Back in 1996, Nas was shaping up a pet project he called “The Firm”–a four-MC, one-producer project which involved Cormega. However, shortly after announcing the album, Cormega was replaced with another Queensbridge native, Nature. After being released, Mega went through more label trouble; Def Jam Records shelved his recorded debut, The Testament, made in 1997. Now, eight years after leaving the label, Mega can finally release the never-publicly-heard album which should have announced his presence in the rap game.
A lethargic piano accompanies Cormega as he recites a verse in the form of spoken-word poetry.
2) 62 Pickup
Mega is in a courtroom, about to hear his sentence; the judge asks him if he’d like to say any words, and he launches into the track. This beat was produced by Cormega himself; mostly a slow, sympathy-inducting piano. Mega’s lyrics are nice, maybe the flow not as developed but overall a good track. (Good)
3) One Love
A reply to the famous One Love track by Nas; Mega ‘writes’ back, ironically showing Nas love. The beat is nice, an aural flute over a thumping drum. Mega’s lyrics are nice; if they’re to be compared to Nas’ on the original One Love, I’d say the track is about as good. (Great)
Mega lists the ‘greatest’ aspects of life–the greatest victory, defeat, etc.
5) Angel Dust ft. Havoc
Over a slightly gothic, haunting compilation of strings, Mega spits scorching verses about himself and his street tendencies. His lyrics are sick to say the least; Hav comes on for the chorus, lending it that bleak, Mobb Deep-type feel. (Excellent)
6) Dead Man Walking
Over a bleak piano chord, Mega spits a vivid story about going against a street rival. Proof his storytelling skills can rival the best–Nas, for instance. (Great)
7) Montana Diary
Another haunting string track, done masterfully; this sounds like it was orchestrated. Mega’s lyrics over the shuffling drums are some full-out fire; clearly meant to signal the start of a rap titan. (Excellent)
A dark and disjointed piano/accordion(?) track, Cormega once again spits some great, complex lyrics. (Great)
The beat here doesn’t flow as well as the newer version; otherwise, the track is about the same.
10) Every Hood ft. Fatal Hussein
A lighter, more hopeful beat sees Cormega and then-Outlaw Fatal Hussein rhyme about connecting through hoods. Fatal’s kickoff verse is nice; so are Mega’s follow-up lyrics. The hook is okay, but mostly serves to be over quickly so Fatal and Mega can return to trading verses. (Excellent)
11) Coco Butter
Using a muted version of the same sample that AZ would later use for his song “Seems That Way” off of Final Call, Mega rhymes to a woman; he’s not at his best here, but he still manages to hold the track up; the song itself, however, sounds out-of-place on this particular album. (Decent)
12) Killaz Theme ft. Mobb Deep
This sinister, Havoc-produced soft-violin cut sees Prodigy, Cormega and Havoc rhyme some of their best verses respectively, giving it that real dark Queensbridge sound that Mobb Deep manifested at the time. A nostalgic look at what Mobb Deep once was as well as a great song in itself. (Excellent)
13) Love is Love
Using what seems to be same sample used in GZA’s Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (however used in a very different way), Mega kicks advice to a younger thug and other hoodlums about watching one’s back in the streets. (Good)
14) Dead Man Walking (Remix)
Using a revamped version of the original beat, Mega forsakes the narrative format and kicks it straight to his enemies, Friend or Foe style. (Excellent)
My Rating: 4/5
This album has already come under light fire in regards to Mega’s then-undeveloped flow. However his lyrics are still top-notch, and this solid debut album should serve as a Testament to his improvement since then and his determination to make it in the rap scene. If he’d only been able to release it when it was ready (on a major label such as Def Jam), followed by his next two acclaimed albums, maybe his career would have been a bit different.
My Recommendation: B…U…Y.