Legal Hustler
posted: 03-05-04
interview : brolin winning
The most consistently dope emcee out of Queensbridge, Cormega is known for his vivid verses, whether on show-stealing cameos or his outstanding solo albums. Well acquainted with industry shadiness, he's also got his own label and is working with new talent. Though it's been a minute since we've heard from him, Mega has been busy with a variety of new projects, and is set to release a slew of material later this year. Here he talks about all the new records, the DVDs, winning a Source award, world politics, OutKast, Janet Jackson, and much more…
So lets talk about the new album. How does "Legal Hustle" compare - or how is it different from "The Realness" and "The True Meaning"?
Because this is a special album. On "The Realness" and "True Meaning" I stayed away from guest appearances. This album is like, guest appearance orientated. I got an artist named Miz and an artist named Dona. I got one song with Ghostface, I got a song with Jayo Felony, Kurupt, I got a song with M.O.P. I need to get in touch with my people from Mob Figgaz, that's my peeps.
A lot of people see you as specifically a New York rapper, or a QB rapper or whatever, and might be surprised to see you getting together with Kurupt and Jayo Felony. How did you hook up with those guys? Did you know them before or did you just decide to get at them cuz you liked their styles?
Kurupt is my road dog, that's my man. And Jayo Felony, I been knowing him too. It's not like I just wanna do songs with people. For me to do a song with you I have to really respect you as an artist, like a Scarface or somebody like that. That's why I did a song with Ghostface, cuz I respect him. M.O.P., I did a song with them cuz I wanted to work with them…. Exact thing that you said - people look at me as a QB artist, but I wanna be perceived as a worldly artist. That's why I did the song with Kurupt and them, and that's why I definitely gotta do a song with Mob Figgaz. Not just cuz I like their music, but because that's my peoples.
The last time we talked you mentioned Dona and how dope she is, now she's on a bunch of tracks and signed to the label. How did you link up, and what can we expect from her? Is she from the Bridge?
Dona is from Brooklyn. I met her at my video shoot for one of my songs on my last album. I think my cousin, one of my peoples told me that she rhymes real dope and they wanted me to listen to her. But I didn't wanna listen cuz I was running around, I didn't take her serious cuz of the way she looked. She didn't look like she rhymed hard. And then when I heard her rhyme I was like "oh shit". From there, we just stayed in contact, I started bringing her around the studio, and I basically started molding her. Because, the way she used to rhyme, she was talented but she was rough, a diamond in the rough, she needed work.
So you sort of refined it?
Yeah, exactly.
And she's got a full album coming out?
Her album will probably drop early next year.
Nowadays, a lot of cats only mess with big-name/high-profile producers, like everybody wants a Kanye beat or a Neptunes beat or whatever, whereas you seem to seek out new talent, not just on the new album but on your first two records as well. What can you tell us about Bear One, Robert Reives, AX, etc?
Well, Robert Reives ain't new…what was Coolio's big hit that was in that movie soundtrack?
"Gangsta's Paradise"?
Yeah, I think he did that. He used to work with Jodeci, all kinds of people. And he's a very good friend of a very good friend of mind, so that's what made that happen. I went out to Miami and we recorded together. So his resume speaks for itself.
Are you still working with J Waxxx Garfield at all? Large Professor?
Large Professor and me are about to knock out a new song next week. I'm trying to get Large Professor on this album also, he'll most likely be on this album. I don't know if he'll produce, but I think he's definitely gonna appear on the album as a rapper.
What's the status of the Mega/Ayatollah collabo album?
That right now is on hold, because, I was doing so many projects at one time, I didn't wanna take away from it. Like I was doing the Ayatollah project, and I was doing the "Legal Hustle" album, and the "Urban Legend" album, so I just basically put it on hold for a minute.
When is "Urban Legend" set to drop? Are you still working on that?
"Urban Legend" is gonna be…I don't even know the words for that. That's the album that's got Big Daddy Kane on it, KRS-One, Grand Puba, people like that. I'm still working on it right now cuz I'm taking my time with it. It's gonna come out after "Legal Hustle". What I'm really trying to do is just give my fans….like, I'm about to put out "The Testament". That's coming after "Legal Hustle" but before "Urban Legend". "Legal Hustle" is gonna get you ready, then, "The Testament" is gonna give you what you been missing. Then, by the time you get used to that, then "Urban Legend", like, I got you covered. And then after that, by then, Dona will be hot and her album will come out, then my man Miz, then I got another album. See, I'm putting out so much stuff I'm not really gonna have to put out another album for a minute.
What do you think about the whole remix frenzy that's been going on recently, with so many heads redoing Jay-Z's album or Nas or whatever?
I haven't really checked it out, but I think it's good. It's dope for hip-hop, I think it's a good thing. It's making people step their game up, cuz if you listen to these remix albums and you got guys with no notoriety making remixes that's better than the big guys.
On "The True Meaning", you had cuts on a couple tracks, is there any scratching on the new LP?
I don't know, I might put some DJs on there. I might try to holler at Red Alert or maybe I'll save it for "Urban Legend". I don't know. Whatever is not on this album is gonna be on the next one. That's what's up.
