This afternoon, HipHopDX spoke to Queens, New York emcee Cormega. A 20-year veteran of the industry, 'Mega revealed that Raw Forever will release on September 27. The album features the independent Hip Hop stalwart teaming with The Revelations (of Wu-Tang's Chamber Music and Legendary Weapons fame) with instrumentation and a live sound. Moreover, the Legal Hustle Records release will feature a companion disc of Cormega's Greatest Hits, which he says fans largely determined.
In his conversation with DX, 'Mega explains that working with a live band helps Hip Hop grow with age, and allows his intricate verses to take on different meaning. Additionally, in looking at his catalog, the Queensbridge Houses alum also asserts that he is not a legend, and missed an opportunity for an album release last decade. No worries though, with next month's project ahead, Cory also lays out some first-heard information of his next studio affair that is promised to rudely awaken Rap from its slumbers.
Cormega Explains Working With Band The Revelations On Raw Forever
HipHopDX: You worked with The Revelations on 2009's Wu Chamber Music project. Tell me about how this project came to be, and your desire to work with live instrumentation...
Cormega: The idea was really raw to me. I always had the curiosity of working with a live band, but what actually manifested it was something that just presented itself. One of the guys that works with [The Revelations] was like, "Why don't you guys do a show?" So I did a show on September 1  at Santos [Party House in New York City]. The response from the crowd was over-whelming; it was incredible. There was a lot of fans that night. After that, we started going into the studio and knocked out the remix to "Journey" . When that leaked, I seen that get a lot of love - from people who had been really quiet on the Cormega front too, like Miss Info was really blown away by it, [as well as bloggers]. It's just a sophistication aspect of it, working with a band that I really like. At this particular moment, Hip Hop needs it. We have a lot of [emcees] that don't want to grow up, and that's what's making Rap, Hip Hop look bad. I just wanted something that I could grow with, and take a risk.
At the end of the day, I don't know how this [project] is gonna sell. It might not even sell well. But music-wise, as far as what first drew us to music, it was listening. Remember when we used to just love the sound? [Laughs] That's what I'm goin' for with this. It's a huge risk, but I think that the listener is gonna enjoy it. That's what I've got my fingers crossed for.
DX: Lil Fame from M.O.P. had a heavy hand in Born & Raised. He worked with The Revelations, as Fizzy Womack, on Wu Chamber Music. Was he also involved with Mega Raw?
Cormega: [Lil] Fame probably did do some drum-programming on this. Usually, that's one of the ears that [The Revelations] go to. I really, really think Lil Fame is one of the unsung heroes of Rap, 'cause his ear to detail is one of the best I've ever seen. Ever. I don't know for sure, 'cause I wasn't [at the post-production sessions]. Fame would be sittin' there for some of my sessions, just as my friend. He'll be like, "Yo, they need to bring this up or bring that up," or whatever.
DX: You mentioned Hip Hop needing to grow up. I remember 10 years ago, when Jay-Z and The Roots did the Unplugged album. Before that, there was Stetsasonic and The Fat Back Band ---
Cormega: -- Whoa. Stop. Let me interrupt you for a minute just to say, God bless you for that. There are actually writers, writers, people who write at Hip Hop magazines and do blogs that don't even know who Stetsasonic is. Thank you, Paine, for being real, and a real Hip Hop person...
DX: I appreciate that. But you're always thinking of bringing things full circle, when you chiseled away at the guests of "Mega Fresh X" , and got PMD, Grand Puba, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane and DJ Red Alert. How much for you, in addition to helping Rap grow up, was it about pulling it to its roots with bands in the studio?
Cormega: I think it was essential for me to do. It was a challenge, but it was important for me to do as an artist, on the respect tip. For me, as a respected artist, there's certain risks that I have to take, and certain experiments that I have to do. I always feel like an underdog and that I don't get the credit I deserve. This was one of those moments where the opportunity presented itself, and I had to do it.
DX: You and I have spoken a lot about the "Saga (Remix)." It's one of the only times I can think of where a Hip Hop song is just primarily piano and verses. To me, as a fan, that remix allowed me to hear those verses differently, and feel some differently. As a songwriter, did you feel that way with a backing band?
