Western plutocracy goes bear hunting – By Pepe Escobar

THE ROVING EYE
Western plutocracy goes bear hunting
By Pepe Escobar

The post-Cold War status quo in Eastern Europe, not to mention in Western Europe, is now dead.

For Western plutocracy, that 0.00001% at the top, the real Masters of the Universe, Russia is the ultimate prize; an immense treasure of natural resources, forests, pristine water, minerals, oil and gas. Enough to drive any NSA-to-CIA Orwellian/Panopticon war game to ecstasy. How to pounce and profit from such a formidable loot?

Enter Globocop NATO. Barely out of having its collective behind unceremoniously kicked by a bunch of mountain warriors with Kalashnikovs, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is now fast “pivoting” – that same old Mackinder to Brzezinski game – to Russia. The road map will be put in place at the group’s summit in early September in Wales.

Meanwhile, the MH17 tragedy is undergoing a fast metamorphosis. When the on-site observations by this Canadian OSCE monitor (watch the video carefully) are compounded with this analysis by a German pilot, a strong probability points to a Ukrainian Su-25’s 30 mm auto-cannon firing at the cockpit of MH17, leading to massive decompression and the crash.

No missile – not even an air-to-air R-60M, not to mention a BUK (the star of the initial, frenetic American spin). The new possible narrative fits with on-site testimony by eyewitness in this now famously “disappeared” BBC report. Bottom line: MH17 configured as a false flag, planned by the US and botched by Kiev. One can barely imagine the tectonic geopolitical repercussions were the false flag to be fully exposed.

Malaysia has handed out the flight recorders to the UK; this means NATO, and this spells out manipulation by the CIA. Air Algerie AH5017 went down after MH17. The analysis has already been released. That begs the question of why it is taking so long for MH17’s black boxes to be analyzed/tampered with.

Then there’s the sanctions game: Russia remains guilty – with no evidence – thus it must be punished. The EU abjectly followed His Master’s Voice and adopted all the hardcore sanctions against Russia they were discussing last week.

Yet there are loopholes. Moscow will have reduced access to US dollar and euro markets. Russian state-owned banks are forbidden from selling shares or bonds in the West. Yet Sberbank, Russia’s largest, has not been sanctioned.

So Russia in the short and medium term will have to finance itself. Well, Chinese banks could easily replace that kind of lending. Don’t forget the Russia-China strategic partnership. As if Moscow needed another warning that the only way to go is to increasingly bypass the US dollar system.

EU nations will suffer. Big time. BP has a 20% stake in Rosneft, and it’s already freaking out on the record. ExxonMobil, Norway’s Statoil and Shell will also be affected. Sanctions don’t touch the gas industry; now that would have propelled the EU’s counterproductive stupidity to galactic levels. Poland – hysterically blaming Moscow for everything under the sun – gets more than 80% of its gas from Russia. The no less strident Baltic states, as well as Finland, get 100%.

The ban on dual-use goods – civilian and military applications – will badly affect Germany, the top EU exporter to Russia. On defense, the UK and France will suffer; the UK has no less than 200 licenses selling weapons and missile launching gear to Russia. Yet the French 1.2 billion euro (US$1.6 billion) sale of Mistral assault ships to Russia will go ahead.

Meanwhile, in the demonization front …

This is what Associated Press spins as “analysis” and distributes to papers around the world; a collection of cliches desperately in search of a thesis. Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center, faithful to who pays his bills, gets a few things right and most things wrong. David Stockman at least has a ball deconstructing the lies of the Warfare State.

But the real thing is definitely Putin’s economic adviser Sergei Glazyev. One of his key theses is that European business must be really careful to protect their interests as the US attempts to “ignite a war in Europe and a Cold War against Russia”.

This, though, is the ultimate bombshell – delivered by a cool, calm and collected Glazyev. Watch it carefully. A detailed reappraisal of what Glazyev has been saying for weeks now, mixed with some outstanding comments here leads to a inevitable conclusion: key sectors of Western plutocracy want a still ill-defined war with Russia. And journalism’s Holy Grail – never trust anything until it’s officially denied – confirms it.

NATO’s Plan A is to install missile batteries in Ukraine; that is already being discussed in detail in the run-up to NATO’s summit in Wales in early September. Needless to say, if that happens, for Moscow, that’s way beyond a red line; it implies a first strike capability at Russia’s western borderlands.

Washington’s short Plan A, meanwhile, is to organize a wedge between the federalists in Eastern Ukraine and Russia. This implies progressive, direct funding of Kiev in parallel to building up, via American advisers already on the ground, and vast weaponizing, a huge proxy army (nearly 500,000 by the end of the year, according to Glazyev’s projection). Endgame on the ground would be to seal the federalists off into a very small area. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshensko has been on the record saying this should happen by early September. If not, by the end of 2014.

In the US, and a great deal of the EU, a monstrous grotesquerie has developed, packaging Putin as the new Stalinist Osama bin Laden. So far, his strategy on Ukraine was to be patient – what I called Vlad Lao Tzu – watching the Kiev gang hang themselves while trying to sit down with the EU in a civilized manner working for a political solution.

Now we may be facing a game changer, because the mounting evidence, which Glazyev and Russian intel relayed to Putin, points to Ukraine as a battlefield; a concerted drive for regime change in Moscow; a concerted drive aiming for a destabilized Russia; and even the possibility of a definitive provocation.

Moscow, allied with the BRICS, is actively working to bypass the US dollar – which is the anchor of a parallel US war economy based on printing worthless pieces of green paper. Progress is slow, but tangible; not only the BRICS but BRICS aspirants, the G-77, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the whole Global South is absolutely fed up with the Empire of Chaos’s non-stop bullying and want another paradigm in international relations. The US counts on NATO – which it manipulates at will – and mad dog Israel; and perhaps the GCC, the Sunni petro-monarchies partners in the Gaza carnage, which can be bought/silenced with a slap on the wrist.

The temptation for Putin to invade Eastern Ukraine in 24 hours and reduce the Kiev militias to dust must have been super-human. Especially with the mounting cornucopia of dementia; ballistic missiles in Poland and soon Ukraine; indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Donbass; the MH17 tragedy; the hysterical Western demonization.

