Deep Cut Conversations: Cormega “The Saga (Remix)

    Cormega never brags how real he keeps it, and that might be the secret. The Queensbridge MC has penned and spit raps that evoke soul with the struggles of street life for almost 15 years. As an independent artist, ‘Mega found early success in his The Realness release. Among 13 other joints, “The Saga” […]

    Cormega never brags how real he keeps it, and that might be the secret. The Queensbridge MC has penned and spit raps that evoke soul with the struggles of street life for almost 15 years. As an independent artist, ‘Mega found early success in his The Realness release. Among 13 other joints, “The Saga” demonstrated Cory McKay’s unique telling of hustler life with compassion.    Appearing later as a download and bonus track, “The Saga,” a testimony of struggle and pain, good and evil would meet the icy piano chords of producer Stanley O in a truly groundbreaking remix. Next month ‘Mega’s Legal Hustle Records will release Got Beats? reaffirming the MC’s respect for production, as he crafts his “perhaps” self-titled fourth album featuring beats from DJ Premier, Large Professor, Nottz and Pete Rock. Deep Cut Conversations unravels the remix of “The Saga.” Take the time. The remix of “The Saga” is so striking to me, with the piano and the drums, it’s groundbreaking to Hip-Hop. Tell me first about the writing of that song, which seems so personal, what kind of mind-state where you in?Cormega: I was just trying to touch people; I wanted people to feel the emotions that I feel about the ghetto. I was trying to be realistic with it. Before The Realness came out, especially in my hood, we had dope, classic Hip-Hop, but it was exaggerated rap – shoot, shoot, bang, bang, all that s**t. I wanted to let n***as know about the pain.I’ll never forget writing “The Saga;” I was in Brooklyn, at my sister’s house, with no heat in the house. I went to sleep with a f**kin’ winter coat on. I was feeling that pain, that struggle. Damn. We had to heat up the house with a stove; this is how it is for n***as that’s poor. There’s people that live like that everyday. It’s probably March. My man KL from Screwball was there too, writing. We’re sitting there freezin’. So I said, “The saga begins, I’m a reflection of the drama within, in the ghetto I live in,” so I started just writing about the s**t I see. I know how it feels to see your man, who you’ve got love for, to see his mom come and want to buy crack off you. Or to see one of your friend’s brothers or sisters want to buy crack off of you. One part of me was like, “Get the money,” the other half is like, “Damn, that’s f**ked up. I can’t do this.” These are quotes I heard when I was hustlin’. There was a time when I served a pregnant lady, and I regretted it after that. I never did it again. My man’s sister could never buy crack off of me. Even though I was doing wrong, I had a right way about doing You’ve got morals. That’s clear in our past discussions and in your rhymes. That song is close to 10 years old. Do you see those morals in the younger generation?Cormega: Every individual has their own set of morals. The older generation is responsible for the younger generation. If they see that we had morals and integrity than it’ll rub off on ‘em. If they see that we’re heartless, that might rub off on them also. When I was younger, you’d see the guys going to school or work with their suits on, and you’d tease them. You think you’re living the life. Then fast forward the clock. I saw one of my mans recently who we teased a little bit, now this man’s an engineer who designed one of the buildings in Harlem. At the end of the day, who gets the last laugh? I knew a kid who played basketball excellently, and I thought he had a future. When he tried to sell drugs on the block, I told him, “You can’t sell drugs over here.” I didn’t dead him ‘cause I was being greedy, I did it because I was respecting his future. The song is almost a poem. Was it written to silence or a beat?Cormega: I didn’t have no beat. The pain was my beat. I didn’t get the beat till months after that. One of the parts of that song that people quote a lot is “My sleep is interrupted by food on a stove, not gunshots, we’re immune to those.” If you go to any hood, and a shot goes off, the reaction of people is less dramatic than if you go to an upscale neighborhood. In the hood, people get used to that s**t. There can be a whole shootout and mothaf**kas will sleep through it. But if you cook some good food, mothaf**kas will smell it and wake up. This is a reflection of what I’ve seen and what I’ve been through, and I added poetry to it. At the time, my man Blue had died You said “I’ve even grown away from people I grew with.” At that time, what did that mean?Cormega: I was going through s**t with n***as I considered family. Literally, [my crew] was closer to me than some of my blood family. At the time of The Realness, I was on the low. Somebody had got murdered and my name was somehow linked to it. I stopped. When that s**t happened, the police ran up in one of my people’s cribs. The crib was hot, so I didn’t want to go back. So I had asked some of my friends to go to the crib and get my s**t for me. My man Blue [was alive at the time], he came to Queensbridge to meet with my so-called friends to get my stuff. My man Blue sat in Queensbridge in a big-body Mercedes Benz waitin’ for these n***as who never showed up. It’s stuff like that. But when then, when there was a situation with them, I’m the first one there. I started seeing people for who they was. Motherf**kers don’t care. Once you see what real friendship is, you see others and wake up. I started growing away from You have a production CD coming out on Legal Hustle Records next month. You’ve always advocated great production in your career. What was your thinking in taking this to piano?Cormega: This guy named Stanley O… this guy is [Asian], and this guy is incredible on production. I got other joints from him that you won’t hear till next year. I heard the beat, and I just felt that s**t in my heart. That’s such a passionate song, and the way the piano felt, I just had to do it. I took it somewhere else. The way he played it was so emotional that I laid the [lyrics the same], but it felt different. I did it just to test the public. If you look at my career, I’ve never done a remix. That was the first remix I ever did. It got such a crazy response that I plan on doing more remixes, and more remixes with Stanley O. Along with the usual suspects of Dr. Dre, Raekwon, but within the top five albums people seem to be asking for, your Urban Legend is one of them. This was supposed to drop in 2005. What’s the holdup? Cormega: I’m gonna keep it 100% real with you. At the time when I was working on the album, I was still going back and forth. Certain projects are more expandable than others. I would hate myself if I gave a Cormega album to a label that wasn’t going to get s**t right. During the time of this album being made, the longevity played a valuable role. I just got Pete Rock [production] recently. Longevity benefited. One of the biggest critiques about me is flow, an edgy flow. People got to understand, I did The Realness with no A&R, in two weeks, like I’d do a demo. I didn’t think I was going to sell over 100,000 [copies]. I was hoping I’d do 50,000. I did The True Meaning in damn near two weeks also. The same thing. I’ve never had nobody on my back in the booth. With this album, I had [DJ Premier] and Large Professor A&R-ing me on a lot songs. This album has me more comfortable on the mic. Hip-Hop needs something like this right now. Right now, there’s not too many MCs; we’re like Jedis against the Empire. I’m proud to have this. I’m glad Talib Kweli and Common are coming out and doing good. We’ve had enough rap, we need Hip-Hop. Now I’m thinking about self-titling the album and calling it Cormega. I got a song on the album that’s just like “The Saga,” and guess what? I’ve got a remix for it from Stanley O. You’ll see. It’ll be well worth the You’ve got a DVD coming out. You had somebody follow you around literally, for years. A DVD of that kind only works if it gives away too much, or shows you vulnerably or angry or something people don’t expect or can’t typically access. Is it hard to put that out willingly?Cormega: When I’m in the DVD, I don’t think about everybody else, I think about my fans. I think about the media that f**ks with me. The way I see it… there might be a slight moment or two in there where you see me a little intoxicated, but never OD’ing, ‘cause that’s just not me. I don’t drink like that and I don’t get high like that. There’s things on my DVD that will surprise the average person. I do something that most rappers are scared to do, smile. You’ll also see another side of me. Like when I [paid for] a trip to [Six Flags] Great Adventures years ago for my whole community, you’re not gonna see that on my DVD. You’ve never seen no footage, why? ‘Cause I didn’t bring no camera. One thing I respect about myself is that I do that stuff from the heart. There’s a lot of sides to me that people don’t know. In one of my songs I said, “I’m an emotional chameleon,” ‘cause I don’t even know who I am sometimes. I can blend in with any crowd.