RapReviews DVD Reviews

[Who Am I?] Cormega: Who Am I?
Legal Hustle Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

A month ago I had the pleasure of reviewing the Cormega "Who Am I Soundtrack," an album which had only one obvious flaw - not enough of Cormega himself on it! Equally obvious was the question one can put forward here - if "Who Am I" was the soundtrack to a movie WHERE is the movie it came from? In fairness it was never the intention of Legal Hustle Records or their publicity firm for these two items to be reviewed seperately. A combination of manufacturing and distribution issues caused a major snafu, and when I finally got this DVD in the mail it came packed into a double-disc tray with ANOTHER copy of the soundtrack - the two together as they were meant to be all along. It would be redundant to review the music portion again but it would be equally remiss of me to not suggest you read both reviews together; so if you haven't already checked out the soundtrack review yet please do so right before or right after finishing this video review.

Our presentation opens with no preamble straight to a menu framed by a non-descript brick facade, the kind you might find in any bathroom at a concert hall, with the accompanying wall scrawl. The most prominent among all the notes is a large tribute reading "R.I.P. Spanky; We Love You." A simple but pleasant loop with one prominent piano stab plays in the background, but you won't linger here long to listen to it as the only two options are "Play Movie" and "Scene Selection." Time to push play and jump into the fray! After a countdown from 8 to 1 we see some grainy black and white footage of the Queensbridge Housing Projects. As digitally inserted "splicing" effects flash over the montage of New York views, we eventually reach two title screens - THIS IS MY LIFE and THIS IS WHO I AM. Good - I might have accidentally forgot I was watching Cormega's DVD and mistaken this for "Sideways." Our next shot is in full color and it's of a gravestone reading "Edsel T. Tisdale: May 5, 1974 - Oct. 29, 2000. Rest In Peace." Our narrator is 'Mega himself and he tells us it's funny how sometimes death can bring forth life. "The Realness" was the album he recorded after his friend's death, one which he also dedicated to his memory.

Without much explanation the DVD immediately jumps to a basketball game with live hip-hop DJ mixing, which gives you the impression it's one of those charity or celebrity events. The MC of the event sounds a lot like RZA and unless I'm wrong that's 'Mega showing off his skills on the court. The press release accompanying the DVD offers a slightly better explanation of what's going on here - the footage is a four year documentary of Cormega's life from 2001-2005. That's vaguely helpful but if it is a documentary I'd appreciate some captions or on-screen graphics stating the date, time and place of events being seen and no doubt buyers of the DVD & soundtrack would too. For what it's worth the music in the background is M.O.P.'s "Ante Up." The first caption we get of any kind is on a chubby-cheeked man with glasses who is simply noted as "BIZ," and his last name is definitely not Markie. Biz appears to be Cormega's partner in Legal Hustle who helped him put "The Realness" out in stores.

A video for the track "R U My Nigga?" follows. It's an unexpected and pleasant surprise, and fairly well shot and edited for what must have been a razor thin budget. That being said the script for the video plays as though it's the opening for a generic Law & Order episode, with two hoods robbing the corner store, and when the video ends with cops and investigators swarming the crime scene I'm left wondering the point. Cormega's song is about loyalty and trust, but we don't know if one of the two hoods ratted the other out to the cops, or if one gave the other "a place to hide" when facing time as is said in the song. I really expected Lennie Briscoe to walk in the store and start making wisecracks but much like Cormega's man Blue whose gravestone opened the video, God bless the dead R.I.P. to Jerry Orbach. 'Mega brags about how they couldn't keep "The Realness" in stores, stocks were constantly running out, and then another video interrupts his analysis of moving units - "Get Out My Way." This one plays like an old school DMX video full of people pulling stunts or motorcycles and mean mugging in the streets. To say I'm not enjoying the videos would be a lie, but that's largely on the strength of Cormega's beats and rhymes and seeing him deliver them charismatically for the camera. Beyond that I'm left confused why on what is ostensibly billed as a documentary about his life we've spent most of the first 12 minutes watching paint by the numbers hip-hop videos from six years ago.

Finally 'Mega gets a little more personal in the presentation, noting that his mom died when he was young, and that he was raised by his father and stepmother. "Family life - I can't even explain it, I don't know. I don't want my daughter's life to be like mines, put it like that, y'knahmsayin? [...] My pops wasn't there as much as he could have been." He talks about the different places they had to live growing up, and occasionally two dudes (never named or acknowledged - just random family affiliates I guess) opine what they thought about Cormega's life growing up was like. The fades from people speaking to family photos are smoothly transitioned, but like everything else in this documentary who is in the photos is not explained. He talks about how Far Rockaway took his innocence, how he had never been jumped or seen a crack vial before that. Some mushmouth wearing a Colts hat offers his own take on the project drug life before turning things over to a much more articulate brother in a white tee. Next we see Cormega signing autographs and then mushmouth comes back. Apparently they're on location for a music video, which includes talking to fans and extras, answering a million questions, and driving around looking for places to shoot.