A bear with limited patience
But Putin is wired for playing the long game. The window of opportunity for a lightning strike is gone; that kung fu move would have stopped NATO in its tracks with a fait accompli, and the ethnic cleansing of 8 million Russians and Russophones in Donbass would never have developed.

Still, Putin won’t “invade” Ukraine because Russian public opinion doesn’t want him to. Moscow will keep supporting what is a de facto resistance movement in the Donbass. Remember: in give or take two months, General Winter starts to set in those broke, IMF-plundered Ukrainian pastures.

The leaked German-Russian peace plan will be implemented over Washington’s collective dead body. This New Great Game, to a great extent, is also about preventing Russia-EU economic integration via Germany, part of a full Eurasian integration including China and its myriad Silk Roads.

If Russia’s trade with the EU – about US$410 billion in 2013 – is due to take a hit because of sanctions, then that also spells out a Go East movement. Which implies a Russian fine-tuning of the Eurasian Economic Union project. No more a Greater Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok – Putin’s original idea. Enter the Eurasian Union as a brother in arms of China’s myriad Silk Roads. Still, this spells out a strong Russia-China partnership at the heart of Eurasia – and still this is absolute anathema to the Masters of the Universe.

Make no mistake, the Russia-China strategic partnership will keep evolving very fast – with Beijing in symbiosis with Moscow’s immense natural and military-technological resources. Not to mention the strategic benefits. A case could be made this has not happened since Genghis Khan. But it’s not like Xi Jinping is pulling a Khan to subdue Siberia and beyond.

Cold War 2.0 is now inevitable because the Empire of Chaos will never accept Russia’s sphere of influence in parts of Eurasia (as it doesn’t accept China’s). It will never accept Russia as an equal partner (exceptionalists don’t do equality). And it will never forgive Russia – alongside China – for openly defying the creaking, exceptionalist, American-imposed order.

If the US deep state, guided by those nullities who pass for leadership, in desperation, goes one step beyond – it could be a genocide in Donbass; a NATO attack on Crimea; or worst case scenario, an attack against Russia itself – watch out. The Bear will strike.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

(Copyright 2014 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

MH17 in Context: “Empire of Chaos”, Isolating Russia

usempireWorld public attention is now fixed on the aftermath of the destruction of  Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Donbass in the midst of the Ukrainian civil war. This horrific event is doubtless an immense tragedy worthy of unequivocal condemnation. Before any serious investigation to ascertain direct culpability was established, though, the regime in Kiev and its Western puppet masters spared no time in cynically exploiting this tragedy to gain the maximum dividends to bolster their increasingly weakened position.

Unsurprisingly, and with great alacrity, the Kiev regime and the West made not tentative statements, but bold and often hysterical declarations blaming Russia and the militias of Donbass for the tragedy. At the same time, much of the Western and Kiev regime’s tenuous “social media” evidence is already discredited by discerning analysts. [1]

Regarding the tragedy of Flight MH17, context is not only instructive but indispensable. Overall, it is no exaggeration to say that at no historical junction since World War II has global political, geopolitical, diplomatic, and economic conditions converged in such a manner to produce conditions conducive to the outbreak of a general world war. With the world’s unabated transition from unipolarity to multipolarity, the diminishing of Anglo-American hegemony continues to drive the Empire towards increasingly exporting chaos and conflict to prop itself up. One need only look, inter alia, at East Asia’s militarization, Iraq, HondurasVenezuela on multiple fronts, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine itself—the state of which is the direct result of a US-NATO ‘regime change’ operation.

More specifically, the MH17 tragedy’s immediate response should be viewed as part of a long-term US project to geopolitically checkmate Russia—the only great power with the wherewithal and historical dynamism to consistently oppose Western hegemony. MH17 accelerates a strategy that acts through multiple vectors: encirclement through aggressive NATO expansion; subversion through “illegal instruments of soft-power; economic warfare through unilateral sanctions; and ultimately dismemberment via partition — the so-called “Brzezinski Plan.” This ambitious project to impose a Carthaginian peace on the Russian Federation was faltering when the MH17 tragedy struck.

As we shall see, the Kiev regime and its puppet masters in Washington faced defeat on all levels. Internationally, the recent Obama regime effort to “isolate” Russia into becoming a pariah state was an abject failure: Moscow continued its path of economic and strategic cooperation with a multitude of emerging and status quo states in the world’s transitioning multipolar framework. Notably, Russia solidified its strategic alliance with China through a colossal $400 billion dollar economic energy deal. Additionally—in what is a world historical watershed—Moscow helped to broker the BRICS multilateral development bank. This is the first challenge to the “economic hit men” of the Western dominated IMF-World Bank complex—a sinew of continued Western and Anglo-American hegemony. Additionally, Washington’s attempt to recruit Europe in its bid to “isolate” Russia was unsuccessful with the general European response being tepid at best.

On the ground in Donbass, the Ukrainian armed forces faced tremendous losses and encirclement. They also faced mounting international awareness of the wanton savagery and human rights violations of its punitive ethnic cleansing operation against the entire population of Donbass—which in Orwellian terms it calls an “Anti-Terrorist Operation.” Additionally, signs of a domestic backlash against the human cost of this so-called “ATO” and its forced conscription started to manifest. Meanwhile, the Ukraine’s economy continues a downward economic spiral with the effects of the Western demanded neoliberal austerity regime already being felt by the general populace – and only beginning.

The West and Kiev’s exploitation of the MH17 tragedy is intended to reverse these defeats. The tragedy is a boon to the NATO bloc on a number of levels: it provides justification for Russia’s US assigned bête noire status on the international level; increased US militarization of Eastern Europe, including a potential direct NATO troop presence in Ukraine; while also preparing US public opinion for increased confrontation with Russia; and it gives impetus to Europe adopting a more virulently anti-Russian position. For the Kiev regime the tragedy lends itself to its unmitigated vilification of all things Russian; it conceals their losses on the ground and notably attempts to legitimize their wanton slaughter of the population of Donbass. Through blaming the destruction of MH17—a terrorist-like attack eliciting deep emotional reactions—on Russia and the Donbass militias, it permits the Kiev regime to associate Donbass’s armed resistance against Kiev’s authority with outright terrorism. The Kiev regime’s contention that it is waging an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” in Donbass is thus given credence.

