Like Large Professor’s LP, insider critics always revered Cormega’s debut, The Testament as the greatest Hip-Hop you never got to hear. That notion has now changed. Def Jam never bothered to release ‘Mega’s debut in the late 90’s, but Cormega acquired his album almost a decade after its original inception. Deep into his career with two acclaimed albums, this walk back in time opens a time capsule of his life, style, and Hip-Hop at that point. In honor of the album’s final release, AllHipHop.com and Cormega set it up to release the real version of Def Jam’s greatest mistake. Chock full of quotables, budding G-Unit producers, and a poetic letter to Nas, The Testament deserves great analysis:
AllHipHop.com: There were rumors that you went back and made changes to the album for re-release, production-wise?
Cormega: Not really. This is what I did. A few months ago, I put out the Special Edition album. There were bonus songs. My whole thing was, I always had other versions. Sha Money XL, he did “Angel Dust.” But somebody else mixed it. So my whole thing was, the person who did it should mix it. So Sha Money XL mixed it too. So on Special Edition, I didn’t give the real version. There’s certain songs that are a little bit different than some of the other s**t.
AllHipHop.com: But lyrically, you didn’t touch anything? This isn’t like the updated vocals on Still I Rise, is it?
Cormega: Hell no. If you loved it then, you gonna love it [now]. “Montana Diary” is the way it was. My version of “One Love,” that I wrote from jail in response to “One Love” from Nas is gonna be the way it was originally. There’s a new version of “Testament” too. Originally, when I was on Def Jam, I had to change my verse because I originally had said, “The streets raised me / Made me / Indeed, it was written, you would one day betray me.” They made me change the line. That version never came out. On the album, you’ve got [both].
AllHipHop.com: For people approaching this for the first time, this material is from ’97 mostly, or when?
Cormega: Man, it depends. Different songs were from different times. “Dead Man Walking” was done in ’95. Between ’96 to ’98 [mostly though].
AllHipHop.com: This is hypothetical, really. But is this the album the way you would’ve released it, ideally?
Cormega: Everything happened for the best because this is exactly how I wanted it. Not how the A&R or the label would’ve wanted it. If you remember, back in the day, I had a song with me and Carl Thomas called “Mega’s Gonna Hold His Own.” I’m rappin’ fast. That’s not something I would’ve wanted to do. I did that song to try and impress the label. That’s not my heart, that’s not real. And that song would’ve been on my album because I was trying to get that radio [play]. The real Cormega don’t write songs for the radio, I write for my heart. The intro is something that I really enjoy. It’s like a poem. It’s just the way I envisioned it. I played it for some people who couldn’t believe it was from the 90’s.
AllHipHop.com: Jennifer Lopez used the slogan, “This is me, then.” As you listen to older material of yourself and your stories, what’s the biggest distinction from now?
Cormega: I toned it down a little. I was very raw back then. I don’t think I’m as raw as I was. I could be, but I’m not. I think my writing has grown. The way I write now, I can touch people’s souls.
AllHipHop.com: “The Saga” changed my whole frame.
Cormega: Exactly, like “The Saga.” I touch people in certain ways. Also now, I feel like I’m on a mission. Back then, I was on some “I’m a real n***a s**t,” and that. Hip-Hop is really at a sad stage right now. I got a lot of people depending on me to be the voice of them. I feel like KRS-One and them are passin’ me the torch. They dependin’ on me to hold it down.
AllHipHop.com: Hussein Fatal is one of the few guests on the album. What brought you guys together, because I know you’re very connected to Tupac’s work?
Cormega: Fatal is just my dog. He is a sincere dude, real loyal. He’s a soldier. I was cool with him [at a time when] East coast and West coast or people affiliated with Death Row had differences with the East. He’s really true to what he believes it. He’s Piru. He’s true to it, he ain’t a fake thug.
AllHipHop.com: I bought a bootleg of this album on Canal Street a few years back. You’ve suffered from leakage. Is that a compliment or an insult in your eyes?
Cormega: It’s definitely a compliment. It’s not an insult at all. It’s just detrimental to your economic finances. There’s some artists that never get leaked. It just let me know that I had a market as an artist. That’s why, nowadays when I put out my albums, I do it real funny. There’s a bonus song. There’s people in the media that leak s**t too. The leaking s**t scares me so much. But not just that, there’s a lot of people that [bite].
AllHipHop.com: With this album at last on the shelves, where should a new Cormega fan start in the catalog?
Cormega: I look at The Testament as a retro album. But yeah, you can consider this a Cormega album.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned Sha Money XL. That’s an interesting figure because this was long before his status in G-Unit. Were you the first person to work with him?
Cormega: I was the first person he did stuff on an album on, like a known dude. He is a rare kind of person in the industry. He has a good heart. He’s not fake. To be honest with you, he just called me last night, “Yo, I got some hits for you.” He don’t even gotta call me no more. I’m independent. I’m a small-fry. He dealing with artists that sell a million in two weeks. Two of my favorite people in the industry, out of producers, is him and Buckwild. Buckwild, that brother is such a good person. Buckwild’s on 50’s album and Game’s album. It’s no coincidence that the people who keep it the realest, last the longest. Buckwild can get anything from me.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel any of this album sounds dated?
Cormega: Nope. [The] only song that sounds to me, not even dated, just old to me, is “Love is Love” song. I wrote that song more than ten years ago. You know what’s amazing to me? Some artists, they want to get a cover of a magazine. I wouldn’t mind that either. As a writer, I always wanted a [Source] Hip-Hop quotable, my whole career. I never ever ever got one. This album, I just got a quotable. For me to get a quotable for a song that was recorded in 1998, that’s just payin’ homage to my writing ability. I was so happy when they told me that. I can’t front. That’s Queenbridge and the way we write. Mobb Deep’s The Infamous, or Illmatic could come out next week. It’s not a fad.