Album: The True Meaning
Rating: 8 / 10
Cormega could well stake a claim to being New York’s unluckiest rapper. He’s encountered adversity throughout his career – whether its being dropped off an all-star collaboration, beefing with your ex-friend and mentor, getting your debut album pushed back and virtually shelved, or simply losing all the connections you once had – the Queensbridge emcee has seen it all since his stunning performance on ‘Affirmative Action’. Those of you who copped “The Realness”, however, will know he’s a talented artist who doesn’t need a second chance to create a dope album. Following the underground acclaim for that album he steps back into the ring with “The True Meaning”.
Exceptionally talented artists always have a €œbuzz € around them that usually translates into success and Cormega has this in abundance. Where many artists have a pointless opening skit or interlude Mega wastes no time and simply offers €œIntrospective €, a short little freestyle where the emcee offers his thoughts on his album and his career and life, built upon a lively Emile beat.
This opening quickly reveals what €œThe True Meaning € needs to do to succeed – Mega €™s rhymes are superior. He €™s a clean and crisp spitter, as equally capable of stringing together witty punchlines as he is complex metaphors. The nicely titled ‘Verbal Graffiti’ benefits from a mysterious, oriental sounding Hangman 3 beat and Mega rocks his mix of pounding street-poetry and audacious braggadocio…
“Take a hit of this uncut raw, a taste will numb your jaw
My rhyme is on consignment just in case you wanted more”.
The emcee then reopens his beef with Nas to proclaim that “I’m Queensbridge’s most respected rapper that ain’t gon change” on the acapella freestyle ‘Ain’t Gon Change’ – which also proves that Mega doesn’t need a beat to support him.
Any purchasers of “Stillmatic” will have heard the fierce Cormega disses on ‘Destroy & Rebuild’. It €™s evident that despite reconciliatory attempts the two former friends are still at each other €™s throats. And Mega doesn €™t let these disses go unanswered – while he hasn €™t included ‘Realmatic’ or ‘A Slick Response’, he still throws back Nas €™ taunts with barbs of his own on the moody, brooding ‘Love In, Love Out’. He laments his removal from The Firm and talks about how he €™s lost any love for his former friend over a suitably subdued J.Love beat. Here Mega sums up his feelings…
“You my nigga when you hot and when the temperature changed
Now we enemies, ’til we enter the grave”
Further jibes at the expense of Nas come on the eerie ‘A Thin Line’. Here Cormega €™s tone and lyrics dramatically change, becoming much more vitriolic and angry. Buckwild, of Diggin In The Crates fame, creates a grinding, almost brassy track that manages to bring across the sheer venom of the lyrics. While I admire Cormega for having the tenacity and sheer skill to break down Nas in such a thorough way, his constant references to his former friend seem a little obsessive. He should perhaps have left it at one track dissing Nas, not two or three.
Nevertheless the album is not really hurt by these minor gripes. Its crammed full of strong tracks, exhibiting Mega €™s slow, commanding flow, and articulate lyrics over varied productions. Large Professor drops by with a stellar verse and beat on ‘The Come Up’, a thoughtful track detailing Mega €™s struggle to come up through the ranks in the rap game. ‘The Legacy’ features a hypnotizing, spellbinding beat from Alchemist and the relentless energy of ‘Soul Food’s’ dramatic piano loop and soulful beat supports Mega’s accomplished storytelling. He tells a story about his relationship with a woman who is cheating on her boyfriend (with Mega) and then how Cormega confronts her about this. Here Mega stays out of the Ja Rule-esque jigginess or gangsta-rap misogyny, and instead creates a really thoughtful cut. Mega really has a lot to say about hip-hop and life, and his powerful rapping style delivers his thoughts in an unassuming manner throughout.
D.R. Period blesses the Queensbridge emcee with a dramatic blend of long piano chords and wailing, soulful female accompaniment on the standout title track. A big, almost melodramatic hook pushes the track along nicely and Mega succeeds with his powerful introspective lyrics:
€œExquisitely I write
Tales of hand to hand sales which cause three to life
When all else fails some people seek Jesus Christ
Some relax to the seductive mystique of the pipe
And be back inside the same cell they left
It’s sort of like hell or death
Except we still here breathin’ in the flesh recieving respect
Yet, being stressed cus we threats to society
Solutions are real, problems are in varieties €.
The warm, feel-good ‘Live Ya Life’ has twinkling piano keys and incredibly divine vocal harmonizing with an upbeat chorus pushing a strong message. This wonderful beat supports Cormega €™s uplifting rhymes – calling out to women with various problems to address these problems and overcome them. My favourite jam.
If “The True Meaning” fails anywhere it’s the rather nit-picky area of being too short. It’s such a strong release that you want to hear more. Mega’s raw, underground priniciples are evident throughout and this is what makes the album short. He spits two or three short, sharp verses over a banging beat and then the track ends, usually just before the 3 minute mark. There’s no fancy touches here – this is hip-hop without strings attached. What you hear is what you get.
Cormega has blessed his fans and his audience with one of the best albums of 2002. It €™s that simple. Mega is a literate, thoughtful emcee with a commanding style and he remains consistent throughout, performing over a series of varied and sparkling productions provided by some of rap €™s top producers. “The True Meaning” is an underground album released for the rap purist, but one that can be enjoyed by anyone. He knows the “true meaning” of “good hip-hop.”