“Isolating” Russia

An omnipresent Western ambition for the expansion of their strategic ‘bridgehead’ into the Eurasian super-continent reached its apex with the onset of the Ukraine crisis. To begin with, the current regime in Kiev is the product of yet another Washington engineered ‘regime change’ operation to create a NATO state (official or de facto) with anti-Russian animus directly within Russia’s ‘soft-underbelly.’ As it continued its path of conducting independent foreign policy, Russia refused to accept NATO’s Ukraine ‘regime change’ scenario in toto—which, inter alia, would have rendered the Black Sea a NATO lake. This refusal was expressed through Russia’s reunification with Crimea. As a result, the US began a qualitative escalation in geopolitically checkmating Russia: “isolation.” US Secretary of State John Kerry warned of measures to “isolate Russia politically, diplomatically and economically” while the New York Times reported, the Obama regime preparing to “retrofit” a “containment” [2] of Russia by holding “together an international consensus against Russia, including even China.”

The US subsequently began an aggressive campaign to pursue this policy. “President Barack Obama gathered with world leaders in a day of delicate diplomacy, as he sought to rally the international community Monday around efforts to isolate Russia,” AP reported. Obama made stops in Asia for his far-fetched attempt to recruit China for this strategy, the London Guardian reported: “The White House has added meetings with the leaders of China and Japan to Barack Obama’s visit to Europe and Saudi Arabia next week, as it seeks to use the six-day trip to build an international coalition and isolate Russia.” Obama also visited close Moscow ally Kazakhstan as “part of ongoing effort to isolate Russia.”

This attempt to “isolate” Russia — territorially the largest nation-state in the world, with the 6th largest economy — and the limiting of its supposed “expansionist” designs (never mind the fact that a democratically elected leader was overthrown through Washington’s machinations) ended in abject failure. Moscow’s path of economic and strategic cooperation with emerging states and Europe continued apace.

In the MENA region Russia clinched an investment cooperation deal with US Gulf state ally Bahrain, to US consternation. Regarding this development, a State Department official noted “this is not the time for any country to conduct business as usual with Russia.” Russia also notably continued to cultivate its burgeoning rapprochement with Egypt under the administration Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, clinching a deal for a below market rate gas export deal. Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy had previously stated Egypt would “seek to nurture and leverage” ties to Moscow. Furthermore, there exists the prospect of increased military cooperation, akin to Moscow’s relationship with Egypt during the apex of Egypt’s influence in the era of Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Crucially, Russia solidified what is now in fact a strategic alliance against the US “Empire of Chaos” with China. This took form through a $400 billion energy deal in addition to economic development for Crimea and industrial cooperation in the field of aviation with China. This deal, called by one analyst the manifestation of a “new Eurasian century-in-the-making” included provisions whereby “the giant, state-controlled Russian energy giant Gazprom will agree to supply the giant state-controlled China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) with 3.75 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas a day for no less than 30 years, starting in 2018…the equivalent of a quarter of Russia’s massive gas exports to all of Europe.” Additionally, the major Chinese and Russian central banks clinched deals to begin making payments in their own domestic currencies. RT reported:

VTB, Russia’s second biggest lender, has signed a deal with Bank of China, which includes an agreement to pay each other in domestic currencies. ‘Under the agreement, the banks plan to develop their partnership in a number of areas, including cooperation on ruble and renminbi settlements, investment banking, inter-bank lending, trade finance and capital-markets transactions,’ says the official VTB statement.

Implicitly, the dollar, a sinew of US world supremacy, is excluded from this immense forthcoming deepening of Sino-Russian economic cooperation. That Russia and China committed to a colossal 30 year $400 billion deal signifies a long-term partnership between the two world powers that speaks of a strategic component.

At the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures, China called for a new regional security pact including Russia and Iran. “We need to innovate our security cooperation (and) establish new regional security cooperation architecture,” Chinese President Xi Xinping remarked. Xi also issued a veiled warning against the US’s anti-Chinese militarization in East Asia, asserting “To beef up military alliances targeted at a third party is not conducive to maintaining common security in the region.” The facts speak of a Chinese recognition that the same vectors of subversion and encirclement arrayed against Russia are arrayed against it. Far from aiding in the “isolation” of Russia, or other quixotic American dream scenarios, China understands it must lean on Russia in a mutually beneficial relationship to check the “Empire of Chaos.” Indeed, it was US theoretician Zbigniew Brzezinksi, an eminence grise of Obama regime foreign policy, who once referred to a potential Russo-Chinese-Iranian alliance as the most “dangerous scenario” for US primacy on the Eurasian super-continent. [3]

Such a harrowing anti-US strategic framework is arguably beginning to take form, albeit still inchoate. In the wake of the US attempt to “isolate” Russia, signs of a Russo-Iranian rapprochement emerged. As the New York Times reported Russia began negotiating an $8 billion to $10 billion energy deal with Iran. The deal also included a provision for Moscow to export 500 megawatts of electricity and the construction of new hydroelectric and thermal generating plants with a transition network in Iran. Russo-Iranian relations have been mixed with disagreements over the Busheir nuclear reactor and the Moscow’s non-fulfillment of a contract for the shipment of Russia’s advanced S-300 SAM. The US’s increasingly aggressive posture against Russia increases Moscow’s willingness to adopt a position more beneficial to Iran in both cases.

Meanwhile, India—a stalwart Moscow ally—under the new administration of Prime Minister Narenda Modi expressed a desire to deepen its ties with Russia on a multitude of levels. After placing Russia as “our country’s greatest friend,” Modi indicated India was keen to deepen Russo-Indian cooperation including in the areas of defense, investment, trade, and nuclear energy. A prospective $40 billion major Russia-India energy pipeline is also in discussion, and the Indian Navy will have arrived in Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East for naval exercises. In another positive development, after years of mutual acrimony with Japan due to issues such as territorial disputes, rapprochement between the two neighbors continued with Japan already procuring 9.5 percent of its liquefied natural gas from Russia. Also worth noting is the signing of the treaty by Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan that brings into being the Eurasian Economic Union, pending the ratification of each country’s respective parliaments. This is Moscow’s answer to large economic blocs which increasingly come to dominate the international political landscape. This effectively nullifies the Obama regime’s Kazakhstan avenue of “isolation” against Russia.

Outside of the Eurasian super-continent Russian President Vladimir Putin also made successful inroads with a tour of Latin America. Putin began his Latin American tour by writing off 90% of Cuba’s debt, a figure of $32 billion. Putin also signed an agreement for oil exploration in Caribbean waters which contain most of the estimated 124 million barrels of Cuba’s crude.

Putin met with Uruguay’s President Pepe Mujixa to discuss the construction of a deep-water port. The Russian president made a stop in Nicaragua with an unannounced visit to President Daniel Ortega. The leaders discussed the deliveries of agricultural machinery, the placement of GLONASS land stations on the territories of Nicaragua, as well as interaction in other areas such as pharmacology. Putin met also with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, and Bolivia’s Evo Morales among others.

In Argentina, Putin and President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner signed an agreement for peaceful nuclear energy with Russia helping to build its third nuclear reactor. Russia will aid in areas such as the design, operation, and decommissioning of old nuclear power plants. Russian atomic energy corporation Rosatom will also tender for the construction of two nuclear power plants. According to Reuters, Russia’s state-owned nuclear company Rosatom would offer “comfortable” financial terms to Argentina. In Brazil, Putin signed a memorandum of understanding with Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff regarding Rosatom and Brazil’s Camargo Correa, envisioning the construction of a nuclear power plant and a spent fuel storage facility in Brazil.

The BRICS Alternative

Perhaps, the most potentially threatening to the “Empire of Chaos”—yet auspicious for the developing world—was the establishment of the BRICS development bank as an alternative to the draconian and predatory IMF-World Bank complex. The US and the West have long been criticized of implementing policies of ‘neo-colonialism’ acting through these postwar Bretton Woods institutions. IMF/World Bank economic prescriptions for the ‘developing’ world, known as the ‘Washington consensus,’ have notoriously failed to facilitate economic development and have often been characterized as instruments of draconian economic exploitation.

For the developing world the establishment of the BRICS development bank represents the first significant systematic challenge or counterpoise to this US dollar and private central bank dominated arrangement. And, as Russian President Putin explained, it should become “a system of measures that would help prevent the harassment of countries that do not agree with some foreign policy decisions made by the United States and their allies.” A Nobel Prize winning economist described the BRICS bank as a “fundamental change in global economic and political power.” According to one analyst: “Way beyond economy and finance, this is essentially about geopolitics – as in emerging powers offering an alternative to the failed Washington consensus. Or, as consensus apologists say, the BRICS may be able to ‘alleviate challenges’ they face from the ‘international financial system.’ The strategy also happens to be one of the key nodes of the progressively solidified China-Russia alliance.” Taken in context, “For Russia, the creation of a $100 billion BRICS development bank and a reserve currency fund worth another $100 billion is a political coup. Just as the West freezes Russia out of its own economic system as punishment for its politics in Ukraine… Russia is tying itself into the financial superstructure of the next generation of economic heavyweights: India, Brazil, China and South Africa.” Overall, these developments pose an enormous challenge to the Western-dominated economic order since the end of World War II.

(To be continued)

Chris Macavel is an independent political analyst. He writes for the blog “The Nation-State” at thenationalstate.wordpress.com. He seeks to enlighten about the growing dangers of NATO imperialist ambitions and Wall Street domination in American political life. He is the author of the forthcoming book “The Myth of the “Arab Spring: How the Empire Guided the MENA Uprisings”.

 Notes

[1] For example see: “Key Piece of Video “Evidence” for Russian Responsibility for Malaysian Plane Shootdown Debunked,”  “Audio ‘Proof’ of Ukrainian Rebel Responsibility for Malaysian Flight Downing is Fake,” “US Admits Its MH17 ‘Evidence’ is Based on YouTube Clips & Social Media Posts: AP Journalist Challenges State Department Spokesperson on official narrative,” “Ukraine: No “Western” Interest In INvestigating MH17,” “The Most Pathetic Case of Backpedaling I have Seen in My Life,” “The Catastrophe of MH17: BBC in the Search of “BUK” — The Video Report Censored by BBC,” “The Russian Military Finally Speaks!” “Evidence Continues to Emerge MH17 Is a False Flag Operation,” “Multiple Reports: Ukrainian Fighter Jets Were With Malaysian Flight 17 When it Was Shot Down,”among others.

[2] It must be said that this is not a policy of “containment,” but encirclement. Despite the New York Times’s claim that the Obama regime pursues a retrofitting of George F. Kennan’s strategy of “containment,” Kennan – architect of  “containment”– was firmly against continuing NATO expansion against Russia. He argued this policy demonstrated profound ignorance of Russia. The Obama regime’s current policy can be understood as a militant and aggressive policy of NATO expansion against Russia in opposition to Kennan.

[3] See Zbigniew Brzezinski , The Grand Chessboard, pp., 55. “Potentially, the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran, an “antihegemonic” coalition united not by ideology but by complimentary grievances…Averting this contingency, however remote it may be, will require a display of US geostrategic skill on the western, eastern, and southern perimeters of Eurasia simultaneously,” wrote Brzezinski.

 

Articles by:Chris Macavel

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Cormega: ‘I Just Want To Be A Soldier For My Culture’

Cornega

Cornega

 

 

20 years ago, Nas mentioned his friend Cormega on a song called “,” which was composed as a letter to someone in prison: “Night time is more trife than ever / What up with Cormega? Did you see him? Are y’all together? / If so then hold the fort down, represent to the fullest / Say what’s up to Herb, Ice and Bullet.” Those four bars inked Cormega’s street credibility and forever tied him, for better and worse, to the crown prince of hip-hop. He spoke to Microphone Check cohosts Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley about the career and life he’s made beyond them.

ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: What up?