I know you listen to a lot of R&B at home, would you ever consider singing on one of your tracks? Do you sing at all?
I'm gonna have to answer that with a capitol H when I say "Hell No" (laughs). You understand? I like basketball too but I ain't tryin' out for the Knicks. (laughs) I'ma stay in my lane. Cormega will never be a great singer, but I can be a great rapper if I work hard enough. I hope I can be a great rapper, there's no way in hell I can be a great singer.
See, at least you know that. There's a lot of dudes out there who, they think they can sing, but everybody else is like, eehhhh.
There's a lot of R&B rappers, I know what you mean, especially east coast.
Will you be doing any videos for the new album? Like the M.O.P. joint? Or Ghostface?
The Ghostface joint, I'ma save that for when the album drops. See, cuz I don't wanna over-flood people. The M.O.P. shit is causing such a buzz, a stir right now that I'm like "damn!" So now, when I did the album, I did all the songs with the people that's my artists first, before I did the guest appearances by the known stars. So, what I wanna do now is, you know, you got one of the features, the M.O.P., you know the features is dope, now I want you to know how I sound with my crew.
Are you gonna be touring this time around? Any shows outside of New York?
I think we're working on something like that right now, might be going on the road with M.O.P.
What's the deal with the DVD and when is that gonna drop?
I got a few DVDs coming out. See, The "Legal Hustl"e album is gonna have a limited edition DVD for the first I don't know how many copies…so the earlier fans, if you buy the album first you'll get the DVD. And then the other one wont be ready until one of my friends come home from jail in August or September.
This DVD is like none other, like, there's moments where you're gonna wanna laugh, there's moments where you're gonna wanna cry. This ain't just me walkin' around my projects smoking a blunt and talking about how tough I am, or how I did this and did that. This is like, you're gonna see people that's emotional, there's moments in this DVD where, you're gonna get acquainted with some of my friends cuz you seen em, you be like "ok, I remember him, he was in the last video we just seen" and then you're gonna see that particular person is dead. You're gonna see the news clip of how he got killed, and you'll see the reactions. This shit is gonna be crazy, you'll see.
Because you've been so successful as an independent artist on your own label, and because of the problems you had when you were signed to Def Jam, do you plan on staying indie forever? If the money was right would you go back to a major again?
First of all, I'm not signing with nobody as an artist. If somebody wants me as an artist they'd have to break me off something crazy significant. But two, the money doesn't really matter, because when I was on Def Jam I had a good contract. At the time that I got my deal, my deal was spectacular. I got like $250,000 and I was a new jack artist. That was crazy. But, is it worth it to sit on the shelf?
So, I don't wanna go through that again, and right now there's too many mergers going on in hip-hop. Whenever there's a merger there's restructuring and there's gonna be slow progress. So for me to sign with a label I'd have to have guarantees about my release, and if my release doesn't come out at a particular time, I'd have to have a guarantee that I can leave. I don't mind being independent for the rest of my career.
How did it feel to win the Source Award? Were you surprised or did you expect to win or what?
I was surprised. Let me tell you something: there's been so many odds against me, my whole career, I never thought I was gonna win anything. Because it seems like, for me to get anything is so hard. Like, to nominate somebody for the Source awards, your name has to be brought up at a meeting. So, somebody told me my name was brought up at a meeting, so right then and there, I'm like "I'm ain't gonna win." I was like "fuck it, at least somebody brought my name up." I was just honored to be nominated, you know, to be acknowledged, cuz all these years I been in the game I felt that I never really got my respect.
When they just nominated me I was thrilled. I didn't care if I won, if I won that's dope, but to nominate me, that's shows that I'm starting to get acknowledged for my work. So then, I went down to Miami for the Source awards, and when I found out I won, I was like "oh shit!" Word. It was a good feeling.
Besides your own, are there any upcoming albums that you're really checking for?
Uhhh, let me think about this… I'm interested to see how Mobb Deep's project is gonna sound. Cuz I've heard a couple of their songs it sounds real good, so far I'm liking what I hear. I heard M.O.P.'s album, it's definitely hot, it's crazy. There's not that many rappers that really do anything for me. I don't really listen to too much rap so I can't really think of any.
Are you still working with other QB artists? Mobb Deep, etc.
Well, Mobb Deep is my mans, out of all the rappers at Queensbridge, that's who I do the most songs with out of anybody. Me and Havoc just did something, and Prodigy is gonna do his verse. Matter fact, as we're speaking, Prodigy should be readying his verse. So, I don't even know what project I'm gonna put it on. I might make it as a remix for one of the songs on the Legal Hustle album, and I'll make it a bonus song on some of the albums. You're gonna hear future Mega/Mobb Deep collaborations. I got a song with Lake, Lake is on the "Legal Hustle" album. Lake is the only QB artist who's on there.
Did you listen to either of the albums from Big Noyd or Tragedy that came out last year?
I didn't hear Noyd's album… I heard some of it, but I never sat down and listened to it. I heard Tragedy's. Tragedy's album was good, he just did not push it the way he should've pushed it. People don't realize, when you're independent you have to do more. That album did not get the recognition that it should've gotten.
