This is the 6th full-length album from Brooklyn veteran Cormega. Coming up as an original member of The Firm, he would depart from the supergroup right after being signed to Aftermath Entertainment & has gone onto release a handful of solo efforts including The Realness and Born & Raised. Last we heard from him was the solid STREETRUNNER-produced debut EP MEGA, but is now returning after 4 long years in the form of a sequel to The Realness.
“Once & For All” is a 2-minute boom bap opener produced by Domingo talking about being a legend spitting at an elite level whereas “Her Name” takes a symphonic yet dusty route calling someone who forgot where she came form. Nas tags along for The Alchemist-laced “Glorious” to talk about exceeding their dreams of better living, but then “The Saga Resumes” is basically a mature sequel to “The Saga” down to the Big Ty instrumental.
Meanwhile on “What’s Understood”, we have Mega over a rich beat that he & Sha Money XL helped put together explaining that the titular matter doesn’t need to be explained this day in age leading into Large Professor producing the piano/boom bap “Life & Rhymes” providing inspiring words of wisdom for everyone listening. Lloyd Banks comes into the picture for “Grand Scheme” talking about how the quality of life means nothing to death on top of a shimmering STREETRUNNER instrumental just before the cavernous “White Roses” recalls how notorious the way he used to live was.
“Essential” picks things up with a more symphonic flare thanks to Havoc dropping jewels while “This Life of Ours” works in an alluring vocal sample encouraging to remove weakness & acknowledge strength. “Age of Wisdom” goes a capella to reflect on his hustling days while the penultimate track “Paradise” with Havoc finds the 2 diving into soulful territory calling out those who fake until they make it. “Man vs. Myth” though finishes the album with a roomy Harry Fraud beat talking about how his name’s familiar where he’s from.
Although I’m more of a True Meaning guy personally, The Realness has always been my #2 & this is most definitely a sequel that lives up to the expectations of the classic full-length debut. The lyrics are incredibly introspective & the production is on par if not superior to the predecessor. If it takes us until 2026 for him to give us another project considering the fact that Mega Philosophy came out in 2014 & then MEGA in 2018, then I wouldn’t even be opposed.
AZ is a 49 year old MC from Brooklyn, New York most notable for his longtime association with Nas, being the only feature on the latter’s iconic debut album illmatic with the song “Life’s a Bitch”. He would later go to signing with EMI Records & drop a full-length of his own Doe or Die little over a year later, which is one of the greatest mafioso hip hop albums of all time. Other standouts in his discography include Pieces of a Man, Aziatic, A.W.O.L. & The Format. Last time we heard from AZ was in 2009 when he released Legendary to mixed reception but after a 12 year hiatus, he’s returning with a promising sequel to the album that started it all.
After the “Conversations with God” intro, the first song “Just 4 U” has a rich instrumental from B!nk by paying tribute to the listener whereas “The Wheel” is a boom bap duet with Jahiem produced by DJ KG telling Heaven to help them because they’re still caught in a metaphorical wheel. Baby Paul helps take things to a dustier route on “Keep It Real” paying tribute to those who keep it 100 leading into the jazzy “Never Enough”, where AZ & Rick Ross get on their mafioso shit.
Meanwhile for “Different”, we have a classy celebration of life just before Conway the Machine & Lil Wayne assist the barfest that is “Ritual” with a grimy instrumental from none other than The Alchemist. Things than take a churchy turn with the help of Buckwild for AZ & Dave East to flex their wealth on “Blow That Shit”, but then declares himself as “Bulletproof” with a glistening boom bap beat accompanying him.
Pete Rock brings in an eargasmic vocal sample for “Check Me Out” flexing AZ’s rapping prowess while the song “Time to Answer” responds to those asking him what’s the hold up with his new music & of course The Heatmakerz stick to their signature chipmunk soul sound. The penultimate track “Found My Niche” lyrically needs no further explanation with a spacious boom bap instrumental from The Czar-Keys & the Rockwilder-produced “What’s Good” is a rich closer asking if you’re living or dying.
In the grand scheme of sequel albums, Doe or Die II absolutely lived up to the hype of the original & was well worth the 12 year wait. Hell, I’ll even go as far to say it’s a tad bit better than King’s Disease II. AZ spitting that grown man shit like he never left, the features all come correct & the production is a lot more detailed than it was on Legendary.
Nas. What can be said now about the renown Queensbridge, New York MC that hasn’t been said already? From his first 2 studio albums illmatic & It Was Written to The Lost Tapes & Life is Good, the man has really cemented himself as one of the greatest spitters in all of hip hop. He is fresh off his overhated Kanye West produced comeback NASIR last summer & now, he’s back with the sequel to his iconic rarities compilation.
The comp starts off with “No Bad Energy”, which is of course a positivity anthem with a Swizz Beatz instrumental with some beautiful background vocals. The next track “Vernon Family” talks about being rich over a funky instrumental from Pharrell & despite the decent braggadocio on “Jarreau of Rap”, the jazzy instrumental is absolutely HIDEOUS! The track “Lost” proclaims himself as a prophet over a lavish boom bap beat from Statik Selektah while the song “Tanasia” talks about a woman over this orchestral RZA beat.
The track “Royalty” is a mediocre dedication to this young queen over a decent Hit-Boy beat while the song “Who Are You?” brags over some keyboards. The track “Adult Film” needs no further explanation & the piano instrumental from Swizz Beatz is pretty while the song “War Against Love” is an ode to Africa with a relaxing instrumental.
The track “The Art of It” talks about smoking weed over a funky boom bap beat from Pete Rock while the song “Highly Flavored” talks about his fate & the sample that RZA uses is very creative. The track “Queens Wolf” talks about his evolution over a DJ Toomp instrumental with some prominent keyboards & strings while the song “It Never Ends” talks about ongoing violence in the hood over an ominous piano instrumental from The Alchemist.
The track “You Mean the World to Me” is a corny story about a woman that leaves her partner just to be with Nasir over a Kanye instrumental that samples “Don’t It Make You Feel Good?” by Leroy Hudson while the penultimate song “Queensbridge Politics” pays tribute to Prodigy over a boom bap beat from Pete Rock with some dark piano keys. The album then finishes with Beautiful Life”, where Nas addresses Kelis’ slander towards him over a luxurious No I.D. instrumental.
Been a long time waiting on this album & at the end, I think it’s pretty dope. The production is better than half of the albums that they were originally made for & Nas’ pen game overall is a step up from NASIR.