Cormega Hustler/Rapper

Before Nas got into verbal fisticuffs with Jay-Z, he was duelling with former friend Cormega, whom he shouted out on the eloquent prison letter "One Love," from his seminal Illmatic album. Their relationship went off the rails after Cormega bristled at the Mafioso imagery of the Firm, a group he'd been invited to join on his release. Ever since that ill-fated venture, the two have been trading lyrical missives. Many of those freestyles, notably "Poetry" and "Realmatic," make their way onto Hustler/Rapper, which is really a patchwork compilation of Cormega material from "unreleased classics, collabos and freestyles" from mix tapes and unreleased material from the Def Jam vaults culled from his never-released project. Cormega had already began emerging out of Nas's shadow with last year's well-received full-length The Realness, and Hustler/Rapper is really a tool to maintain his visibility while his new record is almost ready to drop. While the sloppy cut and paste approach of this release sounds like it was put together by someone burning their first mix CD, appearances by Mobb Deep and Big Pun and, ironically enough, Nas makes things interesting, but overall the end result is uneven. It's a shame the presentation and execution of the record is lacking, as Cormega's "no holds barred" street fables are unmistakably authentic, unlike many studio gangster fantasies, and his hunger and passion on the mic is tangible. While there is some good material here, you might be better off tracking down The Realness, or holding out for his new full-length, which will be dropping very soon. (Body Shop)