Cormega conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Cormega: Hustling For The People


Cormega has truly risen from the ashes of the fire of street hustling. In and out of jail, he gained concrete street credibility for his actions as a drug dealer and a hardcore emcee. In the song "One Love" by Nas, Cormega is named in a verbal prison letter. One of his first singles 'Dead Man Walking' was banned for being too violent. He was signed to Def Jam but his album 'The Testament' was never released. He was the original member of The Firm (Nas, AZ, and Foxy Brown) and he rocked a classic verse on "Affirmative Action" from the "It Was Written" LP by Nas. Unfortunately, Cormega was replaced by Nature because he refused to sign a production deal. Many people yearned for his solo albums and fans only had collaborations and bootlegs to listen to. Songs like "What's Your Poison" by Mobb Deep and "Three" by Prodigy were instant classics. Cormega was never afraid to speak his mind either.

He gained even more exposure when a heated beef began with his once friend, Nas. Calling him out on many songs, Cormega gained more of the respect like 50 Cent did when he beefed Ja Rule. Nas did strike back with "Destroy And Rebuild" from his "Stillmatic" album. These days, beef between Nas and Cormega is not even a topic anymore.

Eventually, Cormega released his debut solo album "The Realness" on his own label, Legal Hustle Records. With very little guest appearances, Cormega brought back the concept of solid albums to hip-hop. Short, sweet, and not flooded with BS, "The Realness" was a gritty slice of reality from Queensbridge. He missed the sophomore jinx with his classic 2nd album "The True Meaning". Every song on "The True Meaning" was incredible. From "Verbal Graffiti" to "Therapy", the album was almost perfect (and it only had one guest emcee, Large Professor).

Fast forward to 2004, Cormega returns with his album "Legal Hustle". Packed with guest appearances, Cormega's "Legal Hustle" is more of a showcase for the talent from his label even though Cormega is on almost every single song. While many unknowns like Dona and Miz are on the LP, many well-respected artists do collaborations too. Ghostface Killah truly rocks the microphone on the mind-blowing "Tony / Montana", produced by newcomers, The Feil Brothers. Firm member, AZ also rocks the mic on the Emile produced "Redemption". M.O.P. brings chaos on "Let It Go" as they show their frustration about how their album is taking so long to come out on Roc-A-Fella Records. There are even odd collaborations like the reggae inspired "Dangerous" with Vybez Kartel and Unda P or "Deep Blue Seas" with West Coast emcees Kurupt and Jayo Felony. Cormega fans will not be disappointed. On a hot evening in June, I sat down with the legendary Queens emcee and discussed drugs, the record industry, collaborations, and more. Cormega gives a voice to the kid in the projects, the guys who hang out in front of the corner store, the guys who sell drugs in the street, and the men incarcerated behind bars. While Cormega may be hustling legally, he is hustling for the people.

MVRemix: Tell us about the new 'Legal Hustle' LP.

Cormega: The album 'Legal Hustle' is, as you can see, not like my previous albums. It's more of a compilation type album. It is basically a way to show some of the artists that I have on my label.

MVRemix: When 'The True Meaning' came out, there was word that you were working on an entire album with Ayatollah. What happened with that? Will that ever come out?

Cormega: It's supposed to be an EP but basically, at the time, he was slacking a little bit. I was ready but he wasn't. He was doing other things. Right now, things needed to be moved forward. While he was bullsh*tting, I knocked out this 'Legal Hustle' album.

MVRemix: The last 2 albums came out on Landspeed Records but this one is released on Legal Hustle Records with distribution via Koch. What happened?

Cormega: Landspeed was going through financial difficulties so I decided to take it up on my own. The other albums were always on Legal Hustle and Landspeed was more of a distributor.

MVRemix: When you go into the studio, do you have your rhymes pre-written and your themes thought-out ahead of time, or do you write then and there, from the beat?