Cormega: The band definitely brings out a different vibe. I'll give you a perfect example: the song "Get It In" was on Born and Raised. We re-did it with the band, and I added [Big] Pun's son, Baby Pun. This version sounds better than the one on the album! It sounds great! Music moves you; that's what people forgot. All this Fruity Loops and all this robotic soundin' [music] that's goin' on in Rap, they're takin' away the feel from it. Music moves you. When you have a live band, everybody is bringin' a different ingredient to it.
DX: You know your verses inside and out as well as an emcee I've ever interviewed in how you quote lines. That said, how challenging was it for you to select 11 greatest hits for the first disc of this project?
Cormega: It was easy for me to do it because at the end of the day, when you're dealin' with music, and you're doin' a lot of shows, you go off responses. Responses and feedback. I know certain songs...I knew I had to put "Saga" on there. I know I had to put "Dead Man Walking" on there, even though, I, myself, the new Cory, I'm not a big fan of "Dead Man Walking." I feel like I've outgrown that; I don't use as much profanity as I used to and I'm not as graphic as I used to be, but I know that's a song that really resonated with people. That's a song that really got me known. I knew I had to put that on there. Plus, I put songs on there that I really like, like "Love Is Love." I just wanted to give it a fair balance.
I always wanted to do a Greatest Hits, but I didn't feel like I accomplished enough - sometimes I still [feel that way]. At the end of the day, I have been making albums for 10 years. I've been in the game for a while, but I've been making albums for 10 years. I consider myself a veteran now. I don't consider myself a legend - that's a word that's too easily [said] from people's tongues; I wish they would stop calling me a legend. Certain people ain't legends. You can't call me a legend, and then call Eric B. or Pete Rock and them "legends." They've contributed so much more than me, and they've had so much more of an impact that callin' me a legend is an insult to real legends. I look at myself as a veteran though, and now that I've put 10 years [of making albums in], I figure it's time to do a "best of."
Cormega Unveils Details Of Next Studio Album, A Different Cloth
DX: When I first interview you for Elemental magazine in 2004, you told me about signing your first record contract in 1991. So while it's been 10 years of albums, it's been 20 years as a professional. What perspective do you have?
Cormega: As far as the culture [of Hip Hop], I think of the culture as a pretty girl...we all know I look at Hip Hop as a woman. Hip Hop was a beautiful woman, and then she started hangin' out with some chicken-heads, and she wanted to be like them. The chicken-heads took her to a club and introduced her to some dudes and said, "If you do this, they'll give you this." That's where Hip Hop is; she started becoming a whore.
As far as myself, when I first came into the game, I loved this thing that we call Hip Hop. My first appearances in Rap, I didn't even get paid; I was just happy to be able to get on the mic. To this day, I still feel like that in some ways. As I look at my career now, I'm proud of myself, but I feel like I shorted myself. I didn't do all the things that I could've done.
I put out The Realness in 2001. I put out The True Meaning in 2002. 2003, I took a break. 2004, I did Legal Hustle, the compilation. 2005, I didn't do nothin'; I put out The Testament, which was old. 2005 and 2005, I did [My Brother's Keeper] with Lake. 2007, I did The Documentary, the DVD. So I feel like 2007, 2008... even though I did [release Born and Raised] in 2009, here we are in 2011, I'm coming out with a project now, but it's not new. I feel like I have a very consistent, strong catalog, but I feel like I'm an album short. I feel like I could've made one more album in that time. I feel like I let myself and my fans down, a little bit. Say you scored 20 [points] in the game, but you coulda scored 28? That's how I feel. [Laughs] But I had a good game; I had a lot of assists and rebounds too. I wish I could've done more with that time.
When I look back at my career, I see growth. Born and Raised might be my favorite Cormega album; some people might say I'm crazy for that and argue that The Realness is better. I think Born and Raised is my best album, 'cause it shows growth. I must've lost a few people with that, 'cause not everybody's ready to grow. Rap is like the guy that's getting older that doesn't want to get older, that still wants to be down. There's nothing wrong with growing. I think I did do that on Born and Raised.
Because I'm on HipHopDX and you're my dude, I'll keep it real with you: my next album is gonna be called A Different Cloth, and I've never said that. From the title, you can see where I'm going. But I'm gonna give Hip Hop the spanking that it needs - the lecture, the spanking, the scolding, and then I'm gonna add a lil' Cormega rawness to it. A Different Cloth is coming after Cormega Raw Forever.
Cormega Raw Forever is a project; I wouldn't consider it an album. Cormega's next album will be A Different Cloth, and I'ma show my ass on that.