CORMEGA: What’s good, brother?

MUHAMMAD: What’s good, man?

CORMEGA: Just chillin’. Happy to be here.

MUHAMMAD: We’re so happy to have you here. You legendary, man.

CORMEGA: I hate that — I think that word is overrated, especially in the presence of a brother like you.

FRANNIE KELLEY: That’s fair. That’s fair.

MUHAMMAD: I understand why you say that, but you gotta give it up. And for someone to have been doing what you doing for the amount of time, you know, skillfully, artfully, it applies — unless you’ve got another word to share with me.

CORMEGA: Ironically — I’ve been saying this in every interview, when people have been calling me legendary lately — or a legend — I really don’t feel I deserve it. I would rather be called a veteran.

MUHAMMAD: A veteran.

KELLEY: I like that.

CORMEGA: I’d rather be called a veteran, because I don’t think — I think that I’ve endured and I’ve showed consistency and everything, but there’s — I don’t see myself the way I see you guys. Like I don’t see myself in the same vein as a Tribe or as a Eric B. and Rakim or PE. Those guys are legends, so if I consider y’all legends I don’t — I honestly, humbly, don’t think I belong in that sentence.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah, OK. I’ll take the humble road, you know, that you trying to give and go down right now but, yo. I’m saying it, because you’ve done a lot for the art form and whether there’s certain accolades given from certain sources or whatever, or not, it doesn’t matter. I think your dedication and the passion you have and your art is a lot. And it’s a lot that people can benefit from, and there’s a lot time placed into it. You can’t be around for a quarter of a century doing something as a professional and not be a master at it or considered to be a legend. So. You say veteran, we’ll ride with that, but I’ll say you’re legendary and we’re happy to have you here, man.

CORMEGA: I appreciate that.

KELLEY: I would say, as a fan, you loom large in my understanding of hip-hop. And I get the deference to Tribe and all them, but in some ways, your name never left people’s minds — partly because it’s a really good name, and partly because your sensibility has stayed intact. Although, we were just talking, this new album does feel like a departure for you in some ways. Do you hear it like that or no?

CORMEGA: I think the new album — I think I try to show growth, and I think my content is different. I think as artists — one of the most important things about artists is the sincerity and, as you would know, the not being afraid to express ourselves. And I didn’t want to be redundant. I don’t want to be — first of all, I don’t live the life that I lived previously. I don’t live in Queensbridge, I don’t hustle, I’m not in the street life, you know. As you see, I’m with my kids right now.

A lot of awakenings have happened in my life and I just wanted my music to reflect that, because at this point in my career, everything that I do now is for legacy — it’s really not about the money. A lot of people do it for the money, but I could get a job and get money, or do other things, but right now it’s about legacy. It’s like, to be mentioned amongst the greats but feel that I deserve there, like I deserve to be mentioned. So that’s what this album is about. I just try to show growth and I just really think it was necessary in this time because our genre — when I say genre, our genre, I’m talking about lyricism and real conscious hip-hop or the skills — that hip-hop seems like it’s under attack or they trying to, like, push it out. I felt like this album was very necessary and I just want to be a soldier for my culture.

 

CORNEGA – INDUSTRY [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

 

KELLEY: Yeah, especially on “,” that track.

CORMEGA: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

KELLEY: So who is attacking?

CORMEGA: I don’t know who it is. I don’t know if it’s the media. I don’t know if it’s — I think greed. I think greed has something to do with it. But sometimes it’s deeper than what we see it as. Sometimes it might be government that’s pulling strings and — because when you look at the landscape of rap and you look at the people that was creative and innovative and saying stuff that could uplift the minorities or the poorer areas, those people have all been silenced — their voices have been silenced. So they have to speak in other ways. So I don’t know what’s that but I do know greed has played a symbolic impact in the demise of our culture.

Because it got to a point where there was new artists that would come to me for advice like, “How do I get on the mixtape? Such and such wants such and such thousand to get on the mixtape. I don’t know how to get on the mixtapes.” And so we had stuff like that, and then you have the certain radio guys, they want to get paid for your songs to get played. And then you got executives in the companies, they don’t look at the creative side of it, they look at the business aspect, which — you can’t knock them because it’s an investment. But it’s not that serious of an investment so when you think about it, it’s like, if you make a creative masterpiece, especially during the ’90s, not — late ’90s is what really killed rap because if you made an incredible album during that time but it didn’t go platinum, it was deemed as a failure.

It got to a point where gold was looked at as underachieving, and that’s when it all went wrong. Because when artists was first doing it, you could go gold, you could sell 350,000 albums and have a successful career back in the day. People were content with making music that everybody could enjoy. It got to a point where people were making embarrassing music, like making fools of themselves, but making so much money that if you even — we from the era when if you was wack, you was wack — we didn’t care if you was rich or what you had. And then it became to the point where wack dudes were starting to get pushed into the limelight, and if you say something about their wackness, then you become — you’re a hater. So the word hater had to become a shield. And then it all went downhill from there. It’s greed. One of the biggest things that hurt our culture was greed.

KELLEY: So you’re saying to go platinum, basically, you have to cross over in some way.

CORMEGA: Definitely.

KELLEY: And so once that becomes the standard, then everybody has to make records for the mainstream.

CORMEGA: Definitely. It depends on what you want to do as an artist, because some artists don’t get it. There’s some artists that are independent that are living way — that are living well beyond their means, that are living well beyond people’s expectations. You got brothers like Tech N9ne and who have more money than a lot of guys that have gone platinum on majors. It comes a time when you just gotta have a — it depends on how much integrity you have as a person, because the industry is a piggyback thing.

Like if they see — 50 Cent’s success is a perfect example. When 50 Cent blew up, all the sudden it became like a — back in the day the mandate was “be good.” If you was nice on the mic, you had a chance. When 50 Cent blew up, labels started pushing artists to work out, like everybody had to get diesel and stuff like that. Or like when Foxy Brown and Kim — their success was crazy for women, because after that all the sistas that was positive in that, you never heard them. I’ve literally heard people at labels say, “Oh, we gotta get her a ass,” talking about other girls or you know, “You gotta do this.” Or, “Look sexy.” It became that, instead of the art. The industry is just incredible.

