Like life, the rap game is not fair.
Legends like 2pac, Biggie, Big L, Big Pun and Eazy-E die over bullshit, far from reaching full potential, while unique talents and potential game changers like Lil Boosie and Max B waste away in prison.
One can only speculate what Cormega’s role had been among his peers during that golden age of New York hiphop, had he recorded and released music instead of being locked away in prison between the years 1992 and 1997.
This interview took place in Stockholm, the day after his show in early may this year. A shorter version was published in the Swedish union paper Arbetaren. This is the uncut interview.
Shouts to Ricardo and Hugo. Questions by @brytburken and @alabama187.
“Is the Mega Philosophy album going to be entirely produced by Large Professor?
Yeah, all the way through. Batman and Robin.
Is Large Professor rhyming on it?
He really doesn’t want to, but I might get him to rhyme. I was considering using a remix that we did two years ago, but I want everything to be new.
Can you tell us about the other guests?
There’s a song with me and Nature. There’s a song with me and M.A.R.S., but not the M.A.R.S. you have heard. I won’t say it in an interview, just keep it as a surprise. A new constellation! There’s another song with Saigon rapping on it, but it’s not finished, because I’m going to reach out to a few other people to get on the song. It’s a song about the struggles in America, how America treats the minorities; the black people, the Latin people. We’re talking about how we’re different from how they stereotype us. Saigon did a verse, and I’ll try to get a legend from the nineties or the eighties. I’d love to have Chuck D talk on there, or somebody of that caliber. Right now that’s up in the air. That’s not solidified. I don’t want it to be a bunch of guest appearances, because you know how Cormega albums are; I like to carry them on my own.
You thought of bringing some Latin rapper on there?
Last year I did a song with Pun’s son, and he’s Latin as we all know. Did you ever hear the Legal Hustle album? Do you remember Doña? She’s Puerto Rican. I take artists and producers as they are. I don’t care what you are. If you’re Chinese, white, black, purple, I don’t care. I work with whoever. If it’s dope, it’s dope. I don’t work with people by their resume either. A lot of artists in America fuck up because they work with you by your resume. In other words, they’re going to take your track just because you’re a hot producer, even thought the track you give them might be bullshit. They’re so happy just to have a track from you, to have your name on their project. I don’t do that shit. If you’re a hot producer but the track you give me is wack, I’m not going to use it.
Has Doña stopped doing music?
She had a baby a few years ago. She just needs to get focused. I told her: when you’re ready, write a song explaining to the people where you was, and what happened, and we’ll take it from there.
She was raw.
Yeah, she was very raw.
On the subject of Latin rappers… you knew Big Pun?
You never heard that song we have together? Pun was my guy. He was a good dude. I was in Pun’s biggest video, Still Not A Player. I did a lot of shows with him. We did shows together in Riker’s Island for the inmates. We did shows out of town together. Pun was a good dude. He was a real MC. I don’t just mean that he was talented. A real MC is excited about rhymes. He’ll see you, and he wants to do a cypher, or hear some shit. He was a good dude. I’m glad I knew him.
How is it going with Legal Hustle 2?
It’s on stand still at the moment. The priority is Mega Philosophy, but there are songs done for Legal Hustle 2 already. The way I’m doing stuff is… say I want you to be on Legal Hustle 2 and I send you the beat, and you knock out your verse already – that makes my job easier. There were songs being done simultaneously while I was doing this. But I do have some songs done. It’s going to be easier to finish that, so look forward to that. Craig G is going to be on there. There’s going to be a lot of Queensbridge on there. I was going to do a Queensbridge project, and then I said, you know what? I might as well throw all that shit on Legal Hustle 2. I’m waiting on a verse from The Jacka. I definitely want to put a song on there with some of the new artists that are coming out that I respect. That was one of my ideas. I have one song where it’s going to be a whole bunch of artists that you’re not going to be familiar with. So it’s like giving the new guys a chance of having their cypher. I might still do Legal Hustle 2 this year, but the main focus is Mega Philosophy. That shit needs its own space.
Are you planning videos for that project?
Definitely. Especially for the song with the minorities issues, because there’s so much shit going on in America. I’m pretty sure you heard about the kid who got killed for wearing a hoodie. Stuff like that happens all the time. The other day I was on the phone, standing near the stairs of a train station, just standing there. And a cop was like – come here. I’m like: Are you fucking serious? for what? He’s like: You’re standing near the stairs, and people have to walk around you. As the cop was talking to me, he asked if I ever had been in trouble with the law. That is irrelevant to the situation at hand. Even if I have gotten in trouble before, that has nothing to do with now. I’m a productive person now. I do good things, I do community stuff now. What I did in the past means nothing. So you’re using something that’s not even a crime as an excuse to profile me. That’s what they do a lot. That song, I want it to be really visual. I definitely want to make a video and point the finger at what’s going on.
Do you consider yourself a political rapper?
I’ve never looked at myself as a political rapper, but as of lately I’ve been more open to doing music like that. The other day I did a verse for Public Enemy’s album. If that makes the album I’ll be really happy. That’ll be a big accomplishment for me. It’s obviously a politically charged song. I do give you a political view, and a street view too. But my country is a complex country. A lot of times when you begin to speak out on things you become a target. A lot of our most prolific speakers end up dying for some reason. A part of me knows that if I go full into that, I’ll become a target. Not just because I’m talking, but because I’m credible. One thing that I have that a lot of activists don’t have is street credibility, because they know that I’ve been where they’ve been. And then I speak with intelligence, so educated people will listen to me. So when I’m able to galvanize all these people, that’s a problem. I have to be careful, or there won’t be no more me, and you’ll be like: I remember I interviewed Cormega…
Are people targeting artists like Dead Prez and Immortal Technique?
I can’t really comment on Dead Prez, but Technique told me some interesting stories. I don’t know who it was, but it was definitely scary. Stic Man from Dead Prez, for my song about Haiti. Immortal Technique sent a verse too, but he sent it late. Maybe I’ll remix that song and put it on Legal Hustle 2.
You’re a rapper that never sold the most records, but you’re often mentioned by younger artists, like with Lil B and Main Attrakionz, and a grime artist from England I interviewed said you and Tragedy Khadafi were her favourite rappers…
That’s beautiful, that’s humbling for me. I was not used to accolades and credit. For years I rapped with a chip on my shoulder, because I guess when I was on Def Jam they had me on the shelf, and my album didn’t come out as it was supposed to come out. All these years I felt like I had to prove myself. So I guess all those years of working hard is starting to pay off, and starting to resonate with the newer audience. And now it surprises me. Last year I cried at a show, I got so much fucking love. Last year in Boston. It was crazy. I realized I had arrived. Last year was 2011, and my first album came out in 2001, Tha Realness. Damn, here I am, ten years. Boston is were I started, my first album came out through Landspeed, which is close to Boston. So here I am ten years later, I’m standing on stage and the crowd is going crazy. I started thinking, damn; the roads that I’ve travelled, the underdog, the underrated, the blacklisted, people not wanting to give me my credit, people trying to stop me from shining, and the friends that I’ve lost on that journey and how far I’ve come, and the crowd just… “Mega! Mega! Mega! Mega!”. It was emotional. Now I’ve got young artists that relate to me. Baby Pun, his favourite song is the song his father did with me. My friend told me that, and I told him me to come to the studio, and that’s why he’s on the album. And Lil B was like: “I look up to you, you’re like a don…” I talk to him on the phone sometimes and give him advice. A brother named Brigante from the Bronx, he’s a dope freestyle artists. He’s on TV, and he’s like: “Mega”.
What do you think is the appeal, for these rappers from all over the map to embrace you?
If I knew the answer I would put it in a bottle. I really don’t. I think the difference between me and a lot of rappers is that I give you the truth. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable. A lot of people tell me that my music is emotional. I never looked at it like that. A lot of people tell me that their music helped them get through something.
If you look back at your albums, to me there is a big change in your style and subject matter. Have there been a specific moment or experience that made you want to change?
I think the old Mega was a good reflection of what I was going through at that period of my life, and I think the new Mega is a good reflection of how my life is now. My older music is so fucking graphic. I used a lot of profanity. As dope as an artist I was back then, I was one dimensional. I was street, “keep it real”. As I look back at it now, I see that I’m way more rounded as an artist now. I can rap about anything now, as opposed to just being a street guy. I think growth is essential as an artist. I think every great artist grows, because if you don’t grow, you become redundant. John Lennon grew. There was a big difference between the first songs that he recorded with The Beatles and Imagine. I had to grow as an artist and as a person. Some people rap for money, and some people are artists for legacy. I’m not saying I do this for free, but my legacy is significant and symbolic to me. This is what’s here after I’m gone. When I do music at least my kids can be proud. As I grew, I grew mentally, and I started seeing the world and I started realizing I didn’t have to use as much profanity to get my point across or bring attention to myself. I got a daughter, so you barely hear the word bitch in my music. I have to be really mad to use the word bitch. I just wanted to change as an artist. I think that me making that change benefited me more, benefited my career more, benefited my legacy more, like, I can do more things now.
How do you feel about your older material now, like yesterday when you performed a song like Dead Man Walking?
It just reminds me of how far I’ve came. I’ve done a lot of shows recently where I didn’t even do that song. There are old songs out there, like Sex, Drugs, Bitches & Money. I would never make a song like that again, ever. I don’t want to be same fucking guy. There are rappers that are like that, that rhyme now exactly like they rhymed in 1992 or 1993. That’s boring. I admire the new me because I feel I’m a more dangerous artist. I could do a concept song, or I could be on the song with respected MC’s and either outshine everybody or be one of the highlights of the song. There are some artists who can freestyle very well, but they don’t know how to make songs. There are some people who know how to make songs, but they can’t freestyle. There are some people who have great songs, but they don’t know how to perform. There are people who know how to perform, but they don’t have great albums. I look at myself as a dangerous MC because I know for a fact that I’m a great performer on stage, I know how to freestyle, I have a great writing structure, if I’m on a song with somebody, very few people are gonna kick my ass. So I view myself as a more dangerous MC, as opposed to a one-dimensional MC.
Are you thinking about putting out more artists on Legal Hustle in the future?
Yeah, I will put on more artists in the future. It’s just that, I want them to get strong with me. As much respect that I’ve garnered, there’s so much ground that I haven’t covered as an artist. I didn’t have the right representation before. Now I do. Now there’s so many new things coming to me that I need the attention on me for right now. When you have an artist it’s like being a big brother or a parent sometimes. Every rapper has a different personality, persona, and attributes. If the studio session starts at eight and ends at twelve, then you have to say that it starts at five, because they’re always three hours late. Some artists get a little hot, and they start thinking that they know all the answers. If I had the staff to deal with artists, it would be easier. But I don’t have the patience. I got kids. I don’t want to deal with my kids and then deal with grown kids. If there’s an artist that’s perfect, as professional, prompt and efficient as me, then I’ll be: “Let’s go, let’s do it”. But I don’t feel like babysitting.
Is your business structure better now, with the people around you?
I have the best manager that I’ve had. I have the best law team. I have a more consistent studio structure. It’s like a lot of things that weren’t there before, are there now. Business-wise, I’m developing a lot of new relationships with people. You see, I’m wearing Pro-Keds. These are rare. These are the first b-boy sneakers. If you look back at the old pictures, before Puma and Adidas and Nike, people were wearing Pro-Keds. They’re kind of like Converse, but back in the days, people didn’t wear Converse, they wore Pro-Keds. They used to give you Converse in jail. So you knew it wasn’t cool, because jail didn’t want to give anything that you’d like. When Mega Philosophy comes out, Pro-Keds also has some sneakers coming out around that same time. So out of one of their sneaker lines, they said “fuck it… it’s gonna be a high top sneaker, we’re going to make a low cut for Cormega.” There’s only going to be a hundred pairs in the whole world. I’m developing new marketing strategies and relationships. A lot of good things are happening now. I’m happy about that.
What was your favourite gear from back in the days?
Most of my favourite gear is pretty consistent. Air Jordans. Polo is my favourite clothes ever. It was really big when I was growing up. A few years ago people acted like Polo wasn’t cool no more. Some of my young friends was laughing at me because I was wearing Polo. And now I’m laughing at them, because everybody’s wearing Polo now. It’s like the big shit in America. I’m a sneaker addict. You can look in SLAM magazine, I did a whole story on them. My first obsession with sneakers were Pro-Keds. If you talk to any rapper, from Wu-Tang or whatever, I guarantee you they’ll tell you the same shit. The first sneaker I fell in love with was Pro-Keds. The second sneaker that I loved was called Pro Player. The third sneaker was Puma. Suede Pumas. Wooooh! I still have an affinity with those. Shell Toe Adidas and Suede Pumas were neck-to-neck, but I was more a Puma guy. Then after that, Nike came with Air Force and Cortez, just Nike in general was a b-boy sneaker. Then Reebok came. I didn’t have them, but I liked them, I respected them. Then the sneaker that captivated everybody, because it was upper class, and it was cool – FILA. First of all, they were expensive, but they were so fucking cool. Even if you look at some of the old graffiti pictures, the b-boy pictures, you can see them with a pair of FILA on. And FILA velour suits were expensive but they were… woooooh! Those were the first sneakers I was obsessed with. Then Michael Jordan came out with a sneaker and fucked the whole game up, because his sneakers were so expensive and they was cool, so it was the gotta-have sneakers. Then Patrick Ewing came out with his Adidas. So those were the sneakers that really molded my mind. I still have Patrick Ewing sneakers, to this day. I have one pair that I don’t even wear, they’re just in a bag, brand new, and then I have another pair that I wear sometimes. And then I have every Air Jordan, from 1 to 23.
What do you think it takes for New York to return to being great?
Revolution. Sieging and purging. The corporations should separate themselves from hiphop. Or they should just let people that really know hiphop handle it, and get someone to handle the business. The radio should be purged. Do a cleansing, like, all you motherfuckers got to go. Anybody that’s really a part of the real shit, or anybody that’s fair; keep them. But all the people that said fuck hiphop, I’m just playing what I’m told to play, because this is my job – out of there! I don’t mind hearing a Southern song, but I do mind hearing Southern music all fucking day, when I’m from New York. I’m in Sweden now, I want to see Swedish culture. I don’t want to be here and hear all Italian music; I’m going to Italy tomorrow. If you turn on the radio in New York, you hear Southern music all day. I’m from New York, I don’t understand the Southern music, their slang is different from our slang. They’re talking about stuff I don’t know about. And in some of their songs, they’re talking about stupid shit, like lean. That’s a drug. Molly. That’s a drug. It’s like you’re poisoning the youth, you’re brainwashing the youth to use drugs. If you use drugs, that’s your right. We’re adults. But that’s supposed to be talked about behind scenes. You don’t get on a record, like: “Yo! Try molly, it’s the new ecstasy. Try lean.” These are potent drugs. Now you have the young people thinking lean is cool, because the artists they like are doing it, and the radio is playing that shit, so they try it because they think it’s nothing. Lean will kill you quicker than crack. So I don’t like that. There has to be a purge, a revolution. History will show you that in any revolution, one of the main targets is the youth. The Romans and the Greeks started the youth early. A crazy motherfucker like Hitler had the youth corps. I don’t care if you’re a good or a bad person, the youth is important in the movement. That’s how Obama won he last election, because he won over the youth. Clinton won over the youth. Bush didn’t give a fuck about the youth, because he stole his election. When you have the youth behind you, you have a symbolic movement behind you. Once the youth are educated about real hiphop, their perception of the bullshit being played will change. So, I think that’s what has to be done.
Are you optimistic about the present situation?
I’m optimistic because right now they have the shit called “The New Nineties”, where they try to go back to real hiphop. There are a lot of new artists really trying to go back to lyrics. For them to do that, it means they will have to study the prolific artists. I think those artists will try to leave their finger prints on the game, and that’s going to help with the bullshit. But a lot of artists that were there in the nineties are like: “Fuck that, we’re still breathing”. O.C. just put out a new project with Apollo Brown that people are loving. When I see that, it brings a smile to my face. I know Bumpy Knuckles just did something with Primo. Pete Rock did something recently with Smiff-N-Wessun. When you have people that represent the real eras coming back in different forms and fashions and making a standpoint, it makes you proud. I think it’s going to come back. Everything happens in cycles anyway.
In an inteview with you and Tragedy Khadafi you mentioned that each borough in New York used to have their unique style. Do you see that coming back?
No, no. That’s dead. The young people are followers. It’s no more of that, no more originality in every borough. That’s gone. Rap has become a business more than a culture. You see a video, you see your favourite artist wearing something, now you want that. But the thing that you’re not seeing is that before that video comes on that artist has a stylist. The stylist goes to big companies. So these companies are indoctrinating you to buy their shit. When you see an artist wearing something in the video that you like, he might not have bought that. That might not be how he dresses. That’s how he was styled. That stylist got paid. The company got paid, because you’re buying their shit. At the end of the day, the consumer is the only one dishing out, and gaining nothing. Originality comes from within. When I was growing up, Air Force Ones were called uptowns, because people Uptown – Manhattan and Harlem – was wearing them. People in Jamaica, Queens wore Adidas, the Shell Toes. RUN DMC. There was a time when nobody was wearing them shits no more. So when you saw someone with Shell Toe Adidas, you knew he was from Jamaica, Queens. If you saw someone wit Carharrt, you knew he was from Jamaica, Queens. If you saw someone with FILA at a certain time; Brooklyn, more than likely. Each place had their own shit. Bronx was big on Nikes. When you saw someone with Wallabee Clarks he was from Brooklyn, or Jamaican. People had different styles and different slang. Now everybody does the same shit. Polo’s hot, so everybody wants to wear Polo. Polo was some big Brooklyn shit. Everybody used to wear Polo, but after a while you knew that certain people were from Brooklyn if they wore Polo, or they was down with the Lo-Lifes. Tommy Hilfiger was some Brooklyn shit. Now everybody wears Nike Fomposites in New York. Those are so big. People stand out on a line for hours, waiting for the sneakers to come out. Everybody wears Fomposites, everybody tries to wear Polo. It’s the same shit, like a bunch of robots.
How do you feel about the new Polo with the big horse?
I’ll take it, if somebody gives it as a gift. But I’m not going to bust my ass going to the store and get that. I’m not too big on big logos. That’s for people that want attention.
What was the shit in Queensbridge?
You see, Queensbridge is different, it’s the most different part of Queens. It’s between Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, so close that you can walk, so we have all their styles. A lot of people wore Air Force Ones in Queensbridge when I was growing up. Queensbridge has everybody’s style, that’s what makes Queensbridge so dope. The only unique Queensbridge thing was MC Shan wearing two Pumas, one of each colour.
Do you think Queensbridge is so dope with the music because of that mix?
It’s like a cultural melting pot. I think Queensbridge is dope with the music because we have so many artists, and Queensbridge is competitive. (*Mega walks over to the window in his hotel room, points to the opposite building across the small ass back yard.*) That window is a little bit too far, if you could move that building closer, this would be exactly how me and Nas’ view was. From my evening I could holler, “Yo Nas”, and he’d be like, “What up?”. Imagine that. Cormega is right there, and in that building is Nas, and across the building is a DJ. If you walk across the street, there’s Craig G, and in another building is Tragedy, and in another building is Poet, and in another building is Marley Marl, and then you walk across a block, and there’s Nature and ACD, and then you cross the block over, and there’s Mobb Deep and Capone. That’s Queensbridge. So when you have all these people, it’s survival of the fittest. If you don’t stand out, then you’re not going to make it. Being that there were so many dope, prolific artists, it pushes everybody to go harder. And every MC thinks that they’re the best, that’s just how MC’s are, or they try to program themselves to be the best. That’s what makes Queensbridge dope.
Do you see some new talent coming from Queensbridge?
There’s new talent, but I’ve heard recently that some of the new kids sounds like the South. See the young kids are intrigued by the radio. They turn on the radio and hear what they hear, so they think: That’s what I have to do to make it. They’re not knowing that you have a better chance being yourself, and you stand out more. There’s some new kids that have Southern styles, and there are some that try to do like us. But there’s going to be more talent from Queensbridge, it’s inevitable. That day will come. But I feel it’s kind of unfair to some of the new kids from Queensbridge, because they will always be compared to us. That’s fucked up. Craig G, Tragedy, MC Shan, Roxanne Shante, Nature, Havoc, Noyd, Cormega, Nas… who else? There are so many dope artists, and you have to live up to their standards.
When we interviewed The Jacka he talked about doing a project on Legal Hustle, is that also on standstill?
Me and The Jacka never finished our music. The Jacka is my dude. If the time presents itself, me and The Jacka doing something is definitely an option. I did something with The Jacka recently, for Rob Lo. He’s a Bay producer, and he’s kind of dope too. Me and The Jacka, and I don’t know who else. Rob Lo is making a project and I’m on there. I’ve done the most features this year in my whole career. DJ Skizz, he works with DJ Eclipse – I’m on his project. Scram Jones is doing a project, I’m on that. I’m on a project with a Scandinavian producer. I’ve done something for Kool Keith. I can’t think of everything now, but I’ve featured on little over ten of other people’s projects. There’s going to be a lot of Cormega in the next months.
You worked with several Bay Area artists, are there are any artists from there that you want to work with that you haven’t?
I want to do something with Too Short one day.
Personally, I would like to see you do something with E-40.
I wouldn’t mind doing something with E-40. E-40 is a legend.
Working with Bay Area artists, do you feel that has been beneficial to you?
Of course. Because the more you expand, the more people are able to relate to you. There are some people in the Bay growing up listening to me that didn’t know I wasn’t from the Bay. That was definitely a beneficial thing.
Do you think that could be a way forward for New York, working more with other states, moving around a bit and network?
Definitely. That’s what it’s all about. That’s why New York got kicked in the ass by the industry, because New York always had a I-don’t-need-anybody, I’m-from-New-York approach. A lot of people don’t like that about New York. New Yorkers have a certain persona about them that some people don’t like. It’s a confidence, a cockiness, a total New York aura that a lot of New Yorkers have, and sometimes it doesn’t work to our benefit. New York has no hospitality. If you get on the train, and it’s rush hour, it’s not like people are going to move out the way so you can get on. If you’ve been to New York you know what I’m talking about. I didn’t realize this until I started going to other places, because I’m from New York and I used to do the same shit. If someone says “hi” to you that you don’t, you might look at them like they’re crazy.
Kind of the same here… Stockholm at least. In the countryside it’s different.
When I started going down South, and somebody’d say, “Hi, how you doing? Good morning!”, I’d be like: “That guy’s crazy”. Then I started seeing people doing that in lots of places, and I realized: that guy isn’t crazy, we’re crazy. That’s called hospitality.
Did you have a remix for Define Yourself from Born And Raised?
I had a remix. I was going to remix the album, but then I decided against certain remixes, because, first of all, I did a Define Yourself-remix on Cormega Raw Forever, the best of album, with Poet on it, and he wasn’t on the original one. But I started saying to myself that I took so long with Born And Raised – my last solo album came out in 2002, and then Legal Hustle in 2004, then The Testament came out, but that wasn’t new, everybody had already heard that, then I came with an album with Lake, but that wasn’t a Cormega album. So, 2002, and then Born And Raised in 2009, that’s seven years. That’s long to not give people a solo album, especially in this day and age. When I came out in 2009 I wanted to do remixes for certain shit. But it started to take so long, and here we are in 2012, and I’m like, fuck it, I want to give people all new shit, because my fans deserve that. I feel like I failed myself, with some of the duration of time that I’ve wasted, when I could have been making music. A lot of times… I’m not a producer, so, one thing I’ve learned about artists is that every artist have their own time of doing things. I could really passionately and sincerely mean to do something, but I can’t force this rapper to do his verse in a timely manner. I can’t force a producer to finish the beat in a timely manner. Then when the beat is done, you have some producers who will get mad at you, like, if you give me the song and the song is done, I can take the song to the studio and have my engineer mix it and give him the guidance. Some producers get offended if you mix their songs. They want to mix it. So, now you’re at the mercy of him. If i give this guy the song to mix, and he takes three months, I’m waiting three months for this guy. Meanwhile, fans are growing restless and time is going. Three months is a quarter of a year. So, that’s the fucked up thing about the industry. That’s what happened with me; Born And Raised would have been done. I waited damn near a year for a producer – I’m not going to say any names – to finish shit and mix it.
Does it ever make you want to put out a quick mixtape sometimes?
I don’t believe in that, because my music isn’t expendable. A lot of artists that do that, can do that, because they’re music is dispensable; their music is like fast food. I make cooked meals, when I do my albums. I go to shows sometimes, and just stand in the crowd, or I stand on the sideline, and I see how the crowd reacts to certain artists… certain artists just don’t get it. When they’re performing, their show is dope, the song is dope, and the crowd is like: “Yeah, yeah, yeah”. When I’m doing a show, the crowd is singing word for word, like they’re embracing the music. There’s a big difference. If you keep throwing out something, and it’s not sticking, you’re doing yourself a disservice, because at the end of the day, you’re becoming expendable. Let’s say you’re putting out decent music, and you’re putting out mixtape after mixtape, when you do an album, it can’t be decent and it can’t be good, it has to be incredible. People are going to measure your mixtape against your album. People nowadays, with the free downloading on the internet, are looking for any excuse not to buy your music. Your shit better be incredible, or you’re wasting your time. I just don’t believe in mixtapes. Another reason I stopped doing mixtapes was that my last mixtape sold over 40,000. There are some people who are putting out music who are “hot” that don’t even sell 40,000.
