Cormega
Independent

“When me and Nas had beef, people had the perception that I was still in the projects broke and mad. Meanwhile, I was probably the richest rapper from Queensbridge.”

Harrowing street tales of life in the Queensbridge housing projects morphed Cormega from local rapper to underground cult hero in the ’90s. Debuting as a member of The Firm, a super-group comprised of Nas, AZ and Foxy Brown, Mega-Montana starred on the crew’s 1996 song “Affirmative Action” off Nas’ sophomore LP It Was Written. Shortly after, label politics forced ’Mega out of the group and put his Def Jam Records solo debut, The Testament, on permanent hold. After finally being released from his Def Jam contract in 2000, Cormega launched his own independent label, Legal Hustle, releasing his debut LP, The Realness, in 2001 and follow-up album, The True Meaning, in 2002. Since then, five years have passed since a true solo album. In 2004, ’Mega dropped a Legal Hustle compilation LP, followed by his long-awaited original debut, The Testament, in 2005, and finally, a collaborative release with Lake in 2006 entitled My Brother’s Keeper. Now, in 2007, ’Mega is prepping for the release of a new DVD, Who Am I?, and an instrumental album, Legal Hustle Presents: Got Beats, which features production by DJ Premier, The Alchemist and Buckwild. Cormega kicked it with XXLMag.com to talk about life as an independent artist, his new side projects and the status of his forthcoming solo album, The Inevitable.

Your career suffered a number of false starts in the ‘90s with both The Firm situation and your problems at Def Jam. What did you learn from those experiences?
From the Def Jam situation I learned that labels don’t care about artistry, they care about sales. You can have the wackest album on the whole label and your project can come out and get more promotion than an album from the most talented artist on the label, because labels base all of their decisions on what’s hot at a particular moment and what’s going to sell. So I learned that in the industry you really have no friends, because people will shake your hand, they’ll compliment you and tell you all kinds of different things, but then the next thing you know they’ll put you on the shelf and fuck-up your whole life. Everything ain’t always what it seems and you really can’t trust too many people in this industry. You really have to expect the worst when you get into the game and then if something good happens then that’s a blessing. From The Firm, I learned that everybody’s really out for self. After The Firm situation people really thought it was over for me and they counted me out, but I re-established myself. See, when The Firm situation was going down, I knew I wasn’t going to be in the group because it was all politics. But nobody in The Firm revolted and said, “Fuck that! ‘Mega gotta be down.” If they’d have stood up it would’ve never been an issue, but everyone was pacified by their check.

Last year you performed with Nas during his Hip Hop Is Dead tour. What’s your relationship with Nas like now?
I ain’t got no beef with Nas. That shit is old. He brought me out at his show last year and it was a good experience. It was incredible. See, a lot of new artists today think that beefing with someone is the only way to get in the game and get some attention. But what a lot of artists don’t realize is that when the beef’s over nobody cares about you no more. So you really have to concentrate on establishing yourself as an artist, because that’s what’s going to enable you to maintain your career, not trying to thrive off of beef. I mean, when Nas and me had beef, my record sales actually increased, so I could’ve benefited financially by keeping the beef going. I got more magazine interviews when I had beef with Nas than when I didn’t have beef with Nas. But I had to have the self-respect and dignity as an artist to step away from that. I’m not trying to be no gimmick. I actually got into an argument at the time with Vibe magazine because they were doing a story on Nas and they called me up for some input and wanted me to diss him and I didn’t want to. I’ve never spoken on that before, but fuck it. I’m proud of the fact that I left the beef alone because it means that people focus on my music first and foremost rather than what I have to say about someone else.

What’s your opinion on Foxy Brown’s current legal situation?
I can’t even comment on Foxy Brown. No comment.

Nowadays every artist is going independent. But you were one of the first MCs to embrace the indie formula. Were you always confident this was the direction hip-hop was going in?
When I first went independent I had other artists looking at me like I was crazy. But people need to understand that I did have major labels wanting to sign me after I left Def Jam. The main reason I put The Realness out independently in 2001 was because I was thirsty to have an album out as I’d been waiting since 1998 to drop something. So even though I had all these other labels looking to sign me at the time, they wouldn’t have been able to put my album out as quickly as I’d have liked. Then once I started going independent, I never turned back because I realized that I could put out an album that might sell 50,000 copies and make more money than from a gold album on a major. So when artists were looking at me a certain way back then, I was laughing at them because they really didn’t understand the benefits of an independent situation. Although a lot of these major label artists were getting more exposure than me, I was actually making more bread than them. What people fail to realize is that by the time a major label has recouped on the marketing and production costs that go into making an album, the average gold-selling artist is only just breaking even. The average artist on a major label makes their money from doing shows, not selling records. I’ve barely been doing shows over the past two years and I’m still able to keep up with the big boys. The funniest thing to me is that, when me and Nas had beef, people had the perception that I was still in the projects broke and mad. Meanwhile, I was probably the richest rapper from Queensbridge at that point. Everything that I wanted at that point in my life I could get. I was the one who was taking the kids from the projects to Great Adventures and paying for transportation and park admission. The independent game is the best thing in the world for an artist. You just have to get a good lawyer, study the game, and you can’t act like a diva because ain’t nobody gonna pamper you. If you can grind, then you can make money.

It’s been five years since your last solo album. Why the delay?

In 2001, I made The Realness, then in 2002, I made The True Meaning. After that, I wanted to take a little break because my daughter was born in 2002 and also I’d just won a Source Award, which was big for me back then. So I felt I deserved a break. Then in 2004, I put together the Legal Hustle compilation, and in 2005, I finally released my old album, The Testament, which should’ve come out on Def Jam. Then in 2006, I stopped what I was doing so I could work on the My Brother’s Keeper album with Lake. So that’s what held-up the new Cormega solo project. But from here on out I’m going to be consistently dropping material on people because I understand the nature of the business and I don’t wanna be outta-sight, outta-mind.

You’re about to drop an instrument album. That’s an unusual move for an MC.
A lot of people used to contact me on the Internet saying they wanted beats or they’d request certain instrumentals of mine. So I decided to get some fresh new beats from a bunch of producers, combine those with some of the beats that people have been asking me for and see what happens. I have people on the album like The Heatmakerz, Ski Beatz and J-Love.

What can people expect to see on your forthcoming DVD, Who Am I?
The DVD is three hours and fifty seconds long! It contains various videos from throughout my career—studio footage, you’ll see my regular everyday life. It follows me from 2001 to 2005, and it really answers a lot of questions people might have had about who I am as a person and certain controversies that have surrounded my career. The thing I’m most proud of about the DVD is that it’s not just me on there talking shit. It’s not like a lot of these typical street DVDs where you have the artist on there trying to act a particular way. Instead, you’ll see other people giving their insight on me. I have Marley Marl on there, Tragedy, Nature, ACD, Blaq Poet —a lot of people from Queensbridge. There’s a real mix of people who knew me from the street life and people who know me from the industry, and they all answer the question of what type of person they think I am. It’s real interesting.

You’re currently finishing your next solo album The Inevitable. What can fans expect?
Yo, I’m telling you, the next Cormega solo album is going to be a breath of life for hip-hop. I got production on there from Ayatollah, Emile, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, DR Period, Lil’ Fame and Nottz. Plus, I got a song on the album called “Fresh” with KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, Grand Puba, Parrish Smith and DJ Red Alert. I got another song with Tragedy and Havoc. It took a while to put the album together but I’m proud of it and it was definitely worth the wait. I never like to predict what I’m gonna sell, but I know I’m not gonna sell out. If the album doesn’t live up to what I say, I’ll quit. I gotta lot of tricks up my sleeve.

  • wu tanger

    megas ill

  • dirk digahoe

    What’s your opinion on Foxy Brown’s current legal situation?

    wtf kinda question is that?!

    • Mr S

      are you serious? you might be too young to understand why he asked that question…..

  • Latino Heat

    we don’t want a dvd or instrumental album we want that classic mega montana shit. realness is a classic and true meaning was hot even though every song was about two minutes long.i met dude when i was working at the wherehouse out here in the bay and he came in for a in store when true meaning dropped. cool ass dude, lil as fuck though, about 5’2 no joke. hope the new shit drops soon dude is ill.

  • yaboy

    patiently waiting on some new material.

    cor-mega, raw for-eva

  • ThatNiggaSKi

    Megaaa….whateverrrrr..do ya thing son we aint mad at cha

  • triplesixninja

    u know the deal test me
    get hit directly
    this little knicca pack big heat like joe pesci
    flow deadly yall kniccas dont impress me my 44 above the law police wont arrest me

    Cormega is on of the illest emcees ever. 10 times better than Jay-Z or Nas if you ask me.

    • anau

      You’re a real CS!!

