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N.O.R.E: Hood Dreams

   Despite a “Super Thug” reputation, N.O.R.E. declares that nothing bothers him more than seeing a rapper act hard or cranky. The LeFrak City, Queens MC is high energy, and bursts with laughter, whether discussing his Reggaeton period, being the first video banned from MySpace, or his favorite Howard Stern Show goonie. A lover of film, old school underdogs and point guards, this is one celebrity who doesn’t need to say that he loves his life. Why shouldn’t he?    Having recently relocated to Miami, N.O.R.E. didn’t choose to be closer to Reggaeton, instead – he’s ditching it, despite still professing a love. The veteran is working with DJ EFN on a fundamental return to rap. Already garnering impressive results through mixtape work like “Shame on a N***a,” God’s favorite returns home, carrying gifts.    Now off Def Jam, N.O.R.E. campaigns towards Global Warming 11368 with a reality DVD, a Green Lantern tape, and an online stack of tracks, all showcasing a restored love in Hip-Hop. Speaking a mile a minute, N.O.R.E. held court with AllHipHop.com, and entertains with anecdotes, honesty, and even a roast of his longtime mentor and supporter – Akinyele. Though he may be “outta state,” this MC keeps his hood on his mind.AllHipHop.com: On the song “Cocaine Cowboys,” you said, “I’m loyal to the hood so I’m giving the hood hope.” Break that down for me.N.O.R.E: Sometimes, no matter what I do, no matter what level I [achieve], I’ma always be a hood person. I’ma always keep the hood in heart. Like, I don’t have to be in the hood everyday and I don’t have to sell crack in order for me to be hood. Being hood is living in a penthouse, drinkin’ Kool-Aid. That’s what I really meant by it; it’s like no matter how much success I receive, I’m loyal to the hood, man, so I’m givin’ them hope. There’s people that know that things don’t have to change you all the time. Sometimes you can actually change the things. AllHipHop.com: When you were growing up in the LeFrak City, who was giving you hope?N.O.R.E: Well, what was giving me hope was seeing people like Kenny Anderson, people like Akinyele, people like Kenny Smith and just seein’ people make it out the hood and still maintaining who they are and maintaining their integrity and that’s what makes me who I am today. AllHipHop.com: You’ve always championed the guys like Akinyele and Grand Daddy I.U., tell me about that, those guys aren’t talked about like that too often…N.O.R.E: Grand Daddy I.U. is my number one favorite rapper of all time. Obviously, Rakim is Nas’ favorite rapper, so when you listen to Nas, you hear Rakim in there. When you hear Jay-Z, you can hear [Big Daddy] Kane in there. So when people hear me say Grand Daddy I.U. was my favorite MC, they listen to me and they say, “Damn, I don’t hear no Grand Daddy I.U. in N.O.R.E.” They’re not really realizing that every time I hit you with a slick rhyme…”Hennessy and Tomato sauce“…that’s me trying to be Grand Daddy I.U. He said, “I knew a girl named Kenya, from West Virginia, boy would I love to stick something in her.” That s**t was so hot! Me, I always go for the underdogs…I was a big D-Nice fan [too]. But then, when you talk about Akinyele…Ak meant so much to me as a youth growin’ up. I never wanted to be bigger than Ak. I just wanted to be…on his level, you know what I’m sayin’? When I came home from jail, I had dropped War Report on the streets…I remember this like it was nothing. I was outside sellin’ crack, and he grabbed me and he told me to look at every car that drove by, man. Every car that drove by was playin The War Report. He asked me how much crack did I have on me, and I told him how much I had. He gave me the money for it, he took the crack and threw the crack in the sewer. Ak means the world to me, so when I got on and I became the n***a, you know, what did I do? I came to him, although I couldn’t take his money away because he was getting stripper money. [Laughs] So I said, “Yo mothaf**ka, come with me on tour,” and I repaid him that favor. Me and him, to this day, have a wonderful relationship because of that. AllHipHop.com: The things you said on the “Shame on a N***a” record were things going on in a lot of peoples’ minds, particularly your accusing Def Jam of slighting Redman, Method Man, and LL Cool J. I know you said you wouldn’t diss Jay-Z or the