Cormega Explains Why The Realness 2 Is A True Sequel To The Original

Upon its mid-2001 arrival, Cormega’s The Realness lived up to its title. After years of waiting his turn, the MC asserted himself to step forth with a body of work that combined a passion for wisdom-drenched lyricism with a survivor’s tale of life in New York City streets and the Rap industry. The independently released album, featuring involvement from Mobb Deep, Alchemist, and others, spent two months on the Billboard 200 charts—competing and thriving with the same major label system that Cormega had overcome. Following a string of high-profile guest appearances, ‘Mega supplied the masses with uncut perspectives on relationships, Hip-Hop, and a pivotal time in the city that raised him. The statement album cultivated a devoted, international fan base that has grown alongside him ever since.

In 2022, that growth is apparent on yet another statement album. On October 7, Cormega will deliver The Realness 2 (available for pre-order). The sequel features key personnel from the original, including Havoc, Alchemist, Sha Money XL, and others, plus an incredibly significant appearance by Nas. As ‘Mega tells Ambrosia For Heads’ What’s The Headline podcast (embedded below in video and audio), he treated the notion of a sequel album with tremendous thought and care. Instead of another rapper trying to recapture who they once were, this is a man proudly displaying to the listener who he’s become. Cormega knows precisely who he is and treats this update not as a flashback but as a journey.

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There are examples on The Realness that chart Cormega’s growth and evolution. A beloved inclusion on the original, “American Beauty,” gets a stylish update on “Her Name,” which blends clever name-checking wordplay with poignant cultural commentary. On both albums, the Hip-Hop metaphor concept is found on track 2. “‘American Beauty,’ when I wrote that, I was being creative; I thought it was cool, and it meant something to me. But as the years went [by], I’ve seen how much it meant to the listeners. I’ve seen how important the song was, from going outside of myself, and looking from a different lens,” Cormega explains roughly two weeks before his LP arrives. “With this album, I wanted it to be a true sequel. I didn’t want to cheat the fans. I didn’t want to [simply call it] The Realness 2 and just give you a whole bunch of songs that have nothing to do with The Realness; that’s not consistent—especially with The Realness being so popular of an album.” The decorated MC points out that The Realness 2 was “a challenge.” He elaborates, “In making a sequel, I had to listen to some of the strong songs on that album that meant a lot to people, and carry on. Being that ‘American Beauty’ was me speaking about Hip-Hop, I had to do a sequel to that because Hip-Hop is my life. So ‘Her Name’ was born from that.” He likens the Popsyyz production to an orchestra with cinematic qualities.” “The people who admired you / No longer invest time in you / You are ungrateful / To those who helped raise you,” charges the artist, who describes a focused writing and recording regimen.

There is another update on the sequel. 2001’s “The Saga” carried the anything-but-boastful confessional lyric, “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hustling no more.” Twenty-one years later, Cormega enlisted the same producer, Big Ty, for “The Saga Resumes.” This time, ‘Mega uses the same spot in the chorus to declare, “Because of rhyming I ain’t hustling no more,” amid a song that shows contrast and evolution. “It feels like I can give somebody hope. I’m gonna tell you something: when I was young—when I was a teenager, people like Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson and them were heroes to us,” Cormega shares, standing in front of a giant Iron Mike portrait. “So were the Alpos and the Rich Porters and the Supreme Team and Supreme Magnetic—those people were iconic to me.” However, in the years since idolizing athletes and street moguls, Cormega’s worldview has broadened. “When you’re sitting on the benches in the projects, your [vision is] confined to those buildings; you don’t see past that. And once you see past that it’s, ‘Wow, there’s a whole world out here.’ So in ‘The Saga Resumes,’ it’s showing evolution, it’s showing hope, it’s showing growth, and it’s showing ‘this is realness.'” Cormega says that using the same producer on both songs added evolution and that Big Ty’s music allowed him to be as authentic as possible. “You could tell this song is related to ‘The Saga’ as soon as you hear it—instantly. It sounds like it, but it’s different. They’re in the same family.” The lyrics reflect that sentiment, evident in lines like: “This epic beat was meant for me / To bless, indeed, it’s destiny / I’m unlike you’ve ever seen / Poetically, I built legacy with sweat equity.

Cormega Releases A Dream Team Remix With AZ, Redman & Styles P (Audio)

In the 100-minute interview, Cormega also describes the impact of his new Nas collaboration and 2020’s “Full Circle” reunion with The Firm. The artist credits Large Professor’s candid opinions in crafting The Realness 2 and unpacks why a previously released concept song, “White Roses Pt 1.,” now gets a full release with an additional conceptual verse honoring Biggie Smalls and Wu-Tang Clan.

The time codes for episode #90 of the What’s The Headline podcast (with hyperlinks to skip around):

0:00 Intro
1:25 Cormega speaks on what his purpose is in music
3:44 Why it’s important for him to spread wisdom through his music
7:15 Why it was important to make The Realness 2 a true sequel to the original
9:10 Cormega shares his thoughts on the origins of Hip-Hop
15:23 The current state of Cormega’s relationship with Nas
25:30 Why artists lie in their raps
37:00 The balance between keeping it real and snitching on yourself in music
45:00 His evolution as an artist and a man
48:00 The biggest challenge Cormega has overcome
53:50 Some of the biggest distractions Cormega sees in the world
58:20 Working with Large Professor, Sha Money XL, Havoc, Alchemist, Harry Fraud, Streetrunner, Domingo and more as producers on the album
1:06:35 Cormega speaks about things people should be questioning in life
1:09:40 Why Kanye West and others inspire him
1:16:20 Cormega on why innovators are often met with resistance
1:19:00 Why there was no other choice but Biggie and Wu-Tang Clan for him to celebrate on “White Roses”
1:27:00 What success means to Cormega
1:30:45 Why Rod Strickland, Patrick Ewing and Bernard King could have beaten the ’90s Chicago Bulls
1:33:00 On doing wrong to get right

Cormega Makes Yet Another Industry Remix, With Inspectah Deck, Roc Marciano & Brand Nubian (Audio)

AFH readers can catch regular discussions about the culture on our What’s The Headline. In addition to Cormega, the podcast also features interviews with Meyhem Lauren & Daringer, Diamond D, Joell Ortiz, AZ, Blu & Mickey Factz, Kurupt, Evidence, Skyzoo, Pharoahe Monch, Prince Paul & Don Newkirk, Statik Selektah, Lyric Jones, The LOX, MC Eiht, Havoc, Duckwrth, photographer T. Eric Monroe, and Lord Finesse.

Horizontal press photo on the AFH homepage by Dove Clark.

#BonusBeat: Cormega’s Havoc-produced “Essential,” the lead single  from The Realness 2: