INTERVIEW PART 2
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When Nas was in Miami for Rock the Bells, he said he wished you, Foxy and Nature were there. What does that mean to you?
I mean, Nas wishing for me to be somewhere…It’s not like that. I wish Kobe Bryant was on the Knicks. That’s a wish. Nas doesn’t have to wish for me to be on the stage with him at Rock the Bells. All Nas has to do is holler at me. We spoke. He knows what it is. That sounds good to the fans. Nas was probably saying what the fans wanted to hear. If he really feels like that, it’s not that hard to make it happen. You don’t have to wish to do an interview with Cormega. You can make that happen. That is what it is.
As far as the performance that we did at the Nokia Theater, he was trying to get at me and people got at me. We spoke and we did it. It was an incredible experience because I never knew that the fans wanted me and Nas to reconcile so bad. When you have eight different people telling you that they got goosebumps when we came out together, that’s crazy. These are grown men who are not ashamed to tell me that. I was like, ‘Damn, I never realized it was that serious to them.’ But the reaction that we got when we came out together, that fucked us up.
When I came out, it was a Nas show. I didn’t know how they would react. When they went crazy, it made me and I think Nas realize how much time we wasted not making good music. At the end of the day, if you have good chemistry with someone, you’re not hurting yourself by not doing good music. You’re hurting the fans. It’s just like how Nas has that chemistry with AZ or how Ghostface and Rae work together. When they don’t work together, they’re hurting the fans. Me being an underdog is what drives me and over the years, I’m just starting to get credit in the industry. Some people say I’m one of the top rappers and I’m humbled by that. I think the respect that Nas and I both get as lyricists, I think when you combine us together, that’s something powerful that the fans have wanted to see. I’m honored to be there and I have never been a part of anything like that before. People were going crazy. Nas, L.E.S. and everybody else was fucked up, like, ‘That shit is crazy.’ I just wish that AZ could have been there because then the cipher as far as the original Firm would have been complete.
Is it ever possible for The Firm to record a new song together?
I don’t know. I think the possibility is always there, but I don’t know if it would be for necessarily the right reasons. I think some people want to do it for the check and it’s not for the right reasons. If you told me to do something, I would do it for free if I thought it would be powerful. When I do songs with Mobb Deep, I don’t ask for money because I know it’s something that’s going to be powerful. It could happen but certain people have daggers with them. I don’t have to say no names. People know who it is. It’s not me and it’s not Nas. People just have to get on the same page. If you told me to be somewhere…
Let me tell you about my performance at the Nokia Theater. My biggest regret is that I didn’t bring a change of clothes with me. They told me to be there at 4:30 for soundcheck, on time, and then they wouldn’t let me leave because so many people were there and they didn’t want me to ruin the surprise. I was dressed like a regular person. The only thing that made me different from anybody else in the audience was my chain. I had a polo shirt, jeans and Timbs. I looked regular. Nas is a star. Nas was dressed like he was coming to do a show and Foxy Brown was dressed like she was coming to do a show. I didn’t get a chance to go get a haircut and change my clothes. That shows the professionalism of me as an artist. I said, “Fuck it,” and I took one for the team. At a Cormega show, I don’t even dress regular. I didn’t want to fuck up the show and that was the first time I was around with everybody. I didn’t want to complain and be an asshole. With the Firm, if we were somewhere and somebody was late, I didn’t say, “Aw, fuck it, I’m just going to perform.” Those are some of the headaches that I’m not willing to go through. I’m not willing to go through the headaches like that.
Now that you know how much fans want to hear you and Nas together, will you be out there more?
I might drop some freestyles. See, what I’m going to do now and what you have to understand, is that in ’07 and ’08, I have so much shit lined up. This DVD is 4 hours and I have a soundtrack. I have a party at SOB’s and then I have a party the next day at another club. I’m going to hit the road hard. There’s not even too many more mixtapes anymore. I’ll do exclusives and send them to HipHopGame and I’ll do a mixtape, but you have to understand, we’re coming with a 4 hour DVD and I’m definitely doing a lot of shows and I’m coming with my first solo album in 5 years. You’re going to see a lot of more. You can count on that. And most likely, you’re going to hear a Nas and Cormega record.
I don’t know about a Firm record though. My thing at the end of the day is I don’t understand why the public considers me a part of the Firm anymore. I was on one song on that album. Nature took my spot. That’s the way I look at it. So it’s like, ‘Fuck it.’ When the Firm came out, I wasn’t a part of it. To be a part of “Affirmative Action,” which was the dopest song the Firm ever made, to be on that, that was an honor. But it’s whatever. If they want to do it and everybody’s on the right page and everybody’s going to work and leave their egos at the door, then I’m cool. But I’m not going to put up with people’s bullshit when I put myself in this position. I didn’t live off the strength of the Firm. To be honest with you, I sold more or just about as much than everybody in the Firm except for Nas. So if there is a Firm, everybody has to have respect for each other. There can’t be no superstar-ego dumb shit. I’m not willing to put up with that because I know what I’m capable of doing as an artist. I just want to make music, man.
Are you working on a QB all-star compilation?
That’s one of my projects. There’s a project being done right now with one of my friends. He’s a street guy putting his life together and Havoc is working with him, hopefully, and I’m giving him songs that I had. There will be unity in Queensbridge, but it’s just that you have to know your position. One of the problems is that there is too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Everybody has to understand that we’re all rappers and we’re all talented, but not everybody can be the top person. Everybody has to respect who everybody else is. When you have people who can’t do that, then there’s gonna be no unity. The best unity that I’ve seen in Queensbridge recently was MC Shan performing in the park recently. Craig G came out and performed and then Marley Marl came out. To see Marley Marl and Shan together and then Craig G came out and I came out and ‘Pone came out, that was great. There are people that are local legends and it was all love that day. There was no animosity that day. There were no tantrums and no egos. It was a beautiful thing. If we can do that and if everybody stays in their positions, the projects never would have not have come out. The problem is that everybody thinks they’re better than the next person. The best artist from Queensbridge is Nas. For you to think that you’re better than him or a bigger star than him, you’re not being realistic. Mobb Deep and Nas are the stars of Queensbridge and you have people thinking they’re bigger than Nas and Mobb Deep. Even when I had problems with Nas, I still recognized him as the top dude. Mobb Deep is the top duo. Me and Nature had problems, not because he replaced me, but every rapper has a different crew and is from a different block and not everyone gets along. This group might be cool but the people that hang with them might not be cool with another crew, so there’s tension. People just have to put their egos in their pocket and make music.
Me and Havoc spoke recently and we’re going to do some shit. That’s what people want. We’re hurting ourselves and the fans by not working together. We’re not giving the fans what they want and that’s the thing that’s hurting Queensbridge. There’s always going to be competitive juices, but if people don’t check their egos at the door, then there’s never going to be any unity. I’m cool in my skin and I know what I’m capable of doing. That’s why I get the respect that I do. Until everybody else gets on that page, there will never be unity.
You also now have a daughter who you’ve been taking care of. How is that changing your music?
I think my daughter affected my music a lot. She affected my music in two ways – in decisions and with some of the words that I might use. If you listen to my music, you’ll notice that I don’t use the word “bitch” as much out of the respect I have for women, and I’m not just talking about my daughter but respect for what it takes to bring a child into the world and for a woman to be a mother. I have a whole new respect for life and a whole new appreciation for doctors.
Everybody says they’re the kings of New York. You know who the real kings of New York are? The New York Fire Department. After what they’ve been through with 9/11, you had men who were going into buildings. When you’re a firefighter, you’re able to assess things just from looking at things. These men knew the likelihood of them coming out of these buildings was slim and none and they still did that to save somebody’s life. That takes a special kind of person to do that. My daughter has made me see things differently and so has stuff like that. So many things in life made me look at it differently. I look at life much differently. Even my fans made me see things differently. I think my daughter improved my decisions. I can’t just deal with a label and go through bullshit with a label and money when I have to provide for my daughter. I had my fun in life. I’m still going to have fun, but my daughter is somebody who truly needs me. There is nobody in the world who needs you except your child. Your spouse could leave you but you have to truly nurture your child.
Every time I’m thinking of doing something wrong or going to flip in a certain way, I’ll see my daughter’s face and it will make me calm down. I saw one of my friends in jail and I took my daughter with me so he could see her. Being in jail and having to see your family leave at the end of the visit would be the worst. That’s when reality sets in, when you watch them leave and you have to go back to your cage. My daughter has been a revelation for me. I love the shit out of my daughter.
Your lyrics have always been amazing. Can you talk about your writing process?
It depends, man. I got so many different methods of writing. Seriously, lately, I’ve been going to sleep and I push myself to the next level. I’m waking up with rhymes in my head. I’m like, ‘Oh, shit!’ I have to sleep with a pen somewhere near me because I wake up with a rhyme that’s so crazy and if I don’t write it down, I’ll never know it.
