Last updated: 06/22/2009 11:00:00 AM
Always known for keeping a biography of Manuel Noriega with him at all times, the then 16-year old Victor "N.O.R.E." Santiago was christened after the Panamanian General he emulated while serving time for attempted murder. But N.O.R.E. was destined for more than a life behind bars. He took up penning raps while in jail, trading verses with future partner Capone in bible class. After his release from prison the Lefrak, Queens native found himself in the midst of an over-dramatized east coast, west coast feud, fueled by his verse on "LA, LA," the response record to Tha Dogg Pound’s dis record "New York, New York."
Alongside affiliates Capone and Mobb Deep, N.O.R.E. captured the attention of a reeling hip-hop underground that championed the rapper the unofficial defender of NY hip-hop. Later that year the group was signed to Tommy Boy Records and subsequently released their debut and five-mic classic The War Report. The group’s unforgiving portrayal of the hard knock life tinged with their brand of explosive realism earned them instant credibility as the urban survivalists.
Five years and three albums later (N.O.R.E, Melvin Flynt Da Hustla, The Reunion), hip hop’s official "Whut - Whut" man has made his move to hip hop’s official "Whut - Whut" label. As the newest member on the Def Jam Records roster, N.O.R.E. is armed with a rekindