Throughout his career, Cormega has embodied Queensbridge, the storied Long Island City housing project where he and countless other rap icons were born and reared. Renowned by rap purists and street soldiers alike for his imposing delivery and vivid lyrics, Mega has enjoyed a loyal fan base since day one. Before most people heard him recite a single bar, his childhood friend Nas name checked him on “One Love,” a track that would ultimately solidify its author’s lyrical legacy, while simultaneously foreshadowing another Queensbridge legend in-the-making. Upon his release from prison over a decade ago, Mega wasted no time letting the world know that a force to be reckoned with had just been unleashed when he appeared on the posse cut “Affirmative Action” from Nas’ sophomore LP It Was Written. Since then, he’s endured his share of industry politics and beef, including a falling out with Nas, and still managed to land firmly on his feet. Now, with a new mixtape, The Prelude (featuring appearances from Large Professor, M.O.P., Styles P, the Heatmakerz, AZ and Nature), and a new album, The Inevitable, on the way, Mega finally seems ready to fulfill what he sees as his unavoidable destiny. XXLMAG.COM recently spoke with Mega about his recent public reconciliation with Nas, his new album and why the internet won’t hurt his movement.
You recently announced that you were changing your next album name from Urban Legend to The Inevitable. What brought that about?
Well, after T.I. came out with the title and his album was successful, I said fuck it, I might as well get a new title. I wasn’t mad. I don’t got no beef with him. It’s just a title, so fuck it, I just wanted to come a little different.
The album has production from Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, Buckwild, D.R. Period, Nottz, Lil Fame, Emil and Ayatollah. I got a song called “Fresh,” which features KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, Grand Puba, EPMD, Red Alert on the intro and the outro and myself. That’s my favorite song I ever did in my life, because it’s like these are the dudes that I always admired, so to work with all of them was an honor.
What’s the significance behind The Inevitable?
It’s like something that was meant to happen. So many obstacles were in the way of me getting to my goals as an artist, period. So it’s like it was inevitable that I would accomplish some of my goals. And on this album, it’s like people finally recognize me as an artist, and my life is just different right now so it’s inevitable that I’d get to this point in my career.
2006 wasn’t a great year for mainstream hip-hop, as far as album sales. As an independent artist, how do you feel like this new climate is going to affect you?
To be honest with you, I really don’t care about the mainstream. Like, what they eat don’t make me shit…how that saying go? Sales are down in the music industry, period. I watch it. But a lot of people that’s flopping, they coming out with bull-crap and they using it for excuses. People’s music was being downloaded last year just as much as it was downloaded five or four years ago when these mainstream artists were selling a lot of records.
It’s funny that a lot of mainstream people are slacking in sales lately, and then recently you have Nas come out with the Hip Hop is Dead album, to stray away from the mainstream, and that’s his most successful album to date. Besides…that’s his second highest opening week he ever had! When you make something that people want, they gonna buy it. I bet you Game wasn’t complaining about downloading, you know what I’m saying? And what are people saying about the Game album? They’re saying that’s one of the best albums of last year. My whole thing is, if you make a good product, it’s gonna sell.
Fans of independent or underground artists have a history of being really supportive of their favorite artists up until the records actually hit the stores. Is that a concern of yours?
I mean, I’ve always been like that. I’ve expressed that to fans before. I notice that the Internet world and the physical world are like two different worlds. You go on the Internet and they’ll talk about a certain rapper, like they’ll talk about a AZ, or a Large Professor, or a Craig G, or this rapper or that rapper, but when the albums come out, they not as supportive because a lot of these people just downloading the music. One of the reasons why I think I’ve been fairly successful is that I’m really particular about every song that goes on my album.
One of the things that’s gotten me over as an independent artist, and I’m aware of this, is that I’m one of the few artist that has both worlds. There’s some people that’s from the streets that don’t fuck with no underground hip-hop or backpack hip-hop. Then you have the Internet people who don’t fuck with some street music, they just fuck with the backpack music, and the nerd music or the lyrical shit. I’m one of those artists where, you might find some people in the street buying my shit, and you’ll find the internet fans buying my shit and that’s one of the things that helped me be successful.
I recently caught you at the Nokia Theater with Nas in New York. You got a huge reception from the crowd. How’d that feel?
Seriously, it felt good because it was a Nas show, it wasn’t like it was a Cormega show. If you go to your own show you expect [that response]. Nobody knew I was gonna be there, so as far as I knew, I could’ve came out and got booed. So that moment right there was crazy. To be honest with you, we made history that night. That was like some fuckin’ movie shit. That shit was so ill, it was like I was frozen. It was like a moment froze for me. I’ll never forget that moment until I die. That was dope. I wish [AZ] coulda been there. He was supposed to be there but he had to take care of some family stuff. I think he just had another child.
So how’d it feel performing “Affirmative Action” together with Nas and Foxy for the first time in what, like 10 years?
You know, the funny thing about us, we can go on with our lives and not speak to each other for years but when we get together it’s like nothing ever happened, it’s like if we was together the day before. The thing people fail to realize is me and Nas go back longer than Nas with any nigga in the industry. Before Nas knew AZ, he knew me. Before he knew Fox, he knew me. Before he knew Steve Stoute, he knew me. Before he knew Jay-Z, he knew me. Before he was fucking with all them niggas from Queensbridge—besides Jungle, which is his brother, and Grand Wiz [who] was from the block—he was my man. That’s my man. So you know we had our differences. I was mad at him, he was mad at me, but Nas manned up. It takes a man to apologize and Nas is more mature than a lot of people, even more mature than me in some ways. He reached out and we just made it happen. We’re stronger together.
What do you think of his album?
I mean, I think the songs that are alright are alright, and the songs that are real good are real good, you know what I’m saying?
Yeah, I think that’s pretty much been the consensus.
But his album is better than most of the albums I’ve heard that have come out recently. I told him I like that song with the girl singing on it, “Unforgettable” [“Can’t Forget About You”]? That’s like my favorite joint on there and the Kanye West joint. I think his album is dope. He’s focused right now.
Any chance of you two working together anytime soon?
Right now my main focus is finishing my shit, but who knows what’s gonna happen. I don’t want to ruin anything, so let’s just say no comment. [Laughs.]