  • http://Kellsfetish.com Lo-Doe

    I can’t wait for this joint to drop. Cormega is in the TOP 8 Best emcees. He real charismic and on point. I got all his albums and have never been dissapointed. I got cats in Chicago loving him. True hip-hop is what he brings (not all that corny ass down south shit.)
    “I’m just trying to be a man in this poison land, Forgive me father, They forced my hand”

  • BEANTOWN BANGA

    Mega easily the best MC. Anybody who disagrees don’t know real hip hop. Keep it real Mega

  • BK Cyph

    Mega still doin it- the Realness was a straight CLASSIC. The True Meaning was dope! Cant wait for the next one!

  • mr. undisputed the mogul

    “BIG UPS & MAD PROPS” TO ‘MEGA, I COPPED ALL 3 OF HIS SOLO ALBUM’S. IT’S A SHAME DEFJAM DID’NT RELEASE “THE TESTAMENT” IN 1998 HE WOULD’VE EASILY BLOWN UP. I REMEMBER THEM MARKETING HIM AS CORMEGA THE EXECUTIVE FROM THE FIRM. IT’S A SHAME THAT TO 97% OF THE FANS IF YOUR NOT ON A MAJOR LABEL WITH HEAVY EXPOSURE PEOPLE WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU OR YOUR SIDE OF THE STORY. I REMEMBER ARGUING WITH CATS ABOUT CORMEGA BEING A “REAL CERTIFIED QUEENS LEGEND” & NAS BEING JUST A RAPPER SPITTING ABOUT WHAT HE SAW NOT WHAT HE HAD DONE IN THE STREETS. TO ALL THE YOUNG FANS WHO DON’T KNOW WHO MEGA, IS BUT KNOW WHO 50 CENT IS, JUST LISTEN TO THE SONG “GHETTO QU’RAN, 50 DID BEFORE HE BLEW UP & THE REST IS SELF EXPLANATORY. PEACE!!!!!!!!

  • BEANTOWN BANGA

    p.s. The Realness is the best album in hip hop history! hands down!

    • RIGID

      BEANTOWN BANGA; The Realness must be the only
      hip-hop cd you have,cause thats nowhere near the best hip-hop album in history homey.
      step ur game up partna!!!!

  • hell yea

    I remember me and my brother probably being the only two down south niggas blasting his music. I fucks wit Mega. He is a very underrated mc.. Cant wait to get his new shit.

  • http://ITS2ECBLOGSPOT.COM ITS2ECBLOGSPOT.COM

    Mega definitely an artist who come with it, I actually buy the nigga album, they in my collection. And I respect how he let the Nas beef die away instead of igniting more fuel to the fire. He let the music speak for itself. Real recognize real, I cant wait to hear that track with Puba,Kane,Red Alert.KRS, And Parrish,dam that a ill line up.

  • http://ITS2ECBLOGSPOT.COM ITS2ECBLOGSPOT.COM

    Mega definitely an artist who come with it, I actually buy the nigga album, they in my collection. And I respect how he let the Nas beef die away instead of igniting more fuel to the fire. He let the music speak for itself. Real recognize real, I cant wait to hear that track with Puba,Kane,Red Alert.KRS, And Parrish,dam that a ill line up. The shit gonna be fyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyre (word to M.O.P)

  • fla all day

    cant nobody fuck wit mega’s flow!!

  • fla all day

    I would love for him and AZ to make a album.

  • http://kellsfetish.com Lo-Doe

    Definately, AZ. I would add Nas, at least get all three on a joint together. Lake’s album was nice to “My Brother’s Keeper”. That definately set a tone that the streets needed.

  • BlahUno

    I thought Large Pro was suppose to do production for the album too?

    • the one

      They need to just do another fuckin Firm album minus Nature. Maybe throw him on a track or two. I know AZ needs the work and exposure and so does FOXXY soon as that crazy bitch get out the clink.

  • A

    I understand that the beef with Nas is squashed. It still doesn’t take away the fact that Mega is straight up WHACK!!! That’s why Def-Jam was disappointed. Labels may indeed be signing whack artist these days for sales but back then they weren’t. That’s when Hip Hop was very alive.

    Some of these comments Im reading about Mega being one of the nicest emcees just blow me away. No wonder these whack artist are thriving. Whack listeners support em..

  • anau

    Now, I understand that the beef with Nas is squashed. It still doesn’t take away the fact that Mega is straight up WHACK!!! That’s why Def-Jam was disappointed. Labels may indeed be signing whack artist these days for sales but back then they weren’t. That’s when Hip Hop was very alive.

    Some of these comments Im reading about Mega being one of the nicest emcees just blow me away. No wonder these whack artist are thriving. Whack listeners support em..

  • zone out

    anau is an idiot for dissin cormega. he can’t rap what the fuck you talkin about.this dude bodied nas before they decided to squash the beef. buy the realness album and really listen to that shit and tell me that isn’t the greatest album of all time.

  • http://xxlmag.com meezy

    your out of you rabbit mind … mega is an artist with plenty of methsphors for people in the stuggle to reflect.. Hip Hop is very much alive dickhead

  • Freddy(Vega$)

    Mega is the Truth!! this nigga is consider a Legend in the streets, His rhymes are sick and he actually has something to say, Rap fans dont sleep in this dude…

  • A

    HONESTLY SPEAKING IF I HAD TO CHOOSE A MEGA ALBUM OVER THAT WHACK SOUTHERN SHIT, I WOULD. BUT MEGA HAS NEVER STOOD OUT IN HIP HOP. HE DOESNT HAVE THE VOICE OR DELIVERY. HE CAN RAP. THAT IS TRUE. BUT HE’S NO SUPERSTAR. I’LL TELL YOU WERE HE WENT WRONG. HE WENT WRONG TRYNA PORTRAY THE STREETS IN EVERY SONG. THE CONSUMER DOESNT CARE ABOUT THE STREETS TOO MUCH ANYMORE. ASK MOBB DEEP! AND I LOVE THOSE DUDES. MEGA DOESNT HAVE ONE SONG THAT’S RADIO READY. HE’S ALL UNDERGROUND. TOO ME HE’S 1 DEMENSIONAL. I’M SORRY BUT HE CANT MAKE HITS. IF HE COULD HE WOULD HAVE GOTTEN PICKED UP. 50 DIDNT EVEN WANT HIM.

  • joey doe

    Even B.I.G. said he was ill.Cormega is since day ONE,one of my Favorite Emcees Of All Time.When I was in my early teens..just hearing him spit the way his voice resonated through the speaker when you are blasting his shit with his crisp snare drums and ever melodic soundscapes.See theres a difference between people like Benzin-HO, and Mega Montana. Mega IS a breath of fresh air to the hip hop industry. Has anyone heard “Sleep Well” well I feel sorry for the individuals that haven’t. Top notch production with lyrics..that the papers he wrote on..should be displayed in a museum. Just that joint right there is better than you’re whole album AND YOU KNOW WHO I’M TALKING ABOUT.LIL WAYNE.

  • http://www.philaflava.com core

    the best mega interview is at PF.com and you can listen to it on the site

  • az$$rugerman

    Damn y’all cats are trippin..tHIS faggot sed “50 DIDNT EVEN WANT HIM”. Mega got his OWN record label, why the fuck he wanna sign with G-string Unit! If you lace his vocals on a track with any1 on that roster he would lyrically handi-cap them w/16 bars.. Dumb, also the same lame talkin bout Mega too street, well then if U wanna hear some pop/rap or “non-street” shit go cop that K-Fed homie,cause consumers aren’t coppin’ a damn thing right now>>50 aint even go Platinum yet.

    Montana won’t crossover and never will cuz he’s Loyal — and that seperates him from any other rappers in the game for a quick Buck. Mega is hungry without the spotlight on him, but i cant be waitin’ 4years between albums son, release that shit already.

    TOP-10 LYRICIST NO Question!!

    • A

      I WASNT GONNA ENTERTAIN THIS BUT U GOT ME ON A GOOD DAY. SO LOOK HERE, YOU’RE REALLY NOT GETTIN MY POINT FAM! YES, MEGA CAN RAP. THERE’S ACTUALLY A COUPLE OF SONGS OF HIS THAT I DO LIKE. TOP 10 LYRICIST???? THAT’S VERY QUESTIONABLE…
      LET’S SEE:

      NAS
      JAY-Z
      BIGGIE
      MOS-DEF
      BIG L
      COMMON
      STYLES P
      GHOSTFACE
      AZ
      PAPOOSE
      PAC (IN HIS PRIME)
      THE GAME

      HONESTLY, I THINK I CAN NAME A FEW MORE CATS THAT ARE WAY MORE EXPLOSIVE THEN MEGA. WHERE TALKIN SUPERSTAR SHIT. NOT JUST METAPHORES. SAYING MEGA WONT CROSS OVER IS BS.. HE CANT CROSS. IF HE COULD HAVE HE WOULD HAVE. AND IF HE GETS THE OPPORTUNITY U THINK HE’S GONNA SHUT IT DOWN? AINT NUTTIN HOT ABOUT BEING BROKE. ON TOP OF THAT YOU HAVE TO AGREE WITH ME ON THIS NAS HERBED MEGA ON STILLMATIC. LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!

      • lessthansix

        What do you guys base your “greatest” mc lists on?.. not being too commercial, being original, so-called street cred

        It’s about consistency. Whether it’s just a verse on someone else’s album or putting together ten or twelve solid tracks for their own (without a dozen guest appearances).

        You can argue the order but this is the list that sums up the best rappers and rap groups… evah

        1. 2Pac
        2. Biggie
        3. Big Pun
        4. Ice Cube
        4. Snoop (when he was still “Doggy”) Dogg
        5. Jay-Z
        6. Eminem
        7. Nas
        8. Method Man
        9. Rakim
        10.DMX
        *Honorable
        Mention: Big L
        ——————–
        1. N.W.A
        2. Wu-tang Clan
        3. Mobb Deep
        4. BONE
        5. Outkast
        *Honorable
        Mention: Geto Boys

  • az$$rugerman

    Alrite i’ll give you a layup on that Stillmatic comment..Cuz Nas shitted on numerous cats w/dat album…Okay doofie you wanna trade

    How bout:
    RAKIM
    R.A. the rUGGED MAN
    PHARoaH MONCHE( damn i fucked that spelling up)
    HOVA
    NAS
    Big Daddy Kane
    Kool G Rap
    GZA ……..and YES cORMEGA.
    i TRIED NOT to use the same cats just to keep it Gully!!

  • A

    I CANT DENY THAT LINE UP? YOU DEFINITELY GOT A GOOD EAR.

  • mega_tron_201

    yo mega, wut the deal man….wheres the album kid? I know your situation but why you droppin an instrumental cd? LOL….youve been gone for a while and your loyal thirsty hungry fans need new music man….I know cats that consider your albums classics and listen to them all the time …..at least hit us off with something for xmas man…ahahaa..
    keep doin yer thing playa pz. =D

  • http://kellsfetish.com Lo-Doe

    Jay-Z
    Nas
    2Pac
    AZ
    Jadakiss (2 solo albums along w/great material)
    Biggie
    Scarface
    Beanie Sigel
    Cormega
    Styles

  • http://www.google.com jevon

    alota niggas sleep on mega shit at one point so did I but dis nigga the truth fuck beef listen to the albums my nigga spot opened my eyes to mega peace fam fuck quantity quality! 4eva mc

  • big l-eezy

    I have to give props on this ‘mega article. I was honestly listening to The Realness just the other day. He, along with artist like Pharoahe Monch, Saigon, Termanology, and Little Brother are keeping the essence of hip hop alive instead of adding to the watered down bullshit that rap music has become. And no lying, “Affirmative Action” was bangin’ then, and it still does today. Oh yeah, one more thing, WHERE THE F*CK IS THE M.O.P ALBUM AT, 50????????? I thought they were finally gonna get their due signing with ur ass, but it seems like ur doin them like fuckin Dame did!!!!

  • http://www.reigneverywere.com ReignMan Music Inc

    One of the greatest lines I’ve ever heard mega Say…and he said it so fast, some of yall might not have heard him say it…But I’d challenge many of Today’s artists to say anything remotely the same…the description was soooo on point: READ THIS>>>>>

    Hip Hop is like Egypt reduced from its greatness to sadness / The industry is the enemy troop that’s invading our palace / They steal our culture / desecrate our sculptures and claim the best rapper is the complexion of the Roman leader known as Caesar / I don’t believe em I seek knowledge in brand Nubian / The soul of pete rock / the vibe of the Tribe / The heart of Gangstar / I’m busy diggin in the crates / I’m Kool like Moe Dee / Vocally I innovate…

    Fuckin Crazzy…Mega Yo…I rewind those lines and just shake my head…you teachin these poor, dumb, deaf and blind lost hip hop heads…when you wrote those lines…you must have said DAMN thats ill. lol

  • Stackz Up

    “My drug clientele be bringin me money well, smokin buddha els the weed so good it leave a funny smell………”

    Man I’m so glad my nigga from VA put me on Mega, I’m from Texas and I got all three albums ya dig, right in between my DJ Screw CDs you gonna find a Mega album guaranteed!