Before we go any further on this I've got to break in with some technical info that just about made me lose my damn mind. This DVD & soundtrack combo packaging focuses almost entirely on the soundtrack portion, listing only the tracks on the CD and the usual label information. That's not what made me flip - I'm used to a lack of relevant details on or within this DVD by now. I bugged out when I decided to take matters into my own hands and hit "info" on the DVD remote only to find I was twenty minutes into a DVD that's THREE HOURS AND FORTY-FOUR MINUTES LONG (and 47 muh'fuckin seconds). I had to do a double take and check the info again to make sure I hadn't lost my damn mind. I've watched and reviewed a lot of DVD's for this website - movies, documentaries, music video compilations and what have you. I've questioned a few for being poorly put together or too short in length, but I can't recall ever watching one that clocked in at a heavyweight amount of being nearly four hours long!!!

Bless my soul, you can't say Cormega isn't giving people value for the money by packaging this CD and DVD together - that's five hours of audio and video content combined. Okay now that I've complimented dunn on providing bang for the buck, seriously Cormega, WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING? Maybe if I watched one hour a day for the next four days I could get through this whole thing but I've got a whole pile of DVD's here to review and 'Mega Montana was just one of them. Furthermore I have a hard enough time sitting through a 150+ minute movie like "Superman Returns," but at least that film was well enough edited and directed that even someone who had never seen a single Superman film would know who all the major characters were in it and what the fuck was going on. "Who Am I?" doesn't do us the courtesy. I'm sure it's impressive that they managed to winnow down four years of Cormega's life to four hours, but judging by a lot of the material here they needed a more brutal editor to leave another half of this on the cutting room floor. Barring that they could have at least split this up into two DVD's, or at the very least, laid a better foundation as to who all of Cormega's friends and affiliates are on this documentary. No doubt they're all great people and he owes a debt of gratitude to each one, but that's what shoutouts and thank yous in CD liner notes are for - not all of them are interesting or important enough for me to sit on my couch and watch hour after hour after hour. I don't have enough time, popcorn or caffeine to get through all of this. Let me just pick out a few highlights you can skip ahead to if you pick this set up.

  • 0:23:40 - music video for "The True Meaning"
  • 0:29:15 - music video for "Live Ya Life"
  • 0:32:17 - random folks give 'Mega props including Nature & Ron Artest
  • 0:53:11 - Cormega discusses the pitfalls of friendship
  • 1:03:58 - 'Mega shops for wears at the Mitchell & Ness store
  • 1:22:28 - a montage of crime footage that SHOULD have opened a music video
  • 2:03:47 - Kurupt describes a wild scene the night he met 'Mega
  • 2:07:40 - a carriage ridge negotiation with big stacks of money ensues
  • 2:25:55 - Cormega meets PMD and discusses dropping multiple classics
  • 2:49:08 - 'Mega talks about how The Firm was brought together
  • 3:08:47 - the necessity to form Legal Hustle is revealed
  • 3:11:33 - the second annual Underground Music Awards
  • 3:17:34 - stopping by "The Everything Cafe" for a bite to eat
  • 3:32:38 - going to Benny's to cop some jewelry
  • 3:35:55 - Cormega performs live
That's 61 chapters right there. I wasn't fucking kidding - nearly four hours of material. I hope this is the only time I ever have to down a rapper for having TOO MUCH MATERIAL on his DVD, but "Who Am I?" is a lot of fucking shit to swallow. Even if the videos and live performances had been seperated out and put as bonus footage, the main feature would still be three hours, and that's at least one hour too long. I thought I was a hardcore Cormega fan before this DVD but enough is too much. A message to all rappers doing vanity projects or documentary DVD's for their fans - get a better editor, cut that footage down to a reasonable length, and don't assume we know every single dude you're friends with who shows up on camera. A lot of this shit seems self-explanatory to me but apparently nobody at Legal Hustle thought this through before putting a DVD out. That's a damn shame since this combo bloats an album that in retrospect might have been better off if issued on its own.

Content: 8 of 10 Layout: 2 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5 of 10

Originally posted: December 4, 2007
source: www.RapReviews.com

© Copyright 2006 RapReviews.com, Flash Web Design Exclusive