Cormega Interview: Who Am I?

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by Alex Shtaerman

As one of New York’s most respected lyricists, Queensbridge icon Cormega has kept a relatively low profile in recent years. Quietly gathering momentum for what many fans have been anticipating for some time, on November 20th Mega is set to drop his first full length DVD and soundtrack titled Who Am I? A two hour documentary shot over several years, Who Am I? features an in-depth look into Cormega’s life as well as inner circle. With appearances from a who’s who in Hip-Hop including Ghostface Killah, Kurupt, Pete Rock, Marley Marl, Kay Slay, Ron Artest, Nature and more, Who Am I? transcends the growing trend of “bonus DVD footage”, taking the viewer far beyond your typical chopped up concert scenes deep into the realm of one of Hip-Hop’s most admired MCs. An accompanying soundtrack features Mega rhyming alongside the likes of Styles P, Tragedy, Keak Da Sneak and Little Brother. Never dull and always keeping the industry guessing, Mega returns to the game amid what, by all accounts, bears all the markings of a triumphant homecoming.

RIOTSOUND.COM: With all the critical acclaim and fan support you’ve received since going independent, why did you decide to wait so long to release Who Am I?

CORMEGA: I was just trying to wait for the right situation for me as far as my company. I didn’t want to keep putting out music in a situation where I wasn’t happy.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Now the LP you did with Lake, My Brother’s Keeper, what’s your take on that? I had read in another interview where you said you didn’t feel like the record was properly completed and should have maybe been refined some more before it was put out?

CORMEGA: I mean, I don’t even want to talk about that. I’ll just say that the people that put out the album was tacky about it. There was things that was done that was tacky. There was producers that wasn’t even paid until almost a year after the album was out. You don’t do business like that, so I wasn’t comfortable with that because I got relationships with everybody I work with, you know what I’m saying.

RIOTSOUND.COM: How important is integrity in the music business? You often hear a lot of successful people from all different fields and industries saying how crucial it is to be honest in your business dealings with others.

CORMEGA: It’s very important because clientele is what makes every business. People go to McDonalds because they know they getting those french fries and people deal with certain other things because they know what they getting. It’s based on good quality and it’s based on your commitment and your word. I want people to say that Mega does good business so they could keep coming back. And if you look at the people that I deal with you’ll notice that I still deal with the same people that I’ve always dealt with, and I wanna keep it like that.

RIOTSOUND.COM: A lot of artists nowadays are putting out bonus DVDs to go along with their music. What you are doing with Who Am I? is actually vastly different since it’s a two hour long in-depth documentary. As far as the content of the DVD itself, what are some of the things on there that you think the fans will enjoy?

CORMEGA: I can’t even comment on what they would enjoy the most because everybody catches something different. Like, you might watch a beauty pageant and that girl that you think is the most beautiful might not be the most beautiful to somebody else. Its so many different things on the DVD that people could relate to that I’ve gotten different responses about it. So I think the viewers are going to have to get into it and see.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You got a ton of Hip-Hop artists that also appear on Who Am I?, including Marley Marl, Ghostface, Pete Rock, Large Professor, Kay Slay and many others. How much of the DVD would you say is an insight into the culture of Hip-Hop versus an insight into your own personal life?

CORMEGA: Uhmm… I think it’s like 60/40, there’s definitely a lot of Hip-Hop on there. Yo man, this DVD is like The Osbournes and then you add Making The Band and you add another one of them reality shows and that’s what Who Am I? is.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Nature also appears on Who Am I?, can you talk about that a little?

CORMEGA: Yea, Nature is on there. Basically, they’re just asking Nature what he know about me and his relationship with me, etc, etc. I mean, when the DVD comes out [everybody] will be able to see. Trust me, there’s gonna be a lot of stuff on there that’s gonna surprise people.

RIOTSOUND.COM: After all the editing on Who Am I? was finished and you watched it completed for the first time, was there anything that surprised you about yourself that you may have not realized prior to watching the DVD?

