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Legal Hustle

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Album Review

Ever since Cormega made his debut splash in 1996 on "Affirmative Action" alongside his Queensbridge colleagues Nas, AZ, and Foxy Brown, the well-spoken rapper went through a lot of ups and downs. Legal Hustle, his third solo album, is certainly one of his high points. It dropped in the wake of two critically well-received albums — The Realness (2001) and The True Meaning (2002) — and represents a step forward for Cormega. The increasingly enterprising rapper ropes in some backup help after handling his first two albums largely solo. Most notably, he introduces Doña, a Foxy Brown-without-the-bling MC who graces four tracks here, and he collaborates with a number of other rappers: M.O.P. ("Let It Go"), Tony Touch ("Hoody"), Ghostface ("Tony/Montana"), Kurupt and Jayo Felony ("Deep Blue Sea"), AZ ("Redemption"), Large Professor ("Sugar Ray and Hearns"), and more. It's an impressive guest list and makes Legal Hustle largely a group effort. In fact, not counting the intro, there are only two solo tracks here — very much contrary to past albums. And those two solo tracks happen to be standouts: "Beautiful Mind" kicks off the album with a touching self-production that wonderfully appropriates the piano riff from Marley Marl's classic "Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz," while "Bring It Back" is a heartfelt hip-hop homage à la "American Beauty" from The Realness. These tracks, along with "Let It Go," "The Bond," and "Monster's Ball," are among Cormega's best to date. These standouts and the numerous guest appearances aside, Legal Hustle isn't nearly as solid as Cormega's past two albums. It feels thrown together at times because of the collaborative emphasis.


Born: Queens, NY

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

An underground and critical favorite, 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 grew up in the same Queensbridge housing projects that were home to a generation of rappers, most notably Nas, Mobb Deep, AZ, and Tragedy Khadafi, and a previous generation...
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Legal Hustle, Cormega
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