Friday, January 11, 2013

Cormega and the BDD Interview, part 2

The BDD interview series was conceived with the intention of getting opinions on basketball and basketball culture from the perspectives of those outside the game's typical realm. For the inaugural edition, we reached out to Queensbridge emcee Cormega. In part one, he covered the Knicks and Allen Iverson's exile from the NBA. Part two concludes the interview by addressing fake vs. real sneakerheads, Air Jordan XX8's and Mega's next album, Mega Philosophy.

Photo courtesy of Cormega
I know you’re a sneakerhead and you had a line with Pro-Keds. How did that come about?

That came about through my guy Peter, who worked at Pro-Keds. Basically I just networked. I look at myself as a brand, not just as a rapper. I know that I’m a sneakerhead. Like, a real sneakerhead. A lot of these guys get it confused. They think they can buy Jordans and maybe an Air Max or two, and think they’re a sneakerhead. You’re not a sneakerhead; you’re a loyal customer to Nike.

A sneakerhead knows sneakers. I know Dominique Wilkins, in his prime, he played with Brooks sneakers on. Xavier McDaniel wore SpotBilt [by] Saucony, and he made those hot. Bird wore Converses and Magic wore [Converse] Weapons. Bernard King wore Converses and Jordan wore Converses as a Tar Heel. He wanted to wear adidas. Mutombo had adidas. Olajuwon had some fly Etonics. When you look at my shoe collection you’ll see Avias, you’ll see Reebok Pump, adidas, Nike, Pony, Puma. I’m a sneaker connoisseur so when the opportunity came for me to network with Pro-Keds, the guy was impressed with my knowledge of sneakers, especially with some Pro-Keds. I had some old school Pro-Keds that I brought to show him that they didn’t even have. He saw that SLAM Magazine did a story on me and had a picture of me with all my sneakers. They respected that and we just did a run and it just kicked ass. Everybody wanted them joints.

Now I gotta see what my next phase is. My wish is to do something with New Balance. I didn’t do anything with them [yet], but they showed me a lot of love. I definitely want to do a sneaker one day. The first sneaker I designed was actually an Air Max. When I went to London years ago, they took me to the Nike facility and let me do my own iD. I was going to try to mass produce those, but I never did, so I definitely want to do a sneaker in the near future.

What’s your latest sneaker purchase?

The latest sneaker that I purchased was a pair of shell-toe adidas. I wanted all-black shell-toe adidas.


Nope! I’m lying. (laughs) The latest sneaker that I purchased was the cool grey, number IX Air Jordans.

How many sneakers do you have in your collection?

I don’t even know. I know I have every Air Jordan out of all the numbers, except I’m not getting that XX8. The XX8 is, like, disrespectful to the whole lineage. They should have never done it.

I was going to ask you about that. Russell Westbrook debuted them in a game. They have the sleeve like the old Gary Payton sneakers.

Those shits are an atrocity. That’s like greed right there. As a sneaker collector, I was at ease when they said the XXIII would be the last one. Then they made the year ones, and I don’t take those as serious because those aren’t numbered. I have all the numbers.

Actually, on, they had a list of the rarest Jordan sneakers and I was shocked that I have a shitload of those. I have a lot of those. In Jordans alone, I have… I don’t know. I have close to 50 or over 50 Air Jordans alone. I know New Balance, I have dozens of those. I have dozens of shell-toe adidas, adidas Superstars. I have shitloads of Pro-Keds, obviously, because of my relationship with them.

I don’t even know how many sneakers I have, but I’ll tell you one thing. I’m feeling like a glutton, so what I do is I give a lot of sneakers away every year.

When he had a Twitter account, Gilbert Arenas used to give his sneakers away on Twitter. Is that something you’ve done?

I’ve never given sneakers away on Twitter, but what I do do, is a lot of the times I go back to the hood. I go back to Queensbridge or wherever I’m going and [there are] some dudes I give my sneakers to. Sometimes I might do a show and I might just say, “Fuck it,” and might give my sneakers away. Right now, I’m about to go to England. I’ll be out there within the next 10 days. When I go out there, the clothes I take with me I’m just going to give away, and then I’m always just donating clothes, like to clothes drives and stuff like that.

That’s something I typically do, but a lot of my friends that I grew up with are also spoiled by me because I always get spoiled with sneakers, and I get tired with sneakers and give them away, so some of my friends from when we were kids will still call me like, “I know you’ve got some sneakers you don’t want,” and I’ll just start laughing and be like, “Aight.”

I give away a lot of sneakers. I gave away a shitload of Timberlands, also. I like to give away stuff because I’m blessed. Like when you were saying what was the last sneaker that I purchased, you know why it took me so long to answer? Because I’ve gotten… Like, I got a pair of the Pennys. The Penny Hardaway Flight Ones, the ones that glow in the dark. Those are super rare. I just got those the other day as a gift, so when you say what was the last sneaker I purchased, I had to think for a second because there’s times I’ve been given incredible sneakers as a gift. That’s why I give away sneakers, too, because I’m blessed. And clothes. I get clothes from people.

As my friend told me the other day, he’s like, “You’re a tastemaker, Mega.” I never looked at it like that. My friend, he’s an artist. He’s an incredible artist, too. He goes, “Mega, you’re a tastemaker” and I didn’t even know what ‘tastemaker’ means, to be honest with you. My friend was like, “A lot of stuff that you do, people copy but they get the credit for it because they’re more popular.” Like, Penfield jackets were super popular last year and the year before that, but if you look in Prodigy’s book [My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy], I have one on. The one in Prodigy’s book is the one that everybody was going crazy over recently, and the book’s picture was from 2008, so I’ve been wearing those for years. I was wearing the old school Gazelle-looking glasses, big glasses, before everybody. I was wearing Mitchell & Ness and the owner, Pete, was like, “Mega was like the first rapper that was strictly wearing my stuff.”

I could go on for days. Certain stuff that I’m liking, I wear it while I wanna do it and people will jump on it, so that’s why my friend was like, “You’re a tastemaker.” I think a lot of brands and companies, some of them see that and give me clothes and stuff like that. Being that I get free clothes, I like to give stuff to people because I get stuff. That’s how I keep from not being a hoarder. So I give, I receive and I give.

You mentioned Mitchell & Ness and you said you get a lot of clothes for free. Are you thinking of doing a clothing line since you’ve already done a shoe line?

I’ve actually done shirts before. I did a shirt, years ago, that was selling in boutique stores. A t-shirt. It was expensive, too. It was going for like $60 and it did fairly well. So I did a shirt and the Pro-Keds. I did a collaboration with a skateboard company called Raw New England. We did a skateboard, t-shirt and hat commemorating the 10-year anniversary of my first album, The Realness. Everything sold out. If somebody were to say, “Mega, give me your hat right now and I’ll give you $100 for it,” I would have to give them my hat. Like, there is no more. That shit did way better than anticipated. I did something with another company called 8 And 9 that has incredible shirts and stuff. I did a few things, though. Designing is definitely something I want to do.

What are you most excited for: the Knicks’ season, designing or Mega Philosophy?

Aww, man! Designing is definitely not going to be up there with those two. Mega Philosophy and the Knicks probably tie. I’m extremely excited about the Knicks, but the only thing is, I don’t know if the Knicks are gonna win it all, but Mega Philosophy – I can’t lose with that. I could bet my money on the Knicks and maybe they’d lose in the Finals or at least they’d lose in the playoffs, but with Mega Philosophy, I’m not gonna lose. I’m not talking about sales-wise. I don’t know what kind of sales [it will have], I’m talking about creative-wise, it’s an incredible process, and I’m not talking about from my point of view.

Artists, we never play our shit for other artists before it’s done. We just don’t [but] I played it for Roc Marciano, I played stuff for Saigon, Chuck D. [of Public Enemy], DJ J-Love [and] Craig G. I played it for my man Crook. He has that site Some of the response was so good that I forgot… The response was so crazy that I got offended. My man was like, “Yo, this shit might be better than The Realness,” and it felt like blasphemy when he said that, like, “Is he kidding me?” Then somebody else said that shit, and then somebody else said, “This might be Mega’s best shit.” I’m like, “Damn.” So when people started saying that, I looked into it. I’m not saying it’s my best shit, but growth-wise, it’s not anything that people today have anticipated. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the song “M.A.R.S.” [produced by Large Professor; featuring Action Bronson, Roc Marciano and Saigon] that we leaked last year.

Yeah. I am.

The reaction to “M.A.R.S.” was so crazy, that shit had one of the biggest buzzes and feedback of last year. I’m talking about in rap, period. There were labels that were like, “I’ll give you a deal for that type of shit right there,” and “M.A.R.S.” isn’t even the best song on Mega Philosophy. It’s not even the second best, so I was like, “Wow!” I’m real excited about Mega Philosophy.

That’s all Large Professor, right? Is he on the mic at all?

Large Professor did all the production. I’m trying to get him on the mic. He’s like, “Mega, I’d like to get on there, I just want you to do all the rapping,” so as of now, Large Professor is not on it. I’m trying to get Chuck D. on my album because I’ve got a song where I’m talking about social things and who better than him [to talk about that]? I’ve got Redman on there, which is like an achievement for me. That’s my man; that’s my friend. I knew him for years, but as a fan, it’s also like, “Wow, I got Redman on my album.” The fans are excited about that. I’ve got AZ. People are used to that. I’ve got Styles P. I’ve got a song with Black Rob that’s dope. I’ve got a solo record with Nature that’s fuckin’ dope, and I think that’s all the features I have. Like I said, I might want to get Chuck D. on that. I might want to get one more feature.

I have a song where I’m talking about the [music] industry. Just remember that when I say I have a song about the industry. I guarantee you’ll come back to me on that one like, “Mega, you were right. The song about the industry is the realness.” It’s gonna work some nerves for some industry people.

One more question: You and Large Professor. One-on-one to 15 points. Who wins?
In basketball? I’m kickin’ his ass! That’s my man, but I don’t care!

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