label, so what was your motivation? N.O.R.E: At the end of the day, sometimes I think me asking for my release from Def Jam might have not been my best move, like, but at the same time, I think it was my best move. I left because they wasn’t payin attention to nobody else but just one person and who he was payin’ attention to. So part of me doin’ it was just, just being loyal to the hood, you know what I’m sayin? So I’m like, “Yo, you know what? I see the things that’s transpiring, I see the things that’s goin’ on and I don’t wanna be that next person to be complainin’ about a record label.” I’m 29 years old, and it’s tiring to see these artists that try something, and it don’t work, and then they blame the record label. I don’t want to blame the record label, first off. I don’t want to blame nobody but myself. I wanted to explain [why I left]. I wanted to say that  wasn’t comfortable there; I wasn’t comfortable with what was goin’ on; I wasn’t comfortable with the Roc La Familia situation. I did not diss Jay-Z on the joint. In my opinion, the best CEO’s I’ve ever had was Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles, and not because they gave me more money – it’s because they paid attention to everybody that was on the label, and if they didn’t, they damn sure tried. So my whole motivation for doin’ “Shame on a N***a” was purely just because I wanted to stop answering those questions AllHipHop.com You mentioned Kevin Liles and Lyor Cohen. and I wanted to ask you, at the point in which you left Def Jam, I know obviously on the record that we’ve been talking about, you mentioned something about Koch…  At any point, did you feel like maybe stepping to Warner Brothers and getting back up with these guys that worked so well with you? N.O.R.E:  You know what? I don’t know why I didn’t do that, man. I don’t know why I didn’t feel like, you know, trackin’ down Kevin Liles and puttin’ him in the meeting and handcuffin’ him to a table and doin the same for Lyor Cohen. I don’t know why, because at the end of the day, what I’m tryna do is I’m trying to own my own ringtones and I’m trying to own ownership of my records and tryna do things like that…when I know at their level of-of artistry, I don’t think they’re willing, and I don’t think they’re able to give artists their own situations like that. When I met Lyor Cohen…this is one of the most beautiful stories in Hip-Hop: Lyor Cohen called me in 1998 and said, “N.O.R.E., I want to be in business with you. What are you doin today?” I said, “Yo, I’m at Pun’s video shoot.” The man hung up the phone, he said I will be there in an hour. Do you know that man didn’t ask me where the Pun’s video shoot was, he didn’t ask me [anything]. He hung up the phone and sure nuff’, he showed up to Pun’s video shoot in a half hour… AllHipHop.com: Wow.N.O.R.E: With Ja Rule in the car…for me. I’m not dissin’ CEOs, I’m not sayin’ [Jay-Z] is not a good CEO, I’m not sayin’ this man is not a good president. For me though, to me, when you want to be in biz with a Hip-Hop artist, and you want to do business with them, the best thing to do is show interest.AllHipHop.com: To what extent do you think that your co-sign of Cocaine Cowboys brought that movie to the hood?N.O.R.E: Yeah I can’t front. I remember going on AllHipHop.com, I remember you guys did a review on Cocaine Cowboys and the first thing, the first sentence you guys said was, look, we heard Rick Ross say he knows the real Noriega, but for right now, we talking about the rap Noreaga, who fully cosigns this movie. I was so thankful, ‘cause, you know, usually when you cosign something, people never remember the cosigner. I moved to Miami a year ago, and obviously, I didn’t have cable yet, so I was goin’ to the movie places and local bootleggers. I went to a local bootlegger and I bought two DVD’s, one Norieaga Cocaine Country and then there was this joint Cocaine Cowboys. I figured, alright, let me go home, watch it. I fell in love with it.Me, I love movies, I’m a movie buff, and you can sit here and talk to me about any movie.  