Which mixtape are we talking about?
I made a joint called Rapper/Hustler, when I had the gun on the cover. I stopped doing mixtapes after that, because I learnt my value. Like, I could put out a mixtape and sell 40,000. I need to chill, and just make albums, and get that 40,000. And make affective music. If my albums consistently sold less than 5,000, from my whole career, then I would probably put out mixtapes. It’s not much of a difference. Only a few big artists do mixtapes. Even when they do mixtapes, they don’t stay mixtapes for long, because they’re so good, they stick to people to the point that they have to be sold. Perfect example: Fabolous, Lloyd Banks, Jadakiss. They’ll throw out a mixtape, just to throw it out, but the shit’ll do so fucking well, that the label ends up… I think Def Jam ended up taking Fabolous’ last mixtape and put it out. The same thing happened with Banks and Kiss. Because their mixtapes stick to you, but you got other artists that put out mixtape after mixtape and think they’re the shit… but you’re not differentiating yourself on each project, and then when your album comes out, your album don’t sell. So what’s the sense of doing it? It’s a waste. Quality over quantity, the old saying rings true.
You got a good position: you’re independent. Like the ones you mentioned, sometimes in the history of New York rap, that was the only moment when you could hear hardcore hiphop without singing and pop beats: on the mixtapes. That was dope for that.
My thing is, I don’t mind hearing singing on the song. It’s not what’s on it, it’s how it’s done. I don’t know what my favourite song of all time is, but one of my favourite songs of all time is Hey Young World by Slick Rick. Somebody’s singing on there.
I mean more that industry or radio format. Singing is dope.
Yeah, it’s the way it’s done. There will never be autotune on my music. Never. Unless Roger Troutman comes back from the dead. Or like a Hologram.
Did you hear anything from Bumpy Knuckles after you put out that Victory freestyle?
No. Actually, when I put out that shit, that was bait. When he first made a song and mentioned my name I was upset, because I felt he over-reacted. For one, if you listen to what he said: “You tried to front on me for that white boy at Koch”. He was talking about a guy that we both have done business with, that’s a slimy business man. My whole thing is, if you got a relationship with someone, you’re supposed to call that person on that. If he would have called me, it would have never been that problem, because I would have told him, “that’s not true”. Obviously, what must have happened, he might have approached that guy and that guy might have said, “well, Cormega is holding me down”, or whatever, used me as a security blanket. But Foxx was my friend, and when you’re my friend I don’t get in your business affairs. Perfect example: Tragedy Khadafi had a problem with the same guy. Tragedy called me, I said: “do what you got to do”. And Tragedy went and stepped to him. If Freddie Foxx would have called me, and be like: “yo, this guy is using your name, talking about, you’re going to hold him down against me”, I would have told him that it’s a lie. I’d told him, “matter of fact, let’s go see him together”. When it comes to money, I am never going to stop one of my friends from getting money. That would make me selfish, a piece of shit. Think about it. That’s not fair. I would never do that. So he over-reacted. When he made that shit where he’s talking about me, I was shocked and I was offended, because I know him. It would have been simple for him to call me, and we would never had that. When he made that shit, first I was going to let it slide. But my pride said: fuck that. Because the streets is watching, everybody’s always watching. If it would have been a lesser rapper, or a rapper without a tough guy image, I probably wouldn’t have responded. But being that he’s a tough guy, I had to respond, because it would look like Mega was scared, in my opinion. I don’t want the public to think that I won’t respond. Victory is nothing I’m proud of. I’m not proud of this whole shit anyway. I made a whole song, Victory came after that. I made a whole other song where I was going to go at him. I did it strategically. Victory was just a joke, and then when he’d respond I’d put out my real song. And now I’m not going to respond anymore because I’m not going to have to. Fuck Victory, that was just a freestyle, and that whole difference with him is not a proud moment for me. We have spoken recently on Twitter, and I’m glad that shit is behind me. I’m glad that I never had to release that other record.
I’d like to see you making music together instead.