OK, lets talk movies… You were in that "Crime Partners" flick a few years back, would you like to do more film projects in the future?
(laughs) Ummm. I wanna do movies, but I don't want that to interfere with my writing as an artist. If me doing movies is gonna take away with my craft, I'd rather not do the movies. I wanna be the best rapper that I can be.
Nowadays a lot of rappers are diversifying into all kinds of other businesses - whether it's movies, or clothes, or sneakers, vodka companies, whatever. Do you have any desire to do stuff like that? Or are you content with being an artist and running the label?
I don't see myself doing that. Only thing I'm gonna do is, I'll do merchandise. You know like rap t-shirts, Cormega t-shirts. But, a Cormega clothing line? It's like, nobody was thinking about doing that until they seen Roc-A-Wear. I'm not trying to be like, you know; let Jay-Z and Dame live they life. Let Russell, let the people who do the clothing lines do it, cuz everything's not for everybody. But I do plan on having, right now I'm in talks with Fila about having some kind of limited edition, I'm trying to get them to make me a pair of sneakers. It's not gonna be no crazy shit, it's just gonna be a regular pair of kicks.
Did you watch the Grammys this year?
I didn't watch it, but, actually, I seen a little bit of the Grammys at Large Professor's house last week, he had it on tape so he played a little of it. For me, I think that, OutKast winning the album of the year award is so monumental, cuz, no hip-hop artist ever won album of the year award.
It seems like they're the only guys in hip-hop that, every time they do an album, it's totally different from the last one, and they just keep getting bigger.
They're not afraid to reach, you know. You can't front on OutKast. Only thing you can say is, you can criticize my man Andre on those outfits (laughs). But, at the end of the day, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, when you talk about greatness, they're gonna be mentioned. Matter fact, that's who I would like to work with, I wouldn't mind working with Outkast.
Have you met those guys before?
I never met OutKast. I met Cee-Lo at the Source awards, he came up to me and gave me a five. It feels good, like, I'm the type of person, I don't think nobody knows who I am you know what I'm saying? Like, Kanye West came up to me and gave me pound, Cee-Lo gave me a pound. I don't feel like I'm a star, I'm just feel like I'm doing what I do
50 Cent - dude went from mixtape guy to eight times platinum. Are you into his stuff or do you see him as an over-marketed gimmick? What's your take on him?
Umm, I think 50 Cent is a marketing…I can't say a marketing genius, but, something along those lines. Like, what 50 Cent has done is the last two years is nothing short of incredible. Everything that happened with 50 was perfect, he caught up with the perfect storm. Certain people thrive off controversy, certain people thrive off being on the right label, everything that you could want, he had. I mean he worked hard man, nobody gave him a chance so he put out his own shit and it paid off, so, there's not much I can say.
Janet Jackson - any opinion on that whole fiasco?
Janet Jackson played herself. I mean, everything ain't for everybody. Janet Jackson is an icon, and people look at her in a way…. Janet Jackson just killed all her dignity. Like, ok, we know you got an album coming out, obviously, or you wouldn't have done no shit like that. But, when you think of Janet, it's like, "ok, she's the sane Jackson." Like I always had a crush on Janet when I was little. So when you see her doing shit like that it makes her look desperate in a way. That was a bad move, she shouldn't have done that.
How about politics? This being an election year, do you follow that stuff at all?
I think politics is all bullshit too, because, at the end of the day, they all gotta follow the script anyway. It's like, the president is just a title, so the people will have somebody to blame. The government runs everything, and when you don't follow the script, then they'll take care of you too! I think politics is all bullshit.
Just like last year, I think the whole Sadaam shit was bullshit, that was just to build some kind of aura of self-confidence. For real, that whole shit was a smokescreen, because Osama bin Laden made us look stupid. Like, why would you take your attention off this man, who disrespected not only our country, but, he made history on America. The shit he did was the worst act of terrorism in the history of the U.S. So now we take our focus off of him and start chasing down Sadaam? Somebody who'll always be there? We could've went after him ten years from now. It's like, man, just help the poor people. And put money into the education. That's my whole thing for the government.
I know you're a big hoops fan, you got any predictions for the NBA playoffs or the NCAA tournament?
Aight, NCAA, I'm not gonna front, I ain't even been following them recently. It lost some of its sass to me… Something about North Carolina…But I'll tell you this, last year, I predicted San Antonio was gonna win and they did. This year? Something keeps…yo, I think Sacramento man. Something about Sacramento, people better watch out for them. And the East? The Knicks is gonna surprise people, but, Rasheed Wallace coming to Detroit? Ooohhh. New Jersey is gonna be out of the playoffs quick. I predict them leaving the playoffs in the second round.
Any shout outs or last words for the fans out there?
First of all, I wanna shout out y'all for doing this interview, all my fans. Mob Figgaz - holla at your boy Mega, contact Jackie O my publicist, I need you on my album. The whole California, my man Messy Marv, everybody, my mans in L.A., all my peoples.
"Legal Hustle" hits stores May 11th. For news, audio, and videos, hit up:
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