Cormega Getting Inventive With His Second Chance At Rap Fame

New album, The True Meaning, features neo-bluegrass-soul-street rap.

"I think I'm doing something new right now," Cormega says of his upcoming The True Meaning. "I'm like bluegrass rap. Neo-bluegrass-soul-street rap."

Mega does seem a little cocky, but after years of being knocked down and having to pick himself back up while trying to carve out his career, he loves not having to throw elbows for position anymore. And having an album with introspective tales and thug anthems like "Love In, Love Out," "I'm Built for This" and "True Meaning" has his chest puffed out a little bit more.

But the Mega song that has the most lips moving, "A Slick Response," isn't going to be on the album. The dis record that strikes back at Nas for "Destroy and Rebuild" (a song that Mega cites as the straw that broke the camel's back in their relationship) wasn't included because Mega didn't want to further fuel accusations that he's throwing stones at the throne of his fellow Queensbridge MC.

"My focus right now is leaving my mark on hip-hop," he said. "I'm not a stat-crazy person. A lot of rappers, they in it for the money. I'm not saying I wanna be that rapper on the corner, but it's like at the end of the day, I don't want to leave the game without leaving my dent in the game. I want people to respect me as an artist. I'm trying to bring awareness of what hip-hop is to the youth."

Mega's zeal for getting his music out is a little bit more warranted than that of the average MC. He's waited over half a decade for his career to really pop off. Back in 1994 Mega was locked behind bars while his friend Nas was carving a path to rap legend status. However, out of sight didn't mean out of mind as Mega received a shout out on Nas' "One Love," and after his release from prison he started his own round of rubbing shoulders in the industry, signing to Violator/Def Jam Records.

Mega's destiny seemed so simple after he appeared on Nas' second LP, It Was Written, on "Affirmative Action." The track featured Foxy Brown and AZ, and together the four would form the Firm, put out one of the most anticipated albums in rap history, and that would no doubt set up Mega's album like a no-look pass from Mike Bibby to Chris Webber, right?

Unfortunately Miss Cleo wasn't around back then, and nobody could tell the future. After he refused to sign a publishing deal with Nas and then-manager Steve Stoute, Mega was booted from the group for Nature, another Queensbridge MC and a close friend of Nas.

"Nature's my man," Mega said. It's been rumored that the two have had fist fights, but lately they've done the occasional show together. "Whatever happened with Nature, that was 1997. We're over that. Me and Nas, we go through our differences, but overall Nas is my man, even though I don't deal with him and I don't think I ever will."

Getting ousted from the group was a bitter pill that became easier to

swallow when the Firm's self-titled 1997 album flopped. "If the album would have blown up, I would have felt stupid, but at the same time I didn't feel welcome," he said.

But Mega had bigger woes with Violator/Def Jam CEO Chris Lighty to come. His supposed debut, The Testament, would never be officially released despite a strong buzz on the streets and Mega's ripping shows on the 1998 Survival of the Illest tour with then-labelmates the Def Squad, Onyx, and DMX.

Frustrated from sitting on the bench for five years, Mega remembers telling Def Jam President Kevin Liles, " 'If Jay-Z's uncle comes home from jail, y'all gonna put him out before me. Just let me go. At the end of the day, I don't know how long I'm 'a be hot, and y'all still driving home to y'all mansions.' That's how the game destroys a lot of artists."

He got his swagger back with last year's independently released gem The Realness on his Legal Hustle Records, which was heralded by critics. His new joint, The True Meaning, will drop June 25.