Another one of my processes is going off of emotion. A lot of people say I’m one of the most emotional rappers out. You can use emotion as an asset. Some people aren’t smart with that. I use emotion in different ways. I can talk about the emotion in going through bullshit with my friends and people will feel what I’m saying and they’ll hit me and say my music affected their life. I never thought my music would affect people’s lives in a positive way. I thought I was just spitting for the ‘hood. If you told me I would have white fans and fans in Japan knowing all my music and I would have Latino fans in Columbia knowing my songs and respecting my lyrics, I would have told you that you were fucking crazy.
But here I am today after having done shows in Sweden, London, on the cover of a magazine in Canada, a couple of magazines in Spain, doing shows in Spain where people don’t even speak English and it’s incredible. I have a lot of methods. I can write off emotions or do it spontaneous. It depends on who the artist I’m working with is and what I’m trying to do. I always say I don’t want to be too predictable. A lot of street artists are predictable. They talk about guns and drugs. Then I hear how ‘Mega ain’t street no more. I busted out laughing. I said, “Yo, dog, I could stop rapping right now and this dude could rap for 20 years and he could never be as street as me.” You can never take away my street. I was born into atrocities. I witnessed the death of my mother. I’ve sold drugs before. Everything that people glorify or that people look up to people in the street, I’ve done it. I’m not proud of it and I’m not saying that I’m a real nigga because I’ve done these things.
I’m telling you this because it’s a part of my story. If I could have my mother back, never sold drugs, never been a rapper and never had money, I would do it in a heartbeat. I would be sitting with my mother watching TV. But I can’t. But the things that I’ve done, motherfuckers have yet to do. I’ve listened to rappers and their hustle is selling street stories, but I know I really sold drugs, really busted my gun, really shot people and really got shot. When I got shot, I wasn’t bragging about it because it’s not cool. It’s not cool to get shot. Some people are dealt that hand in life and for you to write about it and exploit it, that makes you a sucker. But I have a following. Music is my indoctrination. I can’t use my love as something that’s going to try to influence a younger dude to be Cormega. I don’t want you to be Cormega unless you make your life from something to nothing. I don’t want you to lose your mother when you’re 4 or 5. I don’t want you to be the guy whose father is on drugs. I don’t want you to be the guy who’s selling crack instead of going to school. I don’t want you to be the guy who’s having fights with grown men at 15, who almost goes to jail. I don’t want you to be that guy in that situation and I don’t want you to exploit yourself. I want you to be the guy who says, “You know what? There’s nothing wrong with me going to school. There’s guys out here with jewelry and it looks cool, but I’m going to stay in school and become an architect or become what I want to become.” If you listen to my music, there are times when I might spit ignorant shit in a ghetto manner, but there are way more times when I’m telling you the pitfalls and the consequences of the streets and that’s one thing that I pride about myself.
Where do you do your best writing at?
I don’t know, man. It’s strange, man. I’m the type of person where I could take a bus ride, like a Greyhound…I took one after 9/11 when it was hard to get on planes. There’s nothing to do on there but look at the landscape and write. If it’s a peaceful environment I can write or if I’m around another MC who I have to do a song with, I can write. If you don’t write at least one rhyme a month, then what are you doing? It should be more than one. This is supposed to be an exercise. Rhyming is an exercise. It depends on what the circumstance is for me to really write. The best time for me to write is whenever. If I get excited about something, I’ll write about it. I’m supposed to do a song with Styles P. I got the rhyme done already. It’s a brand-new rhyme. Say me and Nas are going to do a song. I’ll have the song done already because I know what he’s going to bring to the table. I’m inspired by other artists, moods and emotions. Hurricane Katrina made me want to write. I didn’t know the situation was so bad out there and thank God for Spike Lee. That’s one of my heroes. He has substance. For him to do that miniseries, it allowed me to see how fucked up these people have it out there. That made me want to write. I’m inspired by events.
What’s the best advice you could offer to up-and-coming artists?
The first thing you need to do is learn about the industry, man. Learn about the industry! Don’t think that just because you’re a tough guy, you’re going to go platinum because that’s what’s selling. Get one of those books about the industry and learn the business. That’s first and foremost. The second thing is to learn your friends and learn your circle. Why are they there? Are they there because they love and support you and if you don’t blow, are they still going to be your friend? Know who your circle is because that can slow you down. You have to get the right manager and the right lawyer. You have to get that. If you find a good manager, you’re blessed. And never get lacks. Never rest on your own laurels. That’s one of the things one of my old coaches used to tell me. Don’t think that because you’re nice that you don’t have to go that extra mile. Right now, I would say the best blessing that could happen for these new artists is MySpace and YouTube. You can get your music heard for free and it’s really up to the public. If your music is hot, the people will hear it. Then you don’t have to go to the mixtape DJs, who charge money. I never knew they did that until up-and-coming artists told me that. A guy told me, “It’s almost like you have to be a drug dealer to be a rapper because how else can you afford $5,000 to get on a mixtape?” I was like, ‘Wow.’ That’s crazy. Utilize anything for you. Utilize MySpace and utilize YouTube. Go to events and seminars. Make plans and don’t change plans. That’s one of the worst things you can do is change your plans and then do what your label wants you to do. Now you’re rapping like somebody else and your fans abandon you. And if you don’t reach the Soundscan numbers you need to, the label is gone too. If you change up your plan for a label, you’re going to be dropped. Stay to your plan, man.