I wouldn’t mind making a record with him. He’s dope. I respect him as an artist, and I’d work with him. I don’t want differences with any artist, especially in this day and age. Hiphop is in a battle with itself, so there’s no need for real artists to go at each other. If anything, we should be going at the people who are destroying our culture.
Do you feel that a lot of interviewers want to go back to your old beefs?
Yes! Yesterday I had to tell the guy that I don’t want to talk about Nas. Especially in America a lot of interviews aren’t in depth. A lot of people follow other people’s formula. Like radio shows, the morning shows in America, everybody has the same formula. You have the DJ, and then you have a personality guy, and then you have a woman. The woman is supposed to be the gossip spreader, but I guess the woman is also there to take some of the attention of the guys, because if you have guys sitting there gossiping all day, they’ll look like women. Sometimes the interviewers just want attention and controversy, because when you bring controversy, that brings attention. On the internet, that brings views, and the more views and hits you get, the more advertisement you get. There are magazines that don’t even fuck with me no more, because they would give me a whole story if I shitted on Nas. I told them I didn’t want to do that no more. You’re not going to make me the Frazier to his Ali. At the end of the day he’s a great artist, and he has accomplished more than me. He was making music when I was in jail. We had differences, but at the end of the day, I got history with him. If he died, I would be sad. You’d be sad on a whole other level as a fan. I know him, I knew his mother, I know his family, he knows my family. There’s a difference. People are trying to exploit beefs, because beef and controversy sells. The saddest thing is Beef DVD. I’m talking on that on the shit with Large Professor. You will hear it in the song. When you have Quincy Jones, one of the most well known producers in the world, who’s a multi-millionaire, when his son is making Beef DVD‘s, it’s a fucking problem. The rap game is incredible, his son has no ideology, no concept or grasp of what beef is. Like literally, there were days when he came home from school and Michael Jackson was in his house, or some other star. He lives a pampered fucking life, there are awards and all kind of things in his house. What the fuck does he know about beef? But he makes a Beef DVD. People exploit drama and capitalize of it while we don’t. All we do is run our mouths, talking about it. I’m not with that. You’re not going to exploit me.
It feels like this beef thing is over. It’s not interesting.
It’s wack now. Because the rap industry is a piggy bank formula. First of all: 50 Cent had incredible work ethic. He was putting out good fucking music, and he had the controversy. And he had excellent management, and he was on an excellent label. He had all the right things happening for him. Now you have other artists and other labels trying to follow his formula. So everybody started beefing, and all of the sudden every rapper is fucking diesel now, you ever noticed that. Everybody looks like Schwarzneger. Just because you work out now does not mean you’re going to sell like 50 Cent. Just because you’re beefing with another rapper does not mean you’re going to sell like 50 Cent. Hiphop is always copy cat shit. I’m just waiting for people to make good albums so people can copy that.
Who is your favourite athlete of all time?
My favourite athlete of all time is Muhammad Ali, without a shadow of a doubt. He embodies all the attributes of a champion. He had a persona by him, he had personality that I have yet to seen matched by any athlete. He had a sparkle about him, and then he was a humanitarian when he wasn’t even trying to be a humanitarian. Some of the stuff that he has done that you don’t see publicized, if you read his biography it’s mind ravelling. He actually even helped America to regain hostages. I don’t remember from which country. Muhammad Ali helped negotiate the release of hostages, but you don’t see that mentioned. He has done so much stuff. He has never embarrassed us. I know athletes that I look up to that gamble… which is their business, but it’s not setting a good example for little guys… which openly use drugs and alcohol, etc. He has never done anything that gives people a chance to try to belittle him. I respect Muhammad Ali, he has done so much; definitely my favourite athlete.
What about your favourite Knicks player?
My favourite Knicks player of all time might possibly be Bernard King. My favourite Knicks player right now at this moment might be Carmelo Anthony. My favourite basketball player of all time… I mean, the traditional answer would be Michael Jordan, but I think Bernard King might be my favourite. Rod Strickland is up there too. Bernard King was scoring 50 points back to back games. Go to youtube, whenever you see a great player from the eighties, there will be footage of him battling with Bernard King, and a lot of times King came out on top. People like Magic Johnson was like: he’s unstoppable. He was ahead of his time. He was incredible. The only thing that stopped him was injury, and even after his injury he was an all-star. I hated when The Knicks traded him.”
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