Hip-hop albums that maintain a strong sound after many passing years are a true rarity. Queenbridge’s legendary emcee, Cormega was supposed to release his debut album on Def Jam records in the 90’s. After label problems, politics, and even a banned song, the “Testament” LP was permanently shelved. While some were introduced to the emcee by the classic “One Love” song by Nas (from “Illmatic”), others were exposed to Cormega’s work through articles, mix-tapes, and collaborations. Street tales of his drug dealing and prison time only added to the artist’s mystique. The song, “Dead Man Walking” was actually banned for being violently graphic. These appetizers only made fans salivate for a main course in the guise of a full length album. Without a proper LP, underground fans could only hear Cormega on compilations and guest spots. The “Survival Of The Illest” series (bonus CDs which were included on DMX and Onyx albums) featured the classic tracks, “Testament” and “Killaz Theme”. He stole the show on some compilation albums like “Violator:The Album”, Hi-Tek’s “Hi-Teknology”, “41st Side”, and “QB’s Finest”. Cormega also shined on numerous collaborations with Mobb Deep and Screwball. Eventually, Cormega began releasing proper albums on his own label, Legal Hustle Records. “The Realness” and “The True Meaning” proved that Cormega not only could be independent but could also maintain his credibility. Recently, he even released “Special Edition”, a double CD featuring “The True Meaning” LP, “The Realness” LP, and some bonus tracks. While the “Legal Hustle” LP was not as well-received as his previous solo efforts, the LP still possessed more quality than the average hip-hop album. 2005 marks the long awaited official release of the “Testament” LP. While many of the songs have been either heard or released, “Testament” is a very potent LP and an essential purchase for Cormega fans.
Cormega’s stripped down sound and hardcore approach to music creates a gritty feeling and a cinematically honest scene. “Dead Man Walking” is the exceptional banned track which earned mythical status. As the song’s story progresses, Cormega survived a spray of bullets and serves his ice cold dish of revenge. Without a chorus, Cormega’s fury ignites the inferno of Hot Day’s production. The sinister yet simple piano loop creates a vivid scene without annoying redundancy. Produced by Cormega,“62 Pick Up” opens the album with poignantly tragic tale set in Queensbridge projects. A musical letter from prison, “One Love” is his reply to the classic Nas track which first put Cormega’s name in the ears of hip-hop lovers. “Montana Diary” is a hungry sounding track where Cormega documents his lust and need for success. “Coco Butter” (produced by Prestige) displays Cormega’s diversity as he rhymes about his love and appreciation for the woman in his life. Proving he is a hardcore emcee by being honest to his heart, Cormega’s performance is a breath of fresh air. Ernest yet rough, Cormega’s many sides are still displayed in these early songs.
Parts of “Testament” possess intensity but remain with a dated sound. Placed directly after the new version, “Testament (Original Version)” does not have the sonic force as the new magnificent “Testament”. Produced by Dave Atkinson, “Testament” has some harsh references to Nas over a cinematic beat. While both versions sound dated, the songs maintain a feeling of dominance over the mundane and weak hip-hop. “Every Hood” unfortunately gets lost in the shuffle of depressing songs that describe the ghetto. With many replays, “Every Hood” does earn the listener’s respect due to the emcee’s honesty and heartfelt emotion. “Love Is Love” is somewhat boring track with a sub par R&B hook. Like “Live Your Life” (from “The True Meaning”), The diamond of the coal brick of a song lies in Cormega’s verses.
Cormega’s “Testament” has almost earned a legendary status since Def Jam shelved the album. Throughout the years, Mega’s following grew and many tracks were previously released. “Killaz Theme” (featuring Mobb Deep) was the hidden track on his official debut, “The Realness”. Produced by Sha Money XL, “Angel Dust” was featured on “The Realness / True Meaning - Special Edition”, double CD along with “Montana Diary”. With an “Intro”, an “Interlude”, 2 versions of the same track (“Testament”), and the previously released songs, “Testament” only has 7 unreleased tracks to entice fans. As an emcee who creates and releases the music he wants, Cormega’s stamina, lyrical honesty, and determination deserve respect. While fans wanted more of Cormega on his guest filled “Legal Hustle” LP, they can rejoice with the primarily solo tracks on “Testament”. As a hip-hop connoisseur, I cannot help ponder how this album would have been received back then. If Def Jam released “Testament”, would the album have the same tracks? Would the album have sold well? If Def Jam released the album, would Cormega be different now? “Testament” deserved to be released in the mid 90’s because the album is a vivid snapshot of the time period. Cormega has never disappointed and all of his works truly warrant attention and appreciation. “Testament” is a must have CD for his die-hard fans. Gritty, honest, poignant, and stripped-down, “Testament” is a vivid look into the early years of the Queensbridge legend.