Never mix business with benevolence.
CORMEGA X POUND
Gone are the days of "Fuck Nas N Nature", Queensbridge legend, Cormega has an entirely different perspective than his grimey baggy-pant-wearing, gun-toting former self. Having just released his seventh album, Raw Forever, 'Mega talks to Pound about whether he's still raw, getting past a bad reputation, his charitable soft side and much more.
Words: Olivia Arezes
Gone are the days of "Fuck Nas N Nature", Queensbridge legend, Cormega has an entirely different perspective than his grimey baggy-pant-wearing, gun-toting former self.
Pound: I know you’ve been frustrated with rap music in the past, who, or what are you listening to right now?
Cormega: I don’t think I’ve been frustrated with rap, maybe that’s a misconception, I just didn’t really respect what I was hearing and the difference between [that] and being frustrated is, I was like ashamed and embarrassed at the same time. It’s like seeing young children at family reunions and not carrying our family traditions, I guess that’s what it was like. My frustrations were towards labels, not towards rap, not towards the music.
Pound: But there was a period of time you said you weren’t listening to rap…?
Cormega: Sometimes now I still don’t listen to rap, turn on the radio and I don’t wanna hear it, every song about poppin’ bottles and “drink this” and “I do this” and “I do that”, that’s the type of stuff I don’t wanna hear, and I got kids and stuff to do, I be like “Wow! That’ll be what my kids hear.” The last hip-hop album, as far as mainstream, that really caught my attention and I really thought was brilliant was Kanye West’s last solo album [My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy], I thought that was kind of brilliant and there’s underground artists who I respect, but for the most part it is what it is. At the end of the day, people are important, I respect that. I’m not listening to nobody right now, I’m listening to Large Professor beats, I’m listening to R&B, stuff like that, reggae. Sometimes I have to get away from rap, to recharge myself.
Pound: Does getting away from rap effect your rapping?
Cormega: I just withdraw from it, I always do that, I’ve always done that since I recorded, it’s just like sometimes you wanna get away from everything that’s going on but you don’t wanna fall into that cycle, or sometimes you don’t wanna fall into what’s going on, like thinking “This is what I have to do, because this is what’s going on now,” you don’t wanna fall into that trap so I just get away from everything and just cleanse myself, I mean that’s what I do, I get away from everything and I just focus on what makes me me, what my fans enjoy. I can’t try to do what this artist does or what that artist does, I just have to do what makes Cormega fans come out because that’s the only people that matter to me.
Pound: You’ve stated you’re not really about what’s happening right now, you’re not out to make that hot record, that autotune record.
Pound: So how do you stay true to your style but find a place in current music?
Cormega: The fans. The fans are your board meeting, your fans are like your boss and you sit in a meeting with your fans and they tell you what they like. Nowadays you got forums, you got twitters, you got fans that tell you what they love about you on youtube, you got people that come to in-stores, you got people that come to shows. Sometimes when you’re doing a show, say you do 20 songs and one particular song people scream crazy loud for, you got to tell yourself they really like this, I gotta do another song similar to this or make one just as good or better. All I’ve ever done is listen to my fans, if I make a song that I think is incredible and I spent my life on this song and I think it’s the best shit ever, but everybody says it’s trash, I’m not gunna do that shit again, even though I like it. I don’t make music for myself, I make it for the fans, so whatever they say goes, that’s my secret.
Pound: Where are you living right now? Are you still in Queens?
Cormega: I haven’t lived in Queens since 1999 maybe, or 2000, some shit like that. I visit Queens, I spend the night in Queens, but I have a house. I’ve had a house for 10 years, contrary to perception people be having of maybe me or certain artists. Yeah, I’ve had a house for 10 years, a damn nice house at that. I’m just fortunate and blessed because of my fans and stuff like that. I haven’t lived in Queens in a long time, I frequent Queens, I always go to Queens a lot and I like to go to my old stomping grounds a lot so I can stay in that zone, or so I could feel it out, feel what I felt when I was there. I don’t ever wanna lose my connection with the streets.
Pound: Your new album is called Raw Forever, in what ways are you still raw or as raw as you were when you were living in Queens?