In your rhymes you shout out great but underappreciated NBA players like Bernard King, Kermit Washington and Mark Jackson. Is that how you look at yourself?
Exactly. They never got the recognition or the true props they deserved. I said once that I was the “Spreewell of rap, they even tried to suspend me.” I had differences with the industry. You can say Spreewell choked his coach and that he wasn’t the best NBA player, but he was one of the best. He carried the Knicks to the Finals. He was damn-sure one of the best players in the NBA and he was putting up some of the best numbers. He was a little unorthodox but he had the heart of a champion. He always gave it his all on the court, but nine times out of ten, whenever his name is mentioned in the media, they talk about him choking the coach. They don’t bring up how he almost carried the Knicks to the Finals or his stats. People used to always focus on my flaws and my problems with Nas. They never mentioned the good things that I did. I was the first one to put out a mixtape without an album coming out. I was the first. Do your research on that. ‘Mega was one of the first artists to go independent on the East Coast consistently. They don’t mention that. They don’t mention that ‘Mega was the first East Coast artist to win a Source award. And I’m the first artist from Queensbridge to do that. I won an Impact award. I was one of the first artists to have an enhanced CD. When my name is mentioned, they bring up the bullshit, not the good shit.
On the DVD, you’ll see the all-expense paid trip where I took the whole Queensbridge to Six Flags. The media never talked about that, but as soon as you do something stupid, everybody talks about that. When me and Nas squashed our beef, the fans appreciated it and you did, but you didn’t see the major magazines making a big deal about that. But those same magazines were ready for me to shit on Nas. These are magazines where if I would have shitted on Nas, I could have gotten more features. I could have gotten more features if I would have shitted on Nas. There were actual features that I could have gotten. No one wants to talk about peace.
That’s why I call myself the Latrell Spreewell of rap. I call myself the Rod Strickland of rap sometimes too. Him, Mark Jackson, Latrell Spreewell and Bernard King all played hard for New York. I’m never going to get the props that I deserve, but as long as my fans like it, then fuck it. That’s why I liken myself to basketball players. I made songs like “Bring It Back” talking about hip-hop and “Live Your Life” talking about women. Meanwhile you have other artists who talk about guns in every song and people talk about liquor and alcohol on all their songs, but people want to criticize me for talking about basketball, something that I love. I said, “Fuck it” and I started doing it more.
You helped Lake on My Brother’s Keeper. Will you do more work with Lake in the future?
I don’t think so. I think right now, I have to focus on myself. My flaw and my problem that I had before was that I devoted so much of my time and my energy to everybody else’s causes. I did that album because that was something that needed to be done, but that was his cause. I did particular albums with Landspeed and I should have never done an album with them because I had TVT ready to deliver me an SUV and $250,000 to do one, but I stayed with Landspeed because the guy at Landspeed was telling me we were going to grow together and we were going to do it like Cash Money. He sold me a dream and his cause and I stayed because I’m a loyal nigga when I should have just left. Now it’s time for me to rep for my cause. For me to do an album with somebody else right now, it would be disrespectful to my fans and disrespectful to myself because I haven’t given fans a Cormega solo album since The True Meaning. It’s time for me to live my life and do me before I think about doing something for another artist.
What’s your focus for the next few months?
I’m going to be campaigning for Who Am I. We’re going to be campaigning for that. We’re going to be doing everything that we can do to necessitate a successful project. I’m finishing up some of the songs for my solo album and getting the artwork done. We’re getting everything done. We’re planning a major, major campaign and now I have to start planning the side projects that we’re doing. We’re about to do a movie. We’ll probably start that in the wintertime and I have a couple of documentaries that I’m trying to work on. I’m trying to go very, very hard for ’07 and ’08. I have a lot of catching up to do. And at the end of the day, I want my respect. I will be recognized as one of the best MCs in New York. That’s my goal. Motherfuckers are going to give me my props. That’s my goal. I’m not here to take your money or sell you dreams. All I ask for is your respect.
What do you want to say to everybody?
I just want to thank everybody that’s been supportive of me. Stay tuned because I have a lot of shit coming.