MUHAMMAD: You’re saying that this album, you’re more focused on legacy. There’s something that’s definitely, apparently, different, but I think there’s a fiber of similarity in terms of like your drive, I think, from your previous albums. It always seemed like there was a sense of teaching, but, you know, not in a preachy way. I think it comes across like, “Yo, this is the life.” You know, “This is what I’m dealing with, and this is how I’m putting it out there.” And it was also, you know, said with a certain amount of integrity for yourself, who you are as a man, having honor and things of that nature. So it feels like this record has that same spirit, but it’s refined from a different type of experience

It’s interesting that you get to a song like “Industry” and the way you present it now, versus maybe some of your other experiences in the music industry and how it came across. First of all, I celebrate you for it, because we need to hear it right now in this climate and what’s going on musically. But often people say that rap game — they use the term the rap game as synonymous with the drug game. And some of your music sort of articulates that. But I think with “Industry,” you touched on something that’s — it’s the life of the artist — I think the way you broke it down, to me, reflects how governments play with other governments, and how our lives are not valued. You know, how people start wars to make money. And you broke that down — not speaking about wars but the industry and the relationship for the artist in terms of the record companies. I think that was pretty bold and dope.

CORMEGA: It definitely was. It definitely was a huge risk.

KELLEY: Yeah, can you talk about that a little bit? You knew it was risky and you — I mean, how much do you care about that?

CORMEGA: There’s a lot of risk on this album. I knew “Industry” was a risk but I knew — when you a artist and you trying to send a message, you don’t want to sound preachy, as he said, because sometimes people don’t want to hear that. They just want to be entertained, or they want to hear what they want to hear. But one of the things that I’m able to — one of the things that benefits me as an artist is what they call street credibility, or whatever. My reputation from the street is authentic, and everybody knows that.

MUHAMMAD: That’s why I say you legend man.

CORMEGA: I don’t even — I don’t even try to glorify it either. So if I’m talking, street dudes will listen — or the younger guys will listen. One of the most important things that I did was take responsibility as a man, and as an artist, because hip-hop in itself — a lot of things indoctrinate. Hip-hop is a thing that indoctrinates. People want to be like it and people want to be like the people that they admire. I’ve met dozens of people that have my lyrics tattooed on them, which blew my mind. If you look on Twitter right now there’s a guy on there talking about, “I’ma send you the picture of a tatt.” Today. Like, that’s how many —

KELLEY: That’s bananas.

CORMEGA: When I started seeing the impact that I had on people — people know that I came from jail. People knew that, so I didn’t have to sing about it or brag about it in songs. And it’s nothing to brag about. Jail is for suckers.

KELLEY: Well, also cause Nas talked about you being in jail on his song.

CORMEGA: Exactly. “One Love” let the world — exactly. So me coming home from jail and making it in the music industry, that was a ray of hope for a lot of convicts. Because when you’re in jail, you’re taught that you’re a convict and you’re reminded of it by the COs and by the system and you’re taught your likelihood of making it is very low and that you’re gonna be nothing. So when people see me come home and get a record deal, that inspired a lot of people.

NAS – ONE LOVE

 

 

I wanted to inspire people in other ways. And I know little dudes that wanted to be like me. So when I started making albums, I was telling people about the pitfalls of the street rather than just glorifying it. Now people respect me for what I’ve done in the independent game and in the industry. So it’s like I’m doing the same thing I did in the streets — I drop jewels, but now I’m trying to navigate you through the industry instead of navigating you through the streets.

The song “Industry” was important to me because I get tired of the exploitation of our music, and especially of the artist. When you look at the rap industry, there’s a lot of stories that don’t have happy endings. And there’s people that do little to nothing that thrive the most. There’s people that literally got in the industry because they was cool with somebody and cause they brown nose the right people — cause they was in the right circle — and they became executives. Whereas, you have a person like Large Professor. Large Professor never had a job as an A&R. That’s a crime.

KELLEY: Yeah.

CORMEGA: Think about it. His album — Breaking Atoms was groundbreaking. His influence on producers is — he introduced the game to Nas. He’s done so much that any label that really cares would have gave him a shot as an A&R.

MUHAMMAD: Right.

CORMEGA: A lot of my heroes don’t get the credit they deserve, and it started bothering me. And I just wanted to speak, and I wanted people to stop selling the illusion — even with the independent game, you could get jerked. You got labels like Koch that’ll tell people, “Oh yeah, you get 60/40.” You don’t get 60/40. You don’t get 60/40; it’s not 60/40. All is not fair, so I wanted to be the one on a song like “Industry” to express the truths to artists. That’s why I say, “Beef DVDs on BET so every artist who’s on it was beefing for free,” you know. If you listen to that song — and I made sure I said no disrespect intended. “I know he got beats,” that’s what I said about QD3. And everything I’ve said makes sense. There’s no animosity or vengeance in my words.

It’s self-evident, so I just want to make self-evident music. I took that risk. And at the end of the day, you know why I was able to take that risk? Because what could happen? I’ve already been blacklisted before. I already said freaking — and left the majors and started — I made a lane for myself. You can’t blacklist me independently, or you can’t blacklist me to the fans. I’m gonna always find a way. So I’m willing to take the risk, you know. That’s just one of the risks that I took on the album.

KELLEY: I liked your mention of shareholders on that song also, cause that kind of gets at what you’re really up against. If a corporation is — the law is that the shareholders have to profit, then how do we change what they value?

CORMEGA: Exactly. One of the biggest misconceptions — one of the big things that really bothered me about the industry, period, is, often in life when we see things aren’t as equal as they should be or fair as they should be, we often try to — we often fight for change or for regulation, etc., etc. It bothers me to this day that record companies make at least, what, $10 off every record? Or maybe eight, if it’s discounted. You make so much money off a record but an artist gets less than — not even a dollar, not even a half of a dollar. If you get a half of a dollar, you got a good deal. The profit margin for the artist as opposed to the company is totally unfair.