CORMEGA: Yea, I noticed in 2005 I was dehydrated [laughs]. I was dehydrated, literally, somebody told me I was dehydrated and you could see it in my face, I was so burnt out. But one thing I learned about myself from people’s conversations is that a lot of people seem to think that I’m a loyal person and that made me feel good that people said that about me because almost everybody that was interviewed said something along those lines. I wasn’t there, nobody did their interviews together. So all these people were [speaking] at different times and at different places and I wasn’t around with any of these people [at the time of the interviews]. So for them to all say the same thing, it just made me know that I’m not a piece of shit and I feel good about that.

RIOTSOUND.COM: As far as the bonus soundtrack that comes with the DVD, how would you describe it; is it something in the same vein as the Legal Hustle CD where you are collaborating with many different artists?

CORMEGA: Yea, you can say that; and there’s more songs on this one. There’s more songs of the Who Am I? soundtrack that don’t have Cormega on it at all. So basically, it’s like a real soundtrack. Like you said, this is a DVD and the soundtrack is a bonus as opposed to a CD coming with a bonus DVD. The real icing on the cake is the DVD and the soundtrack is just to give people some music to listen to while they vibe to it.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You also got the Legal Hustle Got Beats? CD out now. In the past you’ve had a history of working with new producers and breaking new producers, does a CD of just strictly beats go hand in hand with that in a way?

CORMEGA: Yea, it does but it doesn’t, there’s some producers on there that’s not new and that’ been in the game for a very long time. But the thing about Got Beats? is that it was something that was just needed. There’s a large amount of people out there that just want to get beats, just so they can rap to it or so they could vibe to it. So that was just something that I really wanted to do and I’m glad I got around to doing it. I don’t expect it to sell as much as a Cormega product would sell but that’s just stage one of what I’m doing with that. There’s going to be more volumes of Got Beats?, I’m already working on volume 2 right now.

RIOTSOUND.COM: If there’s some up and coming artists out there that want to use the tracks on Got Beats? to put out a record, is that something they can use for free as long as they buy the CD?

CORMEGA: I don’t think nothing in the world is free…

RIOTSOUND: [laughs]

CORMEGA: The producers own their publishing, so out the gate the producers is gonna eat. So it’s not like you can just use those beats and live a happy life, somebody is gonna holler at you. But if anybody wants beats from any of those people, just contact them, a lot of them is really flexible with their prices.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Now that you got Who Am I? dropping, have you given any thought to doing any acting; is that something that’s on the radar for you at all?

CORMEGA: I might look into that when I’m finished rapping. I’m [actually] working on a movie right now, my man just wrote a script. We supposed to start shooting like November or December, but it’s November now and I don’t think I’m going to have the time. So either I’m going to let somebody else play the role that I was going to play or we’ll have to push it back to another time. But I’ma try the movie thing a little bit, I’m not going to go crazy with it though.

RIOTSOUND.COM: When will the fans get to see the next full-blown Cormega album?

CORMEGA: The next full-blown Cormega album is being finalized right now as we speak, we’re putting the finishing touches on it. So that’s going to be out within six months. There’s some people that would love for it to come out next month or January but we can’t promote it [in that timeframe]. Everything gotta have months of preparation and this album I took so long with and it’s so important in my career that I think it has to be serviced the right way. So I want to get everything right before we even announce the date but it’s going to come out within the next six months.

RIOTSOUND.COM: In the next five to ten years, where do you see your career and life heading, do you still see yourself as an MC?

CORMEGA: I can’t even call it man, that’s just all in God’s hands. I hope I still have skills in five or ten years. If I don’t I will not be rapping anymore. I don’t want to be out here making a fool of myself. I would hope that my label is more successful too ‘cause right now what we doing is we got like a farm system with artists, so basically we’re just trying to find the next artist that’s also going to be representing Legal Hustle.

RIOTSOUND.COM: I read a rumor some months back that you were seen leaving a New York studio with Eminem and Havoc; any truth to that?

CORMEGA: [laughs] Oh man, I don’t even know who started these rumors. I don’t know man, no comment.

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