Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Revisiting Noreaga's "N.O.R.E."

After their awesome 1997 debut, "The War Report", momentum was high for Capone N Noreaga, unfortunately only one of them could enjoy the success. Although Capone was able to record a few verses for the album, he was locked up for a parole violation, leaving Noreaga to rep the CNN banner, plus he was still locked down when Nore's solo debut dropped, which saw Nore show much love by making Capone executive producer. Enter 1998, and with hip hop changing all the time, veterans continuing to mark their territory, and newcomers striving to make their presence felt/known, the timing was all but perfect for Nore to drop his first solo album.

Release date- July 14, 1998

1. The Jump Off
Brief but good intro. This one is for Capone, this one is for the people, yes indeed.

2. Banned From TV [Featuring Nature, Big Pun, Cam'ron, Jadakiss and Styles P]
Produced By: Swizz

"Ay yo regardless of rain or snow, sleet or hail/I kick street tales, chokin niggas like I'm Sprewell" -Nature

After "The Jump Off," we head right into one incredible posse cut, and there were lots of them in 1998, as evident by my post, '1998: The Year of Dope Collaborations" [http://mayepov.blogspot.com/2013/10/1998-year-of-dope-collaborations.html]. Over Swizz' second best beat ever, all 6 MCs drop inspired verses, possibly some of their dopest ever. '98 itself not only was a banner year for Nore, but for Jada, Styles P, Pun and Cam, all of who released their debuts that year (Jada, Styles and Sheek in the form of their "Money, Power & Respect" debut). Overall, a very memorable collaboration and honestly it's the best song on the album.
*5 out of 5*

 3. I Love My Life [Featuring Carl Thomas]
Produced By: EZ Elpee

Nore talks about his life, specifically his past and where he was at this point in his career. Carl Thomas, making a name for himself on Bad Boy Records, did a good job on the hook. A nice celebration of life and there's never anything wrong with that.
*4 out of 5*

4. N.O.R.E.
Produced By: Trackmasters [Tone & Poke]

"N.O.R.E., Nore, stand for niggas on the run eatin/No matter if you still treatin!"

This was the first single off the album, and man it still bangs today. Solo wise, this was Nore's signature song.
*4 out of 5*

5. Hed Interlude
Lol, I won't go too much into this interlude, but Nore's reactions to receiving oral sex are quite hilarious, and to all the men reading this, I'm sure we can relate to Nore on this one, lol.

6. Hed [Featuring Nature]
Produced By: Trackmasters

"Doggystyle was my favorite position until I switched it/Dead shit, got on some hed (head) shit" -Nature

That hook generally sums up this one. Very good.
*3.5 out of 5*

7. It's Not A Game [Featuring Maze and Musolini]
Produced By: SPK

Although Nore drops a decent verse, this was more or less a showcase for newcomers Maze and Musolini. I liked this one quite a bit, so for nostalgic purposes, I have to add .5 to the rating.
*4 out of 5*

8. Fiesta [Featuring Kid Capri]
Produced By: Trackmasters

Party time for Nore, Kid Capri and Vinia Mojica on the hook, and the Trackmasters behind the boards. My cousin Andre was crazy about this one.
*3.5 out of 5*

9. 40 Island [Featuring Kool G Rap and Musolini]
Produced By: Marley Marl

This was a fairly decent cover of G Rap's classic "Riker's Island."
*3 out of 5*

10. The Way We Live [Featuring Chico DeBarge]
Produced By: L.E.S.

Nore shows appreciation and give thanks to the black women who have stuck by him (and others) through thick and thin, all the while recognizing and realizing some of the things men do and why. Mr. DeBarge did a good job on the hook also.
*4 out of 5*

11. Animal Thug Interlude
This was about as funny as you would expect.

12. The Change
Produced By: Kurt Gowdy

A dope, fast paced song right here. ".....you can hit me on the internet/www.nore, if not call me."
*4 out of 5*

13. Superthug
Produced By: The Neptunes

 I remember my long time friend Shaun went crazy when he first heard this, so much so that he HAD to tell me about it, lol. He was turned on to it by his girlfriend at the time, Myra, who kept telling him how tight it was. The Neptunes were already close to 6 years in the game at this point, but this was the song that put them on the map. Add in a clearly inspired performance by Nore and the underrated Tammy Lucas also on the hook, you have a classic.
*5 out of 5*

14. Da Story [Featuring Maze]
Produced By: L.E.S.

The beginning of this song is hilarious, which sees a group of guys outside in the rain, minding their own business, then out of nowhere a shouting match begins, where this chick comes in and starts flippin out on them (.....it's like 10 of y'all on one blunt!"), then another guy gives it right back ("that bitch ain't even got no panties on!"), lol. "So fuckin what, y'all wanna see this though right?!", she says, lol. Moving on, lol, this is quite the thugged out story by Nore, especially with lines like "anyone can buss a gun and stab a nigga it's real/cause you gotta have the guts for the way that it feels." Nas coming through at the end comes into play later I feel.
*4 out of 5*

15. Mathematics [Esta Loca]
Produced By: Clue and Duro

Another dope song. I really like this one and the live instrumentation provided by Robert Mays is very good.
*4 out of 5*

16. The Assignment [Featuring Busta Rhymes, Spliff Star and Maze]
Produced By: Nashiem Myrick
Co-Produced By: J "Wax" Garfield

Oh man, this Jerry Butler, "Take The Time To Tell Her" sampled banger is great, and it's one hell of an assignment! All 4 MCs were FEELIN it on this beat and it showed, probably the second or third best song on the album.
*5 out of 5*

17. Body In The Trunk [Featuring Nas]
Produced By: Grease

Listen to "Da Story" again and you'll see that it's the first part of this classic, even if it's an unofficial one. I don't think Nore's storytelling muscles were flexed this strongly again, and with Nas (in full Nas Escobar mode) along for the ride, this is simply DOPE. They're riding around with a dead body in the trunk of their car, basically trying to figure out what do with it (I won't spoil the ending here). I also heard a story, many times, that Nore allegedly smacked a guy because he said he didn't like "The Firm" album, and I'm still not sure how true that is (he hints at it during this). Either way, one hell of a song.
*5 out of 5*

18. One Love
A phone call between Nore and Capone.

19. Outro
Nore closes the album.

Although Nore would release five more solo albums (1999, 2002, 2006, 2007 and 2013) and 3 more albums with Capone (2000, 2009 and 2010), most of which were very good to excellent, his 1998 debut was SO good that he would peak almost immediately (and if you're reading this Nore, that's NO knock on you). Lyrically he was at his best (which carried over from the "War Report" album), the production was largely very good/excellent, and the guests contributed nicely. The only thing that's missing was Capone, but that didn't/doesn't affect the overall quality of this album. If you haven't bumped this in a while, throw it in, it still holds up today. Those who may not own it, this is a strong recommendation.

4.5 stars

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