Even at the end of the day when you’ve got artists like — a artist goes platinum and he’s happy and they’ll make sure there’s pictures of him with his platinum plaque, but whose glory is that? You got a plaque; that’s it. That plaque isn’t worth any money. Every album that sells a million copies generates $10 million, close to $10 million. There’s a lot of people we know that generated $10 million, and more, that we’ve seen on TV bankrupt or this or that. And they’re not all reckless spending. There’s a lot of inconsistencies in the industry so I just wanted to say freak it and stir up the hornet’s nest.

KELLEY: So why do you — why keep making music? Why stay in this industry, then?

CORMEGA: Because I’m not in the industry, I’m on the outer-stry. I’m in – see, me making music independently the way I do it, I don’t have to deal with — I deal with the indie companies I want or I deal with, I put my stuff out digital. I always find ways to do things my own way.

When I was on, back in the day, my first record deal was with Violator Records — rest in peace Chris Lighty — and that’s where I learnt about the industry. I was on the shelf, you know what I’m saying. So during my time on the shelf, I did something that wasn’t being done at that time. You could do the research. No artist was putting out mixtapes without no album. It wasn’t heard of. You might see a Best of Biggie, but I made my first mixtape like 1997 probably, you know.

By the time we did Survival of the Illest tour, my mixtape was old. And people — when we did Survival of the Illest tour, I was scared to go. I mean, I’ma be honest, I was scared. Like we went to Detroit, Chicago and all those — I was scared to perform because I thought people was gonna boo me because they didn’t know my music. I was like, “Nobody’s gonna know this s—-.” And then when we got there, I was one of the most popular acts that night and I was blown away. People was like, “We got your album,” and I was like, “I don’t got an album.” They were showing me the mixtape! So that, after that, I started making more mixtapes. And then that became a trend. Very few people give me my credit for that, but it’s the truth. So I found that lane: I made mixtapes before it was done.

And same thing, when I got off of Violator, I had a situation. I could have signed with TVT during the time when Lil Jon was there — that label was big. But my whole thing is this: when you dealing with corporations, you’re dealing with schedules, etc., etc. I didn’t feel like getting on a label — I wanted my album to come out soon. So I knew if I signed with them, I would have to be fit in to their schedule, etc., etc., and I was just on the shelf for four years and I didn’t have waiting time. So I put out my album independently and I thrived. I was getting phone calls from Interscope and other people, you know. I just — I didn’t want to go back after that. So I was like freak it, you know. I could sell 50,000 records and be more happy than somebody that’s sold 850,000 records. So I was like this is it.

MUHAMMAD: Do you recommend for artists that are starting out that they go more of an independent route?

CORMEGA: If a artist is starting out, I think indie is good. I think it depends. See, if an artist is starting out — if a label’s gonna make you Eminem, then go for it, you know what I’m saying, because it doesn’t matter. He’s so successful, his success is so gigantic, that he’s his own entity now. So he could quit that and do his own thing now. So if they gonna blow you up, then go to major.

But if you build yourself – like, say you a new artist and then you start making your own mixtapes and you develop your own buzz and you’re big and people are flooding to you, you could be successful without it. Like what’s the guy name? Mac Miller — is that his name, Mac Miller? Majors was trying to holler at him, he’s like, “Freak y’all!” He went indie and he’s still good. So independent is definitely the route. It’s a excellent route. I wouldn’t recommend majors unless they’re gonna substantially pay you or unless they want to do something that’s groundbreaking and give you a fair deal. If they say, “Well, we’re gonna go 50/50 with you,” do it! Or even 60/40. 80/20 even ’cause 40 cents off a album is not cool. It’s nearly impossible to make your money back.

And this is another thing. Any time somebody gives you a loan, it’s recoupable — any loan that you get. Refinance a house, a car, any kind of — a loan from a bank, once you pay off, once that debt has been paid, you get the deed or you get the title. Once you get a record deal, once you repay that, you still don’t get a fair part. There should be amendments.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah, you don’t own it.

CORMEGA: You don’t own nothing. You don’t even own your name.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

CORMEGA: They could drop you off a label — this is the thing that hurts me, too. I’ve known artists that, label really didn’t care about them, they pushed them to the side or they maybe even had plans of dropping them, and then, unfortunately, maybe something happens and the artist dies. All of a sudden now, that label loves this artist again. Now this artist is making money. He’s generating funds and his family’s barely getting anything cause his cut was so small and then y’all was about to drop him. An artist gives his all and the artist die and they really have nothing to show for it. There’s a lot of artists who die whose families are struggling right now. You would think the label would say, “Alright, let’s give ’em —” you know, “Let’s cut them a check.” But they don’t. So it’s so many inconsistencies in the game that it’s just baffling and that’s why I just wanted to be sincere on this album.

 

I wanted to inspire people in other ways. And I know little dudes that wanted to be like me. So when I started making albums, I was telling people about the pitfalls of the street rather than just glorifying it. Now people respect me for what I’ve done in the independent game and in the industry. So it’s like I’m doing the same thing I did in the streets — I drop jewels, but now I’m trying to navigate you through the industry instead of navigating you through the streets.

The song “Industry” was important to me because I get tired of the exploitation of our music, and especially of the artist. When you look at the rap industry, there’s a lot of stories that don’t have happy endings. And there’s people that do little to nothing that thrive the most. There’s people that literally got in the industry because they was cool with somebody and cause they brown nose the right people — cause they was in the right circle — and they became executives. Whereas, you have a person like Large Professor. Large Professor never had a job as an A&R. That’s a crime.

KELLEY: Yeah.

CORMEGA: Think about it. His album — Breaking Atoms was groundbreaking. His influence on producers is — he introduced the game to Nas. He’s done so much that any label that really cares would have gave him a shot as an A&R.

MUHAMMAD: Right.

CORMEGA: A lot of my heroes don’t get the credit they deserve, and it started bothering me. And I just wanted to speak, and I wanted people to stop selling the illusion — even with the independent game, you could get jerked. You got labels like Koch that’ll tell people, “Oh yeah, you get 60/40.” You don’t get 60/40. You don’t get 60/40; it’s not 60/40. All is not fair, so I wanted to be the one on a song like “Industry” to express the truths to artists. That’s why I say, “Beef DVDs on BET so every artist who’s on it was beefing for free,” you know. If you listen to that song — and I made sure I said no disrespect intended. “I know he got beats,” that’s what I said about QD3. And everything I’ve said makes sense. There’s no animosity or vengeance in my words.

