The struggle between artistic growth and keeping the listener’s happy is a delicate balance for any musician, even more so in the ever-fickle rap world. Do you keep making remaking the same songs that got you fans in the first place or try and test the limits of your abilities by stepping outside your comfort zone? Cormega has never been afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, and even though he fills many of the tracks on Born and Raised with personal sentiment there’s no need for alarm – this isn’t some emo rap shit. Mega just spills it how he sees fit.
The first thing that impresses about this project is the cohesiveness of the overall sound. This actually feels like an real album, constructed with a unified vision and theme behind it, rather than some random collection of tracks to skip through. Take a look at the production line-up as well – minus Lord Finesse, Puffy and Q-Tip, Cormega has managed to assemble the same beat-smith’s that created the classic sounds of Ready To Die and Illmatic. DJ Premier, L.E.S., Pete Rock, Buckwild, Easy Moe Bee,
Havoc and Large Professor all contribute, in addition to Fizzy Womack, Nottz, D.R. Period and Ayatollah. On paper, that’s an unbeatable team, right? The good news is pretty much everyone comes through in the clutch. While previous Montana projects have suffered from some patchy beats amongst the gems and the occasional awkward moment in his delivery, he seems to have perfected the formula this time around and doesn’t let a moment go to waste.
In the past, Mega often fed off the energy of his guests, and the same applies here. The rowdy ‘Get It In’ with Lil’ Fame continues the winning chemistry of their previous team-up ‘718’, while ‘Love Your Family’ with Havoc manages to come-off sincere without falling into corny melodrama, and ‘Mega Fresh X’ reveals the fan in Cory as he let’s some of his old favorites get shine in the booth. But it’s ‘Define Yourself’ that proves to be the true declaration of dominance here, as Cor’s old rhyme partner Tragedy delivers another classic sermon and Hav seals the deal with a suitable no-frills approach. On the rest of the record, Montana blends conventional street wisdom with life lessons he’s learned since he adopted the legal hustle, but doesn’t neglect some boats of traditional brag rap and ragging on the comp. When Mega announces that “I’m no longer seeking acceptance from people who aren’t feeling me/or squeezing my weapon for those who aren’t as real as me” it’s clear that we’re listening to an MC who not bowing to the demands of record labels, radio or even his own fans – he knows what the fuck he’s doing at this point, and with his third official solo album he’s finally manged to get all the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place and create the album that we always knew he was capable of. It’s too soon to call, but Born and Raised might just prove to be a modern-day classic.
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