredible f---in’ s--- that’s gonna make me look stupid, I’m gonna have to step up my bars. But I was comfortable with the s--- that I laid."
"I’m talking about the industry and I’m really dropping jewels and giving an artist’s assessment on how things are. That’s not typically done. I went against the norm, and usually when you go against the norm … it’s met with resistance. I didn’t know how it was going to be embraced. I was surprised to be honest with you. I thought it was going to be 50/50 … It was 99.1% in my favor.
“This track is just form personal experience and observations. If they want to go indie, that’s on them. But if they want to go label, that’s on them. Indie is definitely more fair. Don’t get me wrong: There are people that will screw you in every field. You can get screwed by indie, but indie is definitely more fair … I just try to enlighten.”