CD Release - Home away from home

Atlanta is Cormega's hideaway

"I love Atlanta!" says Cormega. "I like to go to MLK — that's the 'hood part. I like to go to Flying Biscuit."

Cormega likes vacationing in Atlanta, but he only spends a month here; his home is in Queens, N.Y. In fact, Cormega comes from a generation of Queensbridge street artists. He and his contemporaries Nas, Nature, Mobb Deep, all of whom emerged in the '90s during the waning years of the crack era, exemplify some of the best street rap in hip-hop culture. His 2001 debut, The Realness, is widely considered an underground classic.

"Queensbridge is a little like Detroit was to soul in the '60s. It's an integral part of hip-hop," Cormega says. "The style, the artistry and the slang that we use is unique."

Cormega's new project is Who Am I?, a DVD and soundtrack. Like his best work, the DVD is simple and elegant. It's full of handheld-camcorder shots and includes scenes such as his baby shower, a tour of the Queensbridge projects, and Cormega playing video games with a friend. While it could have used a bit of editing (the documentary lasts well more than an hour), Who Am I?'s unpretentious ordinariness powerfully reflects his strengths as an artist, and you see how his world and the locales he moves through inspire his music.

"The DVD basically follows me around from 2001 to 2005, and it's basically an insight on me as a person," he says. Meanwhile, the soundtrack features collaborations with Little Brother ("The Rap Game"), Dwele ("Sleep Well"), Styles from the Lox ("Use Mad Clips") and others.

"I don't make songs for hits. I don't try to make hit records. I try to make hard records. I try to make records you can feel, and that are going to last. That's hip-hop right there."