Being raised in the largest public housing development in North America can be a serious mind fuck. Nas once said, as a child growing up there, he felt “Queensbridge is the whole world,” because of the numerous languages spoken on the blocks it’s 96 buildings occupy.
It was in this maze of crack sales and violence that Corey “Cormega” McKay first began his journey to rap stardom. A lot has changed in Queensbridge, just as a lot has changed in ‘Mega. His outlook on his purpose has grown exponentially. With a new album, Mega Philosophy (which is to be completely produced by Large Professor), due out shortly and a show at Knitting Factory Brooklyn on Friday Cormega is anxious to get his message out to the people. And rightly so. Peep the jewels he bestowed on us.
So I heard you’re done with the new album. Care to talk about that?
It’s in its final stages just mixing and edits at this point. It’s called Mega Philosophy. All production is being handled by Large Professor.
That sounds promising. How did that come about?
Well, the first time we worked together was on my album True Meaning. We had good chemistry and a good vibe. Then on my last solo joint Born and Raised, the feedback for “Journey” was so crazy we realized our chemistry was just that good together. I had started working on my next album and the stuff I got from him was so crazy we decided to do a whole album together.
What else can you tell us about the album?
There are a lot of surprises on there with some younger artists coming through.
So I heard this show is going to be your first in a good while. Why no shows in NYC?
Yeah it’s been over a year. I usually do at least two or three shows a year [here] but while I was finishing this album I wanted to put all my energy into the project. I still did some overseas shows though, to further develop those markets.
What are some of those markets you’re developing?
Well, right now London is my strongest overseas market. Germany also, and a few other spots in Europe. I want to expand more. I want to hit Africa just to touch the soil and breathe the air. I want to hit Japan too. In America there are so many great artists you’ll never hear because of radio play lists. I go overseas and I see Boot Camp Clik, Jeru, Wu Tang… that’s what they respect over there. Matter of fact, last time I was in London some of the people that was on the radio over here were getting shitted on. Like bad. It was to the point I didn’t even want to be a part of the convo because I don’t want to be labeled a hater. Here in America even if a fan says something about the state of hip-hop he’s a hater. Overseas they say that shit. They’ll be like, “So and so is wack!”
Speaking of traveling and connecting, how did you link with The Jacka out in The Bay? That “More Crime” joint still gets play in my office a few times a week!
I met Jacka before The Realness came out. In 2000 they flew me out to The Bay and I recorded with Mob Figaz. More importantly we got close, and through the years we kept in touch. I would never go to The Bay without checking in with them while I’m out there. That’s like my family.
So I read somewhere you were some sort of boxing champ upstate when you were locked up?
Yeah, I was a boxing champ and I could probably still go a round or two [laughs]. That was something I could have done but the only thing that stopped me was that record deal. Boxing is a lot of training. You can’t even have sex when you boxing. I had just done four years, I wasn’t about to not have sex. But sometimes that is my one regret, that I didn’t at least try to do both. Boxing was my other love, but I went the rap route.
So do you still live in NYC?
No, I live upstate. I’ve had a house up there since 2001. I live upstate but I’m in the city all the time. People think I still live in QB because I get so much love in the street. Honestly though, I haven’t lived in the Bridge since the early ’90s. When It Was Written came out in 1996 I already had a coop on Queens Blvd. with a doorman. But I still chilled in QB everyday because that’s what I knew, that was where I hustled mostly, those were my stomping grounds.
You still in The Bridge everyday?
I still come through but I realized being there everyday, after a while, it weighs on you. You got to know your boundaries. So many of my friends were dying and going to jail that there were times I could’ve been entangled in these situations. Meanwhile I’m trying to rap so I had to ask myself what was more important. If the cops roll up and the people on the block I’m chilling with throw their drugs on the floor, when the cops ask who the drugs belong to everybody goes silent. Now I’m wrapped up in this shit. For what? What am I getting out of that? “Oh Mega be in the hood.” Who cares?
Good point. So eventually you just outgrew it.
Yeah, you’re growing, you’re changing, but people can’t embrace your change because they haven’t accepted their own growth. When you’re physically trapped in the hood, that’s one thing. But psychologically trapped is a whole other beast. It was because of that I had to check myself.
Was there anything in particular you can touch on that made you draw that line?
Well, this is for the Village Voice so without turning this into a F.E.D.S. article I can only say I started hearing my name in things that I had absolutely nothing to do with. And not minor things either. So i had to take myself out of that element. One other thing, though, was when I went to visit my man who was doing 27 years. I brought my daughter with me. The visit was over and my man is sad now because he’s got to say goodbye to us and it’s back to his reality. I brought my daughter with me so I could imagine myself in his predicament. I never want to see my daughter leave me after a visit so that feeling right there has kept me out of a lot of trouble and has kept me focused.
Why do you think as soon as you stop talking about your beef with Nas and start talking about growth, radio and media stop checking for you?
That’s easy. The industry doesn’t highlight growth. I can make a diss record, have a fight at the club and the next day it’s everywhere. But I go to Haiti to do fundraisers after the earthquake and no one even knows. And not just me, rap in general is never highlighted for something positive. It boils down to race. The media does not want the American black man to be in a positive light. I see how they try to do to me, my people, my art… They try to portray us as one dimensional. They don’t care about art or the people.