Cormega: You would like to know my secret, huh? Nah, I'm joking. I have my rhymes pre-written. Sometimes, I go back and correct it. I write in the studio very rarely but when I do, it's a done deal. When I write it at home, it gives me a chance to critique my work. It gives me a chance to make things better. I can realize that this word is better than that word.

MVRemix: You have been in the drug hustle before you got involved in the hip-hop hustle. How did you change? How did you make this transformation? How difficult was it?

Cormega: I changed because I matured as a person. I saw the ills. I could see what could happen in the streets. You see, there ain't any prosperity in the streets. There is no pot of gold in the streets. It is not possible without the consequences. Either the kingpins are dead or in jail with a whole lot of time. As far as the rap move, it went down like this. I love the streets. I can't front. The streets are addictive. I love the streets but rap music gave me pure joy. I love the streets but I truly love rap music. When I'm doing a show, sometimes, I get high of the crowd. I truly had to restructure my life. I was in jail for a while. When I came home, I had a groove and a lot of people representing me. So, my music is important. I'm their voice. I have a responsibility now. I now have a daughter and I refuse to short-change myself when I can help myself. This talent that I have helps me in the art that I love.

MVRemix: What has been on your turntable or in your CD player recently?

Cormega: Marvin Gaye.

MVRemix: I love that album 'Let's Get It On'. It's incredible. My favorite. I love that song 'You Sure Love To Ball'.

Cormega: Oh my God! You think like me! Actually, I slept on that album for real. You know, I knew and loved the song 'Let's Get It On' but it was the only song I truly knew from the album. One day, I was just skipping through it and every song touched me. 'If I Could Die' is on there. 'You Sure Love To Ball' and 'Secret Love' is on there. That album is incredible. I have been listening to that a lot.

MVRemix: What are some major misconceptions do you think people have of you?

Cormega: I don't know because people see you, they think one thing but say another. People still think I live in the projects or that I always get buck wild or whatever. No, I don't think they think I'm killing people every 5 minutes but some people have negative feelings. I'm just a regular person that just raps. I don't look at myself as someone special. I'm the people's choice. I'm the people's emcee. I'm the voice of the people. I love what I do and I do what I love.

MVRemix: You have a knack for finding new talent, especially for production. On your last albums and on this one, there are people like Emile, Ax The Bull, The Feil Brothers, and others. How do you find these people and why do you choose generally unknown producers?

Cormega: It's not that I am looking for unknown producers, it's that I'm willing to give somebody a chance. When a beat CD comes into my hands, I actually give it a listen. A lot of artists go to the more known or popular producers that are trendy now. I give people a chance because I know what it is like to not have anybody give you a chance. I know what it is like to have your voice not heard. It would be hypocritical of me. It would be damn sinful of me not to give somebody a chance when I have been given a chance. Sha-Money XL, the guy who does beats for 50 Cent, I put him on! It just so happens that many people I give a chance end up shining on their own eventually. I don't listen music with my eyes. Music cannot be seen. Only a d*ckrider can see music. I'm not like I have to do a song with Kanye West because he sounds this way. I don't judge music with my eyes. If I can feel the music, then I can record it.

MVRemix: You are going on tour with Ghostface and you did an amazing song with him called 'Tony / Montana'. How did you hook that up and what was that collaboration like?

Cormega: Me and Ghost always had respect for each other. I remember when I first met Ghost and he treated me with respect. He's one of my favorite rappers and I'm a fan of his music also. It was bound to happen. You know what I'm saying? You know, when I put out a solo album, I do not have a lot of guest appearances but this album, I had many guests. I did a joint with M.O.P. and another one with Kurupt.

MVRemix: I love how Ghostface kicks the song 'Tony / Montana' off. The tongue-twisting breath control, the delivery, and the flow is just so quick. It is mind blowing.

Cormega: Actually, the funny sh*t is, my verse, at first, was more like Ghostface's verse. I just changed my rhyme. We have a remix of the song and on the remix, you will hear me rapping with the same speed, like Ghostface did.

MVRemix: Yes, that song 'Deep Blue Seas' with Kurupt is dope. How did that hook up?