Cormega: I mean, Cormega Raw Forever is mostly a popular verse that was in one of my songs, whenever I do that verse of that song that’s one of the verses that people all chime in on. “Cormega, raw forever!” the crowd always rushes the stage on that, so that resonates with them so I called it [the album] Cormega Raw Forever. I don’t know in what ways I’m still raw, I can’t tell you, that’s something that a fan would have to say but I’m not the same person that I was. I’m a parent now, I’m more spiritual now, I’m older, wiser, I try to be more socially active, I’m a different person. I’m not the person I used to be, I try to use less profanity, I try to do things differently. So as far as raw, I guess Raw Forever is just the title. I’m raw as an emcee because I’m unpolished, I’ll always be unpolished, I will never be the most polished emcee, but as far as me being like I was in the 90’s, I’m not that person. I’m not trapped in the 90’s, I’m not chasing the 90’s, I’m smarter than the person I was in the 90’s.
Pound: Because of how you were in the 90’s and your former hood persona, do people expect you to be like that all the time?
Cormega: Some people do, but in a way that’s an insult, because who stays the same forever? If you want me to be that same person you’re stagnating me, because that person as much as he’s a dope emcee or whatever, he was ignorant! There are some things about me that I look back upon that I don’t like, that I would not do again, there are certain things that I’ve changed. I will never wear baggy clothes again! I’m too old for that shit! I’ve got my style, don’t get me wrong, I’m not gunna wear no jeggings but I’m just more sophisticated, I wear corduroys now, I wear khakis, I still wear jeans but I’m much more sophisticated now, I wanna see the world, I enjoy life more, I don’t walk around with guns on me, I don’t walk around with 50 guys with me, I don’t care what happens in the street, I learned to mind my business more, I’m not trying to be into everything. I don’t have nothing to prove, that person was like “I’m a real nigga, I’m a real nigga, I’m a real nigga!” Every black person is a real nigga, if you don’t think so all you have to do is go to a Ku Klux Klan meeting and you’ll see [laughs]. I’m just not trying to be the person I used to be, I’m trying to be a better person, a more responsible person, and I’m definitely a more humble person. I can’t be the person I was, and actually I make better songs now, my song structures are better than they were when I was in the 90’s. was I more aggressive then? Yes, but my lifestyle was more aggressive, that’s the difference.
Pound: The people who expect you to be old aggressive Cormega, do they act a certain way when they first meet you? Are they intimidated?
Cormega: Of course, there are some people who are intimidated by me, especially in the industry, because my reputation proceeds me. At the end of the day, back in the day I might’ve laughed at that shit but right now I don’t like that because that could stagnate my growth as a person and as a businessman. You don’t want people scared of you! People that’s scared of you don’t wanna do business with you! There might be somebody that’s a productive businessman that says “I really like Cormega’s music but I don’t wanna fuck with him ‘cause he’s crazy! Or he’s whatever ‘cause I’ve heard these things!” And this has happened. People have even tried to tell girls, “Oh you don’t wanna be around that guy, that guy’s crazy!” My publicist, the woman who set up this interview, people warned her about me before she met me! And now almost 10 years later I can honestly say, I mean, I don’t have to tell you how she feels, ‘cause she could tell you, but 10 years later she’s my publicist but she’s my friend, I can honestly say I love her! I love my publicist! I don’t say that about anybody I do business with, she’s like my family, so to know me is to know me, so some people will create this mystique about me like I’m the wildest person in the world, but I’m human. I’ll defend myself, I’m loyal by all means and I love hard, but other than that I’m not wild. When was the last time you heard Cormega was in a club and there was a fight? Whenever you hear something about a Cormega show you hearin’ people put it on youtube, “Cormega killed the show, he did a dope show!” You never hear about there’s fights at my shows, you never hear about me getting arrested with guns, you never hear about me going to jail, you never hear about me raping, you never hear about me having drug problems. I’m one of the dudes to make an example of, I’m one of the cleanest dudes in the industry if you think about it! I don’t even smoke! I don’t get high, I don’t smoke cigarettes, I don’t drink alcohol! So, what?! I’m a good dude!
Pound: For what it’s worth, my editor said that one night in New York years ago that he randomly ended up chilling with you at BB Kings and that you’re one of the nicest rappers he’s ever met.
