Streets is Talking: N.O.R.E. Part One

    Throughout his ten years in the game we have seen a couple of different sides of Victor Santiago. Before the deal he was a street dude on the block trying to get it. He would quickly switch his hustle to rap and adopt a moniker that would represent his then by any means necessary attitude. Noreaga would go on to wave the flag for the thugs on his cult classic debut N.O.R.E., but opened up and let his larger than life personality shine with explosion of Reggaeton but still is the same OG. Now back with a new album Noreality, N.O. returns to his roots with club bangers and street anthems alike all with that N.O.R.E. flavor. In his self-proclaimed “livest interview ever,” AllHipHop.com’s Street Is Talking series gets two-part trill with Lefrak’s best. We get the report on his come up, the status of CNN, what really went down with Esco, and why he is Hip-Hop’s drinking champion. What What!AllHipHop.com: You were on the streets heavy before the deal, can you paint the picture of what hustling in Queens was like?N.O.R.E.: Well that what it was, we didn’t have s**t. When I came home, I tried to apply for a job twice. After a week of being home, I was back on the block selling crack, nahmean?AllHipHop.com: Being from Queens did you get to see the street legends that came up strong in the 80’s?N.O.R.E.: Like Preme’, Cat, Pappy?AllHipHop.com: Yeah.N.O.R.E.: Of course, but that was a little before my era. Next month I’ll be 30 years old.  They’re in their forties, of course they are who we idolized from Queens in the hood. Me being from Lefrak and having family in 40 Projects, I definitely got to see them brothers.  I got the feeling from their crews and all that.  AllHipHop.com: So you start recording N.O.R.E. what was recording that album like? Out of all your albums, that’s my favorite joint.N.O.R.E.: Word, that’s my favorite joint too. Doing that album was the best years of my life. “I’m Leaving” was definitely responsible for setting off my solo career. Then I recorded with Fat Joe and [Big] Pun. I just kept recording and doing guest appearances.  So my record label was like, “While your man is locked up, we want you to do this solo album.” I told them, “No problem.” I just wanted to see my old contract, [‘cause] I wanted to up my ante. They showed me the contract and gave me the money I wanted. I would hear all these stories about people going to Miami to record, so I wrote most of my album in my apartment in Queens. I took it and recorded it in Miami. It was so much of a stress reliver because I was under so much stress. At the end of the day, I felt like everyone was looking at me like a failure because they thought I couldn’t do it by myself. And I came out and proved people wrong. AllHipHop.com: How was the session for “Banned From TV”?N.O.R.E.: You know the funny thing was “I’m Leaving” was Nature’s joint for [For All Seasons]. I came in and did the chorus and picked the beat. So I wanted to show back love. There was a dude named Swizz, he wasn’t event Beatz like right now. He was just Dee’s nephew. He had this crazy beat, I brought it to the studio and told Nate we going to go maniac style on this. I had already laid my verse and Nature just couldn’t write to the s**t. Nate was like, “I don’t like the beat, I can’t flow to it and that if I wanted, I could be on the joint by myself.” Swizz was like, “If Nature can’t flow to it, don’t worry.” And he switched the beat. And when he switched the beat, that was what “Banned From TV” was. And in 10 minutes, Nate went in there and laid his s**t. That night Pun was hitting me [wondering] where I’m at. I was like, “Yo, I’m at Electric Lady Studios, Downtown.” So the n***a Pun came to see me.  With no “please come record with me Pun,” none of that s**t, he came to see me and heard what Nate just did and wrote his sh*t and he didn’t even ask me my dude! He was like oh my god and he wrote his sh*t, went in the booth and just laid it. So was like, “Damn, I don’t know what to do.” The next day I bump into Cam’ron. I just did a record for Cam’s album, he heard my record and said he’s jumping on that s**t. He jumped on the s**t and then I reached out to The L.O.X.. The L.O.X. was the only people I reached out to. Everyone else I just ran into. The L.O.X. came in and did their verse and I did mine and it was a wrapsteezie. AllHipHop.com: How did you get close with Pun?N.O.R.E.: Well the funniest sh*t was, we were recording at Unique Studios and Fat Joe is across the street recording at another studio.  We asked Fat Joe to come to our session we wanted to get him on a joint.  And he brings Pun.  So Fat Joe comes and is like, “I heard one of y’all got shot, which one of ya’ll got shot?”  So Pone raises his hand, and Joe was basically like, “That s**t hurts, right?”  This is my first time meeting Joe, and I thought he was being funny.  So I’m looking at Joe funny like, “What the f**k does this n***a mean?”  Then Pun asks, “Which one of y’all n***as is Puerto Rican?”  So I raise my hand and I had the ice grill on.  So Pun was like, “Yo papi, take off your ice grill. If you Puerto Rican, we going to be friends, so chill out with the gangster s**t.”  He made me laugh.  I’m sitting there trying to be a tough guy and he came up to me and made me laugh.  And from then on out he took my number and would come to my hood in Lefrak and we just set it off.  He was my friend in Hip-Hop.AllHipHop.com: I heard you say you and Pun used to do guest features and not even mess with the artist too tough, y’all just did it together for the checks.  You want to share who were throwing under the bus with Pun?N.O.R.E.: Man, I can’t do it. [Laughs] I can’t do it because that secret lies between me and Pun. And that man is resting in peace, know what I’m saying? That man would love to tell you if he was here. At the end of the day, Pun was really like my brother. This n***a would go into the studio and them n***as would give Pun $15,000 and Pun would be like “I thought I told you I needed $30,000, because N.O.R.E.’s getting on the track.” That’s real brotherly love. AllHipHop.com: When he came home you had taped that footage for a documentary you were working on called What What! What ever happened to it?N.O.R.E.: We still got it. We still got all the footage. I got Puff kicking it with Shyne, this is right before Shyne caught that case. I got Puff telling me he was mad for me making Shyne battle Mysonne. I don’t know if you know about that?AllHipHop.com: Yeah, it happened outside of Justin’s.  N.O.R.E.: Yeah, I was the n***a who gassed that, B.  AllHipHop.com: Let’s get into that…N.O.R.E.: We were all at Justin’s and we kept hearing there was a dude named Shyne. I was eating there with Chris Lighty and I got drunk. Mysonne was there, and this is before he got down with Violator, and he said he was better than Shyne. So n***as went outside. I was in the rhyme cipher, but Mysonne kept hitting me like, “N.O.R.E., you already got a deal.” So I was like, “F**k  it, y’all need to battle then!” I don’t think Shyne was off point or Shyne wasn’t ready, but Shyne wasn’t a battle rapper at that time and Mysonne, boy was he! He went in on that muthaf**ka!  It originally was just us but then it grew to be hundreds of people.  AllHipHop.com: So Shyne took that an L?N.O.R.E.: Um, I would say so.AllHipHop.com: Did it get nasty to the point that dudes wanted to get the guns?N.O.R.E.: Nah, I believe that night was really hot. I don’t think he lost in a manner that was foul. Like he just wasn’t battling, Mysonne was going at him getting in his face. When you a new dude, you got to understand when you get $900,000 from Puff, people are going to hate.  AllHipHop.com: Are you ever going to put any of that footage out? Can I get an exclusive??N.O.R.E.: You know what the crazy thing is, I got so much footage. I got Wyclef wilding, I got Nas wilding! This is before him and Jay’s beef took off. I got 50 Cent going crazy! This is how close me and 50 was at one point. I got Memphis Bleek, Fat Joe, and Cam’ron. All of them had had words at the moment. Cam’ron had little problems with Bleek. Bleek had little problems with Joe. Joe had little problems with 50 Cent. And I had them all in the same building, in the same room. Whew.AllHipHop.com: I got to get that.N.O.R.E.: You know what? I’m going to put that on bootleg, because no one is going to sign all those clearances!AllHipHop.com: During the Melvin Flynt – Da Hustler days, you did an interview with some publication in the UK and you accused the Neptunes of being gay. Where did the fugazi accusations come from?N.O.R.E.: [Laughs] Right, it wasn’t directed towards the Neptunes directly. I was very upset with them. But at the same time I was upset with anyone who I helped in any way who wasn’t helping me. I didn’t know how to take my frustration and I didn’t know how to separate me being mad on the streets from me being mad to the world. I would take that statement and I would have handled that much better. Guess what, I’m human.  Sometimes you’re going to get someone contradicting themselves, and saying something they didn’t mean. I was mad at them, one of their cousins had one of my cars and they destroyed the car. Then I couldn’t reach these mutherf**kers. They weren’t answering my calls, that didn’t have anything to do with Pharrell or Chad, but I took it out on them.  That’s something I apologize for.AllHipHop.com: So you’re working on The Reunion and you get Foxy Brown to get on a track with y’all that happens to be “Bang Bang.” Did you know Foxy was going to throw Lil’ Kim under the bus so bad?N.O.R.E.: Yo, you know what; [Mobb Deep’s] “Quiet Storm” was an ill combination so I was like, “Let’s do a song with Foxy.” We were trying to let people know there wasn’t no problems, because if you really pay attention to who did the beat it was Alchemist; the same person who did “Quiet Storm.” In all actuality, that verse Foxy spit was the least amount of disrespect. She came in with like seven verses, she was in the f**king booth going crazy.  I can’t front like I was naïve to the situation like I didn’t know she was dissing somebody. I knew she was getting loose, but I didn’t know the magnitude of the song was going to become. I didn’t know people were going to take it that far.  AllHipHop.com: So she came in with seven disrespectful verses?N.O.R.E.: Yeah man, disrespectful. The funny part was she was disrespecting her and Diddy! And Diddy was my man! To this day, I can call Diddy like, “What’s up?”  And Diddy is like, “What’s good, you got your Patron?” And I’ll go to his house and Miami and we’ll drink! So I felt bad because I was like damn, because I didn’t know Lil’ Kim, but it was wrong for me to allow something like that.  AllHipHop.com: Another one of my favorite joints off The Reunion was the DJ Premier produced “Invincible.” I thought you came off so raw on that with that line “Yo Melvin Flynt dropped/ my whole colossal stopped/ I can’t believe I f**ked up and dropped a half ass album, my excuse is my pop’s just died...” N.O.R.E.: —“And I ain’t want to make music, my pops just died.” AllHipHop.com: Yeah obviously you weren’t trying to be a lyricist, but I always thought those couple of lines defined your whole style. Can you get into the behind the scenes of that song?N.O.R.E.: First off, Premier was a person who we loved. We wanted to work with Premier for forever. But Premier is a perfectionist; he’s not taking a check. I don’t give a f**k how tough you are or if you go to the studio and bust your guns, Premier is not making anything he don’t think is hot. We were like, “Give us this, and give us that,” but he was like, “That stuff is not for y’all; I got the joint for y’all.” He had us on a six month wait, B! The original beat to that had a whole bunch of Nas samples, a whole bunch of Jay-Z and B.I.G. samples. We were fans of all of them but we felt like why did we have to sample them n***as’ voices? We wanted to sample our own s**t. He went back in and sampled out own s**t and made it a whole different beat. At the time I was dealing with the Melvin Flynt s**t, people coming up to me saying I like it but it’s not as good as N.O.R.E. That’s how I felt about it. Like you said, I’m not a Nas, I’m not a Rakim, I’m not a dude who’s going to make you go to encyclopedia and look up a word.  I’m going to keep it very simplistic. I’ll have people coming up to me saying, “You’re the only n***a that could diss himself and make it sound hot!” You think that’s wild? Check out Part Two.

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