It’s self-evident, so I just want to make self-evident music. I took that risk. And at the end of the day, you know why I was able to take that risk? Because what could happen? I’ve already been blacklisted before. I already said freaking — and left the majors and started — I made a lane for myself. You can’t blacklist me independently, or you can’t blacklist me to the fans. I’m gonna always find a way. So I’m willing to take the risk, you know. That’s just one of the risks that I took on the album.

KELLEY: I liked your mention of shareholders on that song also, cause that kind of gets at what you’re really up against. If a corporation is — the law is that the shareholders have to profit, then how do we change what they value?

CORMEGA: Exactly. One of the biggest misconceptions — one of the big things that really bothered me about the industry, period, is, often in life when we see things aren’t as equal as they should be or fair as they should be, we often try to — we often fight for change or for regulation, etc., etc. It bothers me to this day that record companies make at least, what, $10 off every record? Or maybe eight, if it’s discounted. You make so much money off a record but an artist gets less than — not even a dollar, not even a half of a dollar. If you get a half of a dollar, you got a good deal. The profit margin for the artist as opposed to the company is totally unfair.

Even at the end of the day when you’ve got artists like — a artist goes platinum and he’s happy and they’ll make sure there’s pictures of him with his platinum plaque, but whose glory is that? You got a plaque; that’s it. That plaque isn’t worth any money. Every album that sells a million copies generates $10 million, close to $10 million. There’s a lot of people we know that generated $10 million, and more, that we’ve seen on TV bankrupt or this or that. And they’re not all reckless spending. There’s a lot of inconsistencies in the industry so I just wanted to say freak it and stir up the hornet’s nest.

KELLEY: So why do you — why keep making music? Why stay in this industry, then?

CORMEGA: Because I’m not in the industry, I’m on the outer-stry. I’m in – see, me making music independently the way I do it, I don’t have to deal with — I deal with the indie companies I want or I deal with, I put my stuff out digital. I always find ways to do things my own way.

When I was on, back in the day, my first record deal was with Violator Records — rest in peace Chris Lighty — and that’s where I learnt about the industry. I was on the shelf, you know what I’m saying. So during my time on the shelf, I did something that wasn’t being done at that time. You could do the research. No artist was putting out mixtapes without no album. It wasn’t heard of. You might see a Best of Biggie, but I made my first mixtape like 1997 probably, you know.

By the time we did Survival of the Illest tour, my mixtape was old. And people — when we did Survival of the Illest tour, I was scared to go. I mean, I’ma be honest, I was scared. Like we went to Detroit, Chicago and all those — I was scared to perform because I thought people was gonna boo me because they didn’t know my music. I was like, “Nobody’s gonna know this s—-.” And then when we got there, I was one of the most popular acts that night and I was blown away. People was like, “We got your album,” and I was like, “I don’t got an album.” They were showing me the mixtape! So that, after that, I started making more mixtapes. And then that became a trend. Very few people give me my credit for that, but it’s the truth. So I found that lane: I made mixtapes before it was done.

And same thing, when I got off of Violator, I had a situation. I could have signed with TVT during the time when Lil Jon was there — that label was big. But my whole thing is this: when you dealing with corporations, you’re dealing with schedules, etc., etc. I didn’t feel like getting on a label — I wanted my album to come out soon. So I knew if I signed with them, I would have to be fit in to their schedule, etc., etc., and I was just on the shelf for four years and I didn’t have waiting time. So I put out my album independently and I thrived. I was getting phone calls from Interscope and other people, you know. I just — I didn’t want to go back after that. So I was like freak it, you know. I could sell 50,000 records and be more happy than somebody that’s sold 850,000 records. So I was like this is it.

MUHAMMAD: Do you recommend for artists that are starting out that they go more of an independent route?

CORMEGA: If a artist is starting out, I think indie is good. I think it depends. See, if an artist is starting out — if a label’s gonna make you Eminem, then go for it, you know what I’m saying, because it doesn’t matter. He’s so successful, his success is so gigantic, that he’s his own entity now. So he could quit that and do his own thing now. So if they gonna blow you up, then go to major.

But if you build yourself – like, say you a new artist and then you start making your own mixtapes and you develop your own buzz and you’re big and people are flooding to you, you could be successful without it. Like what’s the guy name? Mac Miller — is that his name, Mac Miller? Majors was trying to holler at him, he’s like, “Freak y’all!” He went indie and he’s still good. So independent is definitely the route. It’s a excellent route. I wouldn’t recommend majors unless they’re gonna substantially pay you or unless they want to do something that’s groundbreaking and give you a fair deal. If they say, “Well, we’re gonna go 50/50 with you,” do it! Or even 60/40. 80/20 even ’cause 40 cents off a album is not cool. It’s nearly impossible to make your money back.

And this is another thing. Any time somebody gives you a loan, it’s recoupable — any loan that you get. Refinance a house, a car, any kind of — a loan from a bank, once you pay off, once that debt has been paid, you get the deed or you get the title. Once you get a record deal, once you repay that, you still don’t get a fair part. There should be amendments.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah, you don’t own it.

CORMEGA: You don’t own nothing. You don’t even own your name.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

CORMEGA: They could drop you off a label — this is the thing that hurts me, too. I’ve known artists that, label really didn’t care about them, they pushed them to the side or they maybe even had plans of dropping them, and then, unfortunately, maybe something happens and the artist dies. All of a sudden now, that label loves this artist again. Now this artist is making money. He’s generating funds and his family’s barely getting anything cause his cut was so small and then y’all was about to drop him. An artist gives his all and the artist die and they really have nothing to show for it. There’s a lot of artists who die whose families are struggling right now. You would think the label would say, “Alright, let’s give ’em —” you know, “Let’s cut them a check.” But they don’t. So it’s so many inconsistencies in the game that it’s just baffling and that’s why I just wanted to be sincere on this album.