One of my all time favorite movie [genres] are documentaries because I also like to deal with reality. Of course I like Hollywood, I like the fake blood, fake pictures and the fake boobs. I like that, but every now and then, I want to go into reality. I want to see what actually is real. And when I was watchin’ Cocaine Cowboys and I looked across the street, and they talkin’ ’bout the Omni Mall, the Omni Mall is across the street from me. Like this s**t is reality; it’s not a made up story. They took my video off of MySpace and I’m the first dude banned from MySpace, whoo! AllHipHop.com: Do you think that happened because people involved with the movie got involved with that or what?N.O.R.E: No, [the] people involved with the movie is down with me. [Laughs] I think that MySpace in all actuality, is not something “18 and over.” So I think it’s a lot of people that’s on MySpace that are sayin’ that they’re 22, 26, and they’re really 13 [years old]. And I think that they’re goin’ on MySpace and they’re watchin my video. In no way, shape, form, or fashion was I trying to big up the drug life. I’m tryna say I’m in love with this movie. I really wanted to be an artist. I wanted to say, you know what? I’ma write somethin that’s totally not my life, not my life. I’m born and raised in New York City and the Cocaine Cowboys was in Miami. I didn’t even know how to get on  the plane. You know what I mean? So, this is not my life. This is what I’m writin’. This is my dedication to the city I’m livin’ in right now.AllHipHop.com: Tell me what you can about the album, Global Warming. Do you have the deal in place yet? N.O.R.E:  Well the deal is in place. I came out to Miami, and I hired my boy DJ EFN to do my A&R. I did not want an industry A&R, I did not want a record label A&R, I did not want somebody…I wanted somebody who really loves Hip-Hop. There’s two reasons why I hired EFN: one, because he’s my man – two, he hates Reggaeton. [Laughing] He’s one of those Latinos that thinks Reggaeton is takin’ us back two-centuries. I love Reggaeton. I love Reggaeton still – but I’m not doin’ it no more. AllHipHop.com: To close on a funnier note: one of my favorite rap video moments from of yours is in “Grimey,” when Beetle Juice throws the cereal boxes off the shelf. Tell me, was that your idea to put him in the video?N.O.R.E: Yo, man, let me tell you somethin’: nobody got my idea of Beetle Juice first off. Let me just say that, right? It’s like as in when I did “I’m a G,” everybody was like, “Charlie Murphy, who’s Charlie Murphy?” I was like, “You mothaf**kas ain’t seen The Dave Chapelle Show with Charlie Murphy?”Anyway, but I got high as hell one night, right? I came home, I sat in the crib, I turned on Howard Stern and the dude was on there goin’ crazy. [Laughing] This dude, he was like two feet tall, he was an ugly individual, and he kept sayin’ “Beetle Juice,” and I still didn’t know if they was talkin’ about his ass, right? So, I’m laughin’ and I’m like, “Yo, this dude is mad funny.”So I’m sittin with the director; I was like “Yo, we gotta have Beetle Juice,” and he was like, “Alright cool, cool.” [confusing the reference for the 1980s movie/cartoon series]Beetle Juice comes to my set, and my man ‘Los [who is] like the biggest n***a in our hood, he’s like 6’11″, like 300 pounds…he was like, “N.O. I’m goin to meet Beetle Juice.” So he ran over there, mind you, I’ve never met Beetle Juice, I’m just a fan of his insane comedy. So he rolls up to Beetle Juice and he was like, “Yo wassup, man,  Beetle Juice, my name is ‘Los.” Then Beetle Juice said, “ Get the f**k outta here.” [Laughs] We all fell out, we crackin’ on Los the whole time like “Yeah, he played you out.” So Beetle Juice came back out and ‘Los was like, “Yo, so dude, wassup, man? I’m N.O.R.E’s family.” And the dude said “ Didn’t I tell you to get the f**k outta here?” [Laughing]His people were like, “We are so sorry.” He didn’t get to let the adrenalin out or some s**t. So they gave him the medicine. No bulls**t, like, I put him in the video to be funny, but when he got there, it wasn’t funny. Like, everybody kinda got tired of his s**t, like, he can’t even be foolin’ with people like that. Then he took his [medicine], and he came around us all day. He was chillin’, he smoked cigarettes, he drunk a couple beers, and it was great. But, he needed that medicine, kid. That guy is really crazy. I had a ball though, I had a ball. See the thing is, the thing is this. This guy is on the Howard Stern Show and a lot of people don’t understand that that’s Hip-Hop. This guy’s on here cursin’, he’s sayin whatever the f**k he wants to say and I figured, “Yo, you know what? That’s Hip-Hop.”  

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