Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN link up with longtime associate and rap vet Cormega, who makes his second appearance on the show. A native of Brooklyn, the MC spent a considerable amount of his formative years in Queens and built a reputation as a seasoned young hustler with the street cred to match.
Landing in prison during the early ‘90s, Cormega was famously shouted out by Nas on his Illmatic single “One Love,” which sparked the initial interest in the shadowy figure among rap fans. This would grow upon the BK rapper’s return to the streets and an appearance alongside Nas, Foxy Brown, and AZ on Nas’ It Was Written posse cut “Affirmative Action.” Initially slated to be included in the supergroup, The Firm, Cormega was ultimately nixed, which put the release of his intended debut album, The Testament, in purgatory. Betting on himself, he took to the streets and released mixtapes before making a foray into the independent circuit, where he thrived over the course of the past two decades.
To help give fans a recap of the episode, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Cormega “Drink Champs” episode. Take a look at them below.
1. On Appearing In Camron’s “Horse & Carriage” Music Video
As one of the hottest prospects in rap during the latter half of the ‘90s, Cormega appeared in various music videos including Cam’ron’s clip for his Ma$e-assisted hit “Horse & Carriage.” He speaks on pulling up to show his Harlem brethren love, which ended with him taking an unintended dive in the pool. “I was always in videos, I was cool with a lot of rappers,” the MC recalls. “You know I don’t like to go out a lot... but, one thing you know is when people tell me to pull up, I pull up. So, I was at the video and if you remember, I fell in the pool. Not on purpose ‘cause I can’t swim. So, we were both there. Queens was in the building.”
2. On The False Perception of Queens
Within New York City, Queens gets misperceived as an inviting suburban enclave rather than one of the more dangerous areas in the city, which, according to Cormega, put a battery in residents’ backs.
“I think Queens is, like, a stubborn borough ’cause Queens had to fight for its respect,” Mega explains. “Remember, back in the day, people underestimated Queens. So, people thought Queens was soft. Even on Rikers Island back in the day, they used to call it ‘Quiet Queens’ ...And there’s parts of Queens that are ferocious. I saw a lot of people get they ass tore up in Far Rockaway ‘cause they thought it was sweet... Far Rockaway is rough, Southside Jamaica, Lefrak, [Queensbridge]. Long Island City, period. Queens gets busy.”
3. On Mending His Relationship With Nas
Cormega’s story will forever be intertwined with Nas, who gave him one of the more historic shout outs in rap history and initially enlisted him as a member of The Firm. However, after years of bad blood between the two following Mega’s unceremonious departure from the group, Mega says that their lengthy history made mending their relationship relatively easy. “I think the [people] outside looking in don’t see [it from] the same peripheral because our relationship wasn’t confusing. It was just us,” he shares. “Our relationship is different from any other rappers with conflict cause we actually grew up together, our families know each other. I’ve spoken to his father before, I’ve seen his mother thousands of times, I know his brother. [His mother], God bless her, she was a graceful, classy woman. I know Jabari, before Jungle...Like I knew Nasir, he knows Corey, so it’s a difference from these other beefs... It was just emotions involve, and I think time and understanding could rectify things if the love is real.”
4. On Nature’s Role In His Beef With Nas
In a previous episode of “Drink Champs,” Queens rapper Nature admitted his part in Cormega’s beef with Nas, which Mega reiterates was the first stone thrown in their war of words. “That started the discrepancies,” the rap legend says of Nature’s initial diss. “There were no Nas disses before that record. That record started the whole shit. Nas knows this, Jungle told [him]. So, when I heard that record, I was just mad, I’m thinking everybody’s going at me. So, I’m like, ‘Damn, I thought me and N.O.R.E. was cool?’ I know [we’re cool] now, [but] listen, if someone comes out with a song called ‘Fuck DJ EFN’ and Cormega’s on the song, how you gonna feel? You’re gonna be like, ‘Yo, I thought me and Mega was cool.’ So, next time you see me, the handshake ain’t gonna be that warm.”