Cormega: Kurupt is my homey. I knew him since I was signed to Def Jam, since The Firm days. Me and him have always been cool.

MVRemix: This album, 'Legal Hustle' has many collaborations while the other 2 albums barely had any. Why?

Cormega: This album is really me collaborating with a lot of artists. I had fun doing a lot of these songs as opposed to it being strictly business or all done by the label. We had fun. This was what the fans were asking for and I just gave the fans what they wanted.

MVRemix: What emcees would you like to work with in the future?

Cormega: I like Scarface. I love Lauryn Hill. She's one of the best emcees. I'm not talking about just one of the best female rappers. She's one of the best emcees... period. She's extremely gifted. I would love to work with her. Beanie Sigel. I would love to do something with Freeway. Slick Rick and Rakim too. I would have loved to work with Biggie and Pac. That would have been cool.

MVRemix: What about production wise? What producers would you like to work with in the future?

Cormega: Premier. Rza. I want to work with my boy, Dr. Dre. That is not really a desire, it is more of an accomplishment. I want to work with Havoc again. I worked with Havoc already, so that's a complement. You know, Havoc from Mobb Deep has so much more to bring to the table. He does not get what he deserves as a producer.

MVRemix: Do you think Alchemist is getting more recognition than Havoc as a producer?

Cormega: Alchemist just a loop digger. He picks dope loops but Havoc will flip it so ill that you would not even know that it is a sample.

MVRemix: I heard you had some plans with Guru from Gangstarr. What is going on with that?

Cormega: Actually, Guru was supposed to be on the 'Legal Hustle' album.

MVRemix: What is your favorite part of your live show?

Cormega: I don't know, I just like coming out, man. There's no way to describe my show because it is never the same show. I feed off the crowd. My favorite part is when the crowd participates or when people ask me to do specific songs.

MVRemix: Do you have a favorite song on 'Legal Hustle'?

Cormega: I don't know yet. I love the 'Intro'. I love the 1st part of the 'Intro'. That album is hard to have a favorite song because every song is so different. The song I did with Vybez Kartel, that song is one way, more of a reggae track. The song I did with AZ, called 'Redemption', is totally different. The song I did with Kurupt, 'Deep Blue Seas' is like a whole different dimension too. The song I did with Large Professor, 'Sugar, Ray & Hearns', is one of my favorite joints to just listen to.

MVRemix: If you could re-make any classic hip-hop song, what would it be?

Cormega: None of them. Perfection is best left un-touched.

MVRemix: What is the situation with you and Nas? Are you cool with each other now? Do you even speak?

Cormega: There is no situation between me and Nas. There's nothing between us. I can't knock you for trying to ask, though.

MVRemix: When you compare 'The Realness' to 'The True Meaning', which LP do you like more?

Cormega: It's hard. 'The Realness' is like my birth. That was the first album that was brought to the people. 'The True Meaning' is an album that displayed my growth. I don't know. I have to sit down and truly examine both of them again. I love them both.

MVRemix: On the 'The True Meaning' LP, you have a song called 'Soul Food', which is about being in love with a married woman. I think it captures a situation like that perfectly. Is it a true story? Were you truly in love with a married woman?

Cormega: Nah. A song like 'Soul Food' is like gumbo. A little bit is true and a little bit is exaggeration from experience. I added things a little bit.

MVRemix: For those who don't know, can you explain your name?

Cormega: Cormega. Core refers to the center, like the center of an atom or an apple. 'Mega' refers to being the greatest or being the great one. Put them together and you have the core of greatness. It was easy to put it together because my name is Corey.

MVRemix: What is in the future for Cormega?

Cormega: The 'Urban Legend' album. The 'Urban Legend' album will be my best solo album to date. Now, I have one song with me, Big Daddy Kane, Krs-One, and Grand Puba on the same song. It ain't even finished. I am going to put one more person on it. I will do another guest spot on the album. I definitely want to do something with Ghostface again because the chemistry that we had was incredible. I never received that kind of feedback like I did with that song.

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