New York native Cormega (“Mega”) released his fifth official album Mega Philosophy back in July, and it has garnered substantial praise from his fans and many first-time listeners. But if anyone thinks this has inflated his ego in any way, they’re wrong. Mega is incredibly humble to the point where he doesn’t even think of himself as a “hip-hop legend” but more of a “fan of real hip-hop” despite praise from fellow rappers like Marley Marl and Mobb Deep.
The album reveals Mega’s political persona, focusing his thoughts through perceptions of the media on events like the fatal shooting of 17-year old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012 and another of 22-year old Oscar Grant by BART police back in 2009. And on “Industry” the album’s first single, he is nothing if not brutally honest: “If artists are looking at my career as their blueprint, I can’t have them thinking it’s all positive, when sometimes it’s not.” Brooklyn Radio’s Lara Gamble was able to snag a few minutes with the rapper to learn more about the creation of Mega Philosophy and how the rapper connected with the legendary Large Professor to fully produce the album.
Your latest album Mega Philosophy dropped on July 22. How do you find it’s been received by your fans?
Mega Philosophy has definitely exceeded all expectations. I was very nervous about it. I didn’t know how it was going to be received, and that in itself – it’s one of the most well-received albums I’ve ever done. It’s October right now, and I still get praise for it, so that alone says it’s good.
It’s really good. How was your album release party at Webster Hall on Tuesday night?
Matter of fact, that wasn’t even an album release party. I just performed. I was performing, but it wasn’t for the album release party.
Ah, that’s how it was advertised online. I guess they messed up.
You’ve said that this album “will determine if [you] truly belong in hip-hop.” With over twenty years in the game, why aren’t you sure of that yet?
I don’t consider myself as having over twenty because it was so sporadic. I didn’t do nothing. It’s like an athlete that played baseball in one game, and then he didn’t play again for many years. In other words, The Realness came out in 2001. That was my first album that I released. That’s when I started counting myself. But other than that, you could just be a mixtape rapper. Or you could just be a guy who has a beat but don’t do nothing. That’s not having impact.
So, The Realness came out, and The True Meaning came out a year later, so that’s two albums. Then, I re-released The Testament – that’s three albums. Then Born & Raised came out in 2009. It’s five years later that I’m doing this album after Born & Raised, so I really put a lot of pressure on myself, and I don’t think I deserve any easy accolades or anything. I just felt like there was more work to be done. This was the album that was a determinate on whether I really belong among that class.
You came up in hip-hop’s Golden Era. What are your thoughts on the state of hip-hop today?
I guess it’s all industry. It basically is smoke and mirrors because there’s a lot of great and incredible hip-hop out there. You just really have to search for it. It’s not easily available, but it’s not non-existent. Put it like that.
Right. How was working with Large Pro on the album?
It was a great opportunity to work with an artist and a producer like him. It worked, so it was definitely an accomplishment as far as hip-hop goes.
How’d you two get linked up?
I met Large Professor a long time ago when I was performing at a club. As a matter of fact, we weren’t really formally introduced. We bumped heads a few times, or we passed through the same spot a few times, but I met him when I came home. And then we started really vibing in 2002 when I did The True Meaning album. He produced on it, so after that it was a wrap. It was cool.
What’s the story behind the title Mega Philosophy?
Large Professor came up with the idea for that title. He was like, “You’re like a philosopher of the street. Like, you can drop blocks.” He’d say it from his point of view. And every time I’d do it, he was like, “That’s that mega philosophy.” So it just stuck. And I was like, “Alright. Mega Philosophy.”
In the five years since the release of Born & Raised, when and where did you find the inspiration for the new album?
I found the inspiration for the new album in the media. Yeah, the media gave me most of my ideas. It’s the media that showed me Trayvon. It’s the media that showed me the case with Zimmerman. The media showed us the police brutality. The media showed us the mockery of rap, of my culture. You watch commercials now, you see animals rapping on commercials. It’s like they’re mocking us. It’s like hip-hop’s become a joke. There’s an old saying: “They’re not laughing with you. They’re laughing at you.” Made me feel like they were laughing at us. A lot of artists have to understand that. So, all the stuff that’s happening around me inspired me to write and inspired me to act.
And then, I did some soul searching too. Look at Marvin Gaye. When he did the What’s Going On album, he was one of the biggest sex symbols in music at the time. And that’s not what anyone was anticipating him to do or say. He went a little bit to the left, and that’s what great artists do. Sometimes they take risks, and they take challenges to push themselves. That’s what I wanted to do with this album.
How did you choose the featured artists like Raekwon, AZ and Redman on the album?
With AZ and Redman, that was based on the letters in their names. I needed somebody with an ‘A’ in his name, and I can’t think of anybody I like more with an A in his name than AZ. Well, there could be an album with Andre 3000 that doesn’t yet exist. I know AZ. We’ve got a relationship. With Redman, I needed somebody to come up with an R, and he’s definitely one of my favorite R’s. I also really like Rakim. And then when we were coming up with the S, there’s a couple of S’s I like a lot, but I like Styles P a lot though. He was one of my top S’s. So, that was more about luck and relationships. And then as far as Raekwon, we got somebody of his caliber and from that Wu regime. It was just an honor to work with him. That’s something that a lot of fans have asked me about. I worked hard to make that happen.
Why is “Industry” the first official single off Mega Philosophy?
It was the first song that I did for that album actually. And it was picked. We had a little brain trust of people that we’d sit down and we’d throw around ideas, and we’d put our minds together. And that’s what we decided would be first. It made a lot of sense, and it worked out.
You’ve said that you’re “in it for the legacy.” I recently read My Infamous Life – Prodigy’s memoir. Have you ever thought of sharing your story that way?
I wouldn’t want to do a book that’s that honest necessarily because a lot of incrimination would come of it, and I’m not the type of person that wants to incriminate anybody. So, I wouldn’t do that. And then, there’s certain circumstances that people aren’t ready to share, and it wouldn’t have anybody held in the highest light. People have images, and people have….
Yeah, it’d be easy to offend people….
Exactly. I don’t want to offend anybody. I don’t want to be seen around as someone that needs to do a book.
Is there anything else that you want to share or promote?
My Instagram is @megaphilosophy – that’s new. And my Twitter is Real Cormega Those are the only two things I got right now. Other than that, the album is out. I appreciate all the love.
Are you going to be back in New York anytime soon? I wasn’t able to make it Tuesday…
I should be in New York. Not to do a show, but I’ll try to do another show soon.