5. On His Experience Working With Chris Lighty and Violator Records
Generating a healthy buzz within the rap world, Cormega capitalized on the hype surrounding his name with a lucrative record deal with Violator Records, where he says Chris Lighty gave him a crash course on the business of rap. “Chris Lighty was like a big brother that you always wanna try to impress,” Mega says of the late mogul. “He gives you tough love, especially me. It was an honor. I learned a lot, I learned about patience ’cause I was impatient. I wanted to come out and Chris was teaching me about the game. But, during that time, being on Violator — shout out to Dave Lighty, shout out to Mona Scott — I learned how to market myself. I was doing stuff to prove my value or that I’m worthy of this to Chris. Before I was on the shelf, I was on Violator and the thing a lot of young artists gotta realize, when you get signed, you’re an investment. So, it’s not like, ‘Okay, we signed you. You’re hot, we’re putting you right out.’ They gotta build you up and they gotta find out how they’re gonna get their money back. So when I was on Violator, I seen artists doing their thing and I felt like I was suspended in time.”
6. On Working With Marley Marl
Prior to his incarceration, Cormega reveals that he was actually slated to work with rap legend Marley Marl. “There was a time when Marley Marl was like the Dr. Dre of the east coast,” he explains. “He brought LL Cool J’s career back in the early 90s, he’s working with TLC and this one and that one. Big people. And he was busy, so there were no artists in Queensbridge that caught his attention and he heard everybody. So, I was on the streets still and, I think I told you before, there’s a woman named Mary Stephens from Queensbridge. And she got word to Hank Carter, who knew Marley, and she was like, ‘I want Marlon to hear his music ‘cause this guy’s good,’ you know? So, Marley got wind of one of my joints, I had a song called ‘Sex, Drugs, Bitches, and Money,’ and Marley heard it and next thing I know, I got the call that was like, Yo, ‘Marley want you.’”
7. On The Death of Queensbridge Legends Draws
Street legends and neighborhood superstars often wind up in the rhymes of rappers — particularly those from Queensbridge — who immortalize local figures like Draws, an affiliate of Nas and one of Cormega’s closest friends, who passed away recently. “It’s still sad because I don’t think nobody wore Queensbridge on his chest like Draws,” Cormega notes. “And I think Draws loved the hood so hard, he would defend anybody, and I think the love that he gave, that should’ve never happened. I stopped going to Queensbridge when Draws died for like a year-and-a-half. I couldn’t even walk by that area ‘cause it hurt. I know Draws, I know the other person, I know Draws, I know the other person’s mother... so that’s the saddest part about hood beefs. You know what the problem is, we move off ego and pride, [and] sometimes we have spontaneous reactions. And it’s like I said before, the gun has to be the last resort, not the first response, because you can’t take that back.”
8. On Helping Pioneer Artist-Driven Mixtapes
Mainstream collectives like G-Unit and Dipset are often credited with opening the door for artist-driven mixtapes. However, Cormega actually beat both to the punch by unleashing his Montana Way mixtape to the streets as an act of sheer desperation. “I’ve seen a lot of artists that were dope ass artists. I’m talking about dope and they get shelved, and you never hear from them again,” he explains. “They don’t even rap no more and I was not gonna let that happen to me. Let’s go back to Chris Lighty. One of the things, like I said, Chris Lighty he gave me tough love and he made me wanna prove things to him. One of the first things that I did, I was the first dude to do an [artist] mixtape, nobody had mixtapes out like albums. Nobody did that before me. People don’t be wanting to give me my credit, but it’s out there... I came out with that Montana Way joint, way back, so by the time ‘Survival of the Illest Tour’ came out, Chris Lighty wanted me to go on the tour. DMX was the headliner. That’s when DMX was on fire, scorching. So, I went on that tour and I was killing it, the footage is online from some of the shows. We did the ‘Survival of the Illest Tour,’ I went across the country with no album out, with no single out, but people knew the words to my songs from that mixtape.”
9. On The Impact of Prodigy’s Death On The Queensbridge Rap Scene
The passing of rap legend and Mobb Deep member Prodigy in 2017 was a huge blow to the hip hop community, but was particularly devastating to Queens, as he was one of the borough’s brightest stars and beloved figures. Cormega touches on the void left by Prodigy’s death and how his absence makes the reconciliations within the Queensbridge rap community bittersweet. “Queensbridge ain’t been the same, I’m talking about the music,” Mega admits. “It just feels different without him here. It’s unfair, almost, ‘cause when you look at it, look how we’re vibing. Like last time we did an interview, you was like, ‘Would you do a Queensbridge tour?’ and I was like, ‘Nah.’ But now, it’s like me and son (Nas) is on good terms. Me and you, [too]. So, imagine [if] Prodigy [was here].”