Loved by the streets as well as by critics, Cormega was the rare hardcore rapper to win praise from all directions, and while he never quite crossed over like some of his New York City peers, he maintained a respectable independence over the years nonetheless, self-releasing his work on the Legal Hustle label.
Born Cory McKay, Cormega came up as part of the early-’90s Queensbridge scene that also fostered such name acts as Nas and Mobb Deep, among many others (not to mention the preceding generation of artists affiliated with Marley Marl and the Juice Crew). He made his debut in grand fashion, rapping alongside fellow Queensbridge MCss Foxy Brown and AZ on “Affirmative Action,” one of the highlights of Nas’ 1996 album It Was Written. This alliance, which billed itself as the Firm, was short-lived for Cormega. He parted ways with the group before it recorded its one album, the largely unsuccessful Album. It was no big loss for Cormega, though, as he signed to Def Jam and recorded his debut album, The Testament.
That album sat in limbo for years, unfortunately, as did Cormega himself. With the exception of some guest appearances here and there, such as on the How to Be a Player soundtrack (1997), Mobb Deep’s Murda Muzik (1999), and Nas’ QB Finest compilation, Cormega’s recording career was on hold while Def Jam twiddled its thumbs.
It wasn’t until 2001 that Cormega made his album debut, releasing The Realness on his own Legal Hustle label. It didn’t benefit from the promotional push that Def Jam could have given it, but The Realness made quite an impact among the hip-hop underground, where it was revered. The second album followed, The True Meaning (2002), and was likewise critically acclaimed, earning Independent Album of the Year at the Source Awards in 2003. The album cracked the Top 100 of the Billboard 200 (peaking at number 95).
In 2005 he released The Testament, his unreleased Def Jam album from ten years prior, to which he had recently secured the rights to the master tapes, and in 2006 he was co-featured on My Brother’s Keeper, a collaborative album also billed to Lake, a fellow Queensbridge rapper of some renown. In 2007 Cormega released Who Am I?, a DVD documentary covering the time period of 2001-2005; a CD soundtrack comprised of newly recorded music was included as well. Also in 2007, he released Got Beats?, an instrumental show featuring an impressive roster of producers, including DJ Premier, the Alchemist, Ayatollah, and Ski Beatz.
After a seven year solo recording hiatus, Cormega released his third official solo album, Born And Raised (2009) which he calls “the truest look into me not just as an artist, but as a writer and as a person. I came into my own in a lot of ways on this album,” expresses Cormega.
Skip forward to 2014, and Cormega drops Mega Philosophy. An 11 track project which is entirely produced by Large Professor and boasts features from veterans such as AZ, Black Rob, Nature, Raekwon, Redman and Styles P. The project is currently streaming in full over at DJ Booth for free. You can check that out here.