I was recently given the opportunity to interview one of my favourite MC’s, Queensbridge veteran Cormega. In lead up to sending through the interview I built upon what I already knew of his career by reading and listening to a bunch of his interviews, I didn’t want to ask too many questions he’d been asked in the past, anything to do with Nas for example. Unfortunately a few questions weren’t answered. I was interested to know more about his history and early appearances with Poet and DJ Hotday (PHD), I was also interested to know more about his QB Crew The Goodfellaz which consisted – to my knowledge – of names like Lakey the Kid and Worm.. While also building upon where he’s at as an artist today. What came back is what was answered, maybe I caught him on a busy day but I’m grateful for the opportunity regardless.
Thanks heaps to Trav from OzhiphopShop for putting the connect together, be sure to support his movement as he’s helped support ours. The intro to the interview was written by a dude named Rips.
For what had started as a kid in the hallways of a Nas storyline, Cormega has grown a notoriety as one of the most-revered emcees out of 41st Side and Vernon of Queensbridge, New York. Despite his independent career having been met with great adversary, twenty years after Cormega’s release he has stayed true-to-form and triumphed along the way with some well-regarded records, The Realness and True Meaning. For a rapper Marley Marl had once referred to as the ‘original gangsta rapper of Queensbridge’, Cormega regards himself a veteran of hip-hop. After long-service leave, his 2015 album, Megaphilosphy marks a return to fold for the rapper and, for the first time, is bringing his steez to every capital city down-under which opens up in Melbourne, September 25.
Before the arrival of one of QB’s finest, a purist of the art of rap who has always upheld the traditions of a microphone fiend, we decided to let one of our own emcees, Jake-Biz from Bris-Bang’s Karsniogenics label and one of the formidable few of the 750 Rebels to ask Mega anything and everything about the what-could-have-beens and look-backs at the commercially-underrated career of an incredibly-talented MC. Never shy to tackle the business-side of his business, Mega chopping-up with Jake Biz resulted in a frank and concise exchange of realness between two true heads of hip-hop.
JAKE BIZ – Your first album The Testament was shelved by Def Jam in the 90’s and didn’t see a release until the early 2000’s. How was your experience as a signed artist on hip hop’s preeminent label?
CORMEGA – Being on DEF JAM was a learning experience and introduced me to the industry.
You predate 50 Cent as one of the early artists to use mixtapes as a promotional tool but you rarely receive the credit. Was that the early inspiration for Legal Hustle and your independent grind?
I was definitely the first to utilize mixtapes as marketing schemes and also as a determiner of where I stood with the public.
The Realness and True Meaning could almost be viewed as companion pieces and are both clear, fan-favourites. Do you ever feel the pressure from fans and the public to recreate that early success?
Realness and True Meaning are definitely albums I aspire to equal or exceed every time I make an album.
You’ve shown immeasurable growth over the course of your career and you’ve never hesitated to cite peers such as Chuck D, Slick Rick and the Juice Crew for that, how have you managed to stay a fan of the game and not seem as jaded as other MCs from your era?
I love what I do and understand it is a blessing to be in my position as an artist plus I respect the foundation.
The chemistry you share with Large Professor is unquestionable and your latest album Megaphilosophy is a testament to that and you’ve also worked together in the past. How did the process of making a whole project together differ from getting single tracks from individual producers?
Working with LP is a challenge but when challenges are met you find out who you really are.
‘Industry’ (and its subsequent remixes) is one of the most profound statements in hip-hop from the last five years! In a time where digital reigns supreme and CDs are essentially obsolete do you think the recording industry could ever regroup and see the immense profit it saw throughout the 90s?
The industry will always find a new way to return like a villain in a superhero movie.
You’re a known sneaker head, do you still get out and cop on release day or has hype-beasting seen your interest diminish?
I love sneakers but I’m not a hype-beast and luckily I have some cool friends at Puma and New Balance. I really don’t wear Nike anymore until I see them show more respect to the black consumer who, by-the-way, kept them from going out of business.
Can’t wait to see you here in Australia. Thanks for your time!
– Jake Biz(750 Rebels/Karsniogenics)
You can catch Cormega on his massive upcoming Australian tour that kicks off September 25th in Melbourne
Unless it’s The Godfather II, i’m not much for sequels.