Cormega: Aw, that’s nice, tell him I say thanks a lot, I appreciate that. And you know the funny thing? Everybody says that about me! I know people that were fans but now their my fams. I know people that were really Cormega fans, like came to my in-stores and shows and now they have my phone number or they send me pictures of they kids and I’m like “Oh, my God, she’s adorable!” I’m a people’s person, that is the truth about me. I’m one of the most personable rappers out there. Period. I don’t present myself like an artist and sometimes I’m so down to earth I forget that I’m a rapper. Sometimes when people are giving me love I’m surprised by it, I almost started crying at a show in Boston last month because I was so overwhelmed by the fuckin’ love. Like serious, it was just crazy, I was like “Wow!” sometimes I forget because it’s been such a long road, and such a turbulent road at times. I’ve always had such a chip on my shoulder, you know when you’re the underdog you always feel like you’re the underdog so when people start believing in you and giving you credit you don’t know how to accept it, it’s like “Damn! Do I take the chip off my shoulder now?” So that’s how I am, so when I hear people like “Yo ‘Mega I love your shit" or the way I got love in Boston, I almost started crying, keepin’ it real. I was like “Wow!” I was blown away. Or when I came to Toronto in Canada, that was ridiculous! At the Pheonix?! Oh my god! Oh-my-god, like wow! I didn’t even know- I knew I had love in Canada but I ain’t know it was like that! Yo real talk, I have as much love for some of my fans as I do for some of my friends. Actually, I have more respect for my fans then some of my own friends, because your fans only want one thing from you, they just want you to be the best that you can be, their not using you, they won’t betray you, they just want you to give them what they want you know what I’m sayin’? So that’s dope!
Pound: Do you think all the controversy and beefs of your past have overshadowed some of your talent?
Cormega: Back in the day yeah, and to a degree some people that were not ‘Mega fans, that only knew me from that, yes, of course. Because they had a perception of me like yo, I’m a controversial person, or this or that, or like, I’ve heard people say “Yo, Cormega’s still in the hood and this and that,” He’s still in the hood, doing what?! He’s still in the hood chillin’… You know what I mean? There’s a lot of things that I’ve done that aren’t controversial, that are positive, that you’ll never hear about unless you do you research that should overshadow all the controversy but people never talk about it. People don’t talk about how I took the whole hood to Six Flags or how I did shows on Riker’s Island for the younger inmates, or how I did a coat drive a few months ago or I went to Haiti, or I did a Haiti Tribute song recently. We do a lot of positive stuff that gets overlooked. At the end of the day you do positive stuff but you really do it for yourself and god, for your legacy, like my legacy is something my children will be able to share like “I was there when my father did this…” and maybe they’ll be like that and our future seeds and our future generations will wanna be contributive to the world. Anybody could be a rapper, anybody. You could be a piece of shit and be a rapper, you could be a piece of shit and be an athlete but when you affect other people’s lives in a positive way then you’re really doing something, and I know that’s something I’ve definitely done and I’m definitely doing.
Pound: What advice would you give to a younger generation rapper who’s quick to start beef and all the drama and controversy?
Cormega: That shit is played out. I would tell a young rapper “If you think beef is gunna help you, you’re gunna sadly be disappointed because beef, after a while magazines don’t sell as much as they use to and websites, they just want attention. The more people checkin’ they website the more they can charge advertisers etc… etc… So controversy, they’ll use you just for that, but when you’re not doing controversy, if your talent doesn’t define you that’s all the gon’ look at you as. So when you’re not doing the controversy you become boring and I’ve seen that for a lot of artists, male and female, when they’re doing something regular no one gives a fuck, when they do something stupid they could be all in the paper. Don’t be trapped, don’t be trapped just out of that.
Pound: Do you think beef between rappers is even taken seriously anymore?
Cormega: No. It depends on who the people are, but people are getting tired of it, I know I am.
Pound: What was the last rapper beef that was even significant in your books?
Cormega: I don’t care about rapper beef so it doesn’t matter to me, I don’t give a fuck about it, they’re stupid, I don’t care. The last one that was significant to me? I dunno, Tupac and BIG? KRS-one and Shan? I don’t care about that.
Pound: What’s bullshit to you?
Cormega: I dunno. I dunno, I don’t focus on it. I don’t know what is bullshit. Bullshit is when my daughter comes home with a bad score on her test; that’s bullshit to me. I don’t care what rappers are doing. If two rappers go to a club right now and they both shoot each other in the face, I don’t give a fuck [Laughs]. If two rappers go on top of a building and one jumped off and he said “Fuck the other rapper” and he lands and splatters into 30 pieces, I don’t give a fuck! I’m on some real mind-my-business shit. Only thing I give a fuck about now is my family, NBA season, good TV, good food, friendship, recycling- saving the earth.