If rap is a hustle and only the strong survive, then Cormega must be an ironman. The Realness
is the debut album from Cormega. Better known for what he hasn't appeared on, 'mega's name first came to light when Nasty Nas mentioned during "One Love" that he'd been incarcerated. Then came his much-publicised non-tenure with Nas' supergroup, The Firm
. After years of dealing with street-music biz madness, Cormega has taken his time to craft The Realness
. Similar in theme to his friend Prodigy's H.N.I.C.
, The Realness
mainly deals with day-to-day life in the ghetto, while throwing a sideways nod to industry drama and the art of rhyming. On first listen, this might seem to be little more than that ol' bittersweet thug reflection people love to indulge in, but the quiet beats and somber lyrics will grow on you. The real gem here is "American Be! auty," a succinct, multidimensional breakdown of the development of hip-hop at the hand of her creators. Are you listening, Nas? --Rebecca Levine