In the sport that is rap music i’ve come to the conclusion that sequels are what rappers do in a vain attempt at reclaiming some form of past glory in an era where music sales are at an all time low, one last moment in an otherwise dimming spotlight. Fat Joe, CNN, Red & Meth, Jay-Z and far too many others have all dropped sub-par sequels to one of their classic recordings. Off the top, the only sequels that i can think of that worked were Raekwon’s OB4CL2 and Prodigy’s HNIC2 and in saying that, i don’t think Cuban Links 2 was exactly what everyone hyped it to be, it was good but a classic?! Nas’ Stillmatic probably deserves a mention also but only time can define a classic so we’ll wait and see…
Now, to the contrary. The possibility of a sequel to Cormega and Tragedy’s timeless track “They Forced My Hand” pricked my ears up when i caught this video last night, the reason for that being that in 2014 i don’t think either QB veteran has been sharper with their pen. Tragedy’s been dropping heatrock after heatrock in the lead up to Magnum Opus and you already know how dope Mega Philosophy is from earlier this year. A Mega and Trag collab is always a welcome thing in whatever form but a sequel to “They Forced My Hand”, if handled by the right producer, could be a very good look for two incredibly sharp MC’s known for reflective and emotive music.
Til then let’s just keep our fingers crossed and hope that Ghost never drops that Supreme Clientele 2 he’s been promising for the past couple years. I’d hate to see another album’s legacy tarnished by a shoddy, inconsistent follow-up.
Here’s “They Forced My Hand” for those that don’t know what the fuck it is that i been talkin ’bout.
Back in 2011 (seems so long ago), with some solid savings and life presenting one of its many opportunities, I did what many before me have done, that being ‘the pilgrimage’ to the the worlds capital city, the mecca, the birth place of Hip-Hip culture (New York City).
Me and the wizz snagged a short stay apartment in the LES Manhattan, immersed and embraced every aspect of being a mother fucking New Yorkers for a month; from getting to know my local pizza pie chef for the daily $2 slice of chicken and broccoli to pissing it up with the Rican’s at 2am fiendin’ that beef, beans and rice with the hot sauce from a truck on a stinking side walk of Brooklyn.
Story’s are many from that trip albeit, one that I’ll take the grave that’s worth sharing was the time Queens took over Tammany Hall in Manhattan for an barrage of unadulterated hip-hop for the Large Professor/Neek the Exotic – Still on Hustle release Party.
If I remember correctly, Sunday night I was briefly trawling the webs for live venues and found the upcoming shows for Tammany Hall page. I lost my shit when I noticed one of the greatest MC/Producers was going to be hitting the stage the next following me reading this. The adrenaline started pumping with fan boy excitement right there and then. I said to the Mrs we’re going to this shit and we’re rocking up for door entry EARLY!!
Monday night, I knocked back a few 40z colts back at the apartment as you do and deliberated whether or not I should take the DSLR and flash (glad I did). We turn up to the venue at 8pm on the button and not a single person in sight other than a fuck off sized bouncer who ushered us in to the stub bitch where we paid $20 each for entry into a intimate venue. The flyer stated ‘show at 9pm’ but being foreign to shows in NYC I figured we best be early with this line up and it’ll give us time to get slightly marinated and check my camera etc..
About 45 minutes passed, I’m pretty pissy and I’m thinking what the fucks going on, there was all of about 15 people in the spot!?, “yeah it’s Monday but this aint Brisbane!! this is meant to be the fucking city that never sleeps” I said to my Mrs. Went outside for a bit of polluted air to see if there were more out front…fuck all people however, I met a guy from LA and after he hands me his business card and I tell him my name and business we realised that we did some business together a few years back (small world eh). We talk some shit, I get some fanboy photos with all the mad Queens rappers etc…Head back in and notice a few more heads have filled the venue out but probably only 30-40 max in the spot. Walking to the bar to get my last drink before shit kicked off, I was greeted by the towering Mayhem Laurenavich who says “what’s good” and hands me his CD…Sick cunt!
Finally the the show kicks off with Mayhem and J-Love warming things up. Few dudes behind me were baggin and booin J-Love. Granted he’s not the best rapper but he go alright live and I gotta respect the part he played in Mega’s ‘The Realness’.
General Steele, Graig G, Mr Cheeks, Cormega, Royal Flush, J-Love, Mic Geronimo all blessed the stage dropping in an out for some freestyle bars. No show of Trag and JuJu who were on the flyer but that was made up by the underboss, Lord Finesse grabbing the mic from behind the decks and dropped a gem of a verse.
Extra P and Neek went in and killed their new joints from Still on the Hustle, mad hype energy and crowd control! After their set was done and dusted, Cappadonna appears ended the night with back to back bars, blacking out in a chipher side of stage surrounded by performers and crowd.
What a fucking cracker of a night, seeing these dudes on home turf was truly amazing and something I’ll hold very close. Was like some VIP party shit. Below are a couple of photos I took from the evening along with a video I found on You Tube.
If you have the opportunity to travel to NYC..DO IT!
“What up with Cormega did ya see him are ya’ll together?’ questioned God’s Son some 20 years ago on his now classic tale, One Love. Much has happened for Cormega over that course of time (including a well publicised spat with his aforementioned buddy from The Bridge) but one thing has remained consistent, Mega’s constant growth as a poet and more importantly as a person.
Mega Philosophy is Mega’s fifth studio album (sixth if you include that last joint Raw Forever) and comparing it to the “The Realness” is to do it a disservice. It’s growth, it’s evolution and it’s an album full of Large Professor beats! I won’t break this down for you song by song but if you aint messing with Queens New York then you aint messing with this. Mega Philosophy appeals to those of us that watched the evolution of Mega and while we all hope on The Realness 2, if you’re truly a Cormega fan, you know thats never going to happen.
Just like Nas, you can see that Mega is a fan of hip hop! It’s hard not to compare the two artists when their careers draw so many parallels. Another one of Mega and Nas’ QB buddies shows up for festivities on track six, D.U. (Divine Unity) see’s Nature putting in his best performance in years over some HUGE Extra P drums with swing. Track three, Industry, is a standout in my books. A haunting vocal with some jazzy keys is the bed for Mega to further explain major label slavery and the fuckery at that level. Far from being the newest concept in rap – Tribe told us about rule #4080 well over twenty years ago – its all in Cormega’s delivery and angle, it’s explained poetically and politically but in the simplest possible terms. It’s tracks of this calibre that sum up the album.
After the initial impact of listening to Mega, AZ, Redman and Styles P spitting side by side on the dream team edition of “M.A.R.S.”, you come to realise it’s just four verses on a beat. Four pretty fuckin good verses but nevertheless a posse cut. “Honorable” with Raekwon is dope but I heard it a year ago and I’m not a huge fan of chicks singing choruses and hooks so i wasn’t wild about that element of the album either. But they’re all largely cosmetic gripes and now that i think is about it, that “M.A.R.S.” posse cut is sick, it shits on the first one with Roc Marc, Action Bronson and Saigon, that one felt a little disjointed (Saigon?!?!) but the dream team edition kills that. With Extra P at the boards you know this is a very post 90’s album but for me thats generally a positive thing especially when considering how audiophonically Mega and Large compliment each other (pause) on wax.
Although clocking in at only 33 minutes it feels like it’s over before it begins, kinda short for something we’d waited such a long time for. Mega Philosophy is the continued evolution of Corey, i use the term evolution because Mega has never shown anything other than growth. His stream of conscious flow is as sharp as ever over the course of the albums 33 minutes and his message is never anything less than the upliftment of his people. Rather than the well worn formula of drug deals and street life that Mega hasn’t had any personal involvement with in more than twenty years, you get an honest heart on the sleeve approach from an artist lamenting past decisions, trying to raise his seeds and learning to adapt to a world that doesn’t entirely respect the young black male.
This isn’t simply Queensbridge rap, this is New York hip hop in the vein of Illmatic. It’s fluid, poetic and at times intuitive in its scope while also being largely boom-bap oriented. Its jam packed with a thoughtful braggadoccio that only a human of Cormega’s calibre and development could deliver. This is a must have for 2014 but if you’re a fan you’d already know that.
Peep the video for “Industry” below. Also, ignore the peculiar Amish hat that Mega is wearing, it can detract from the song. In years to come we’ll look back on this horrendous headpiece as we do some of Big Daddy Kane’s less than graceful forays within the world of fashion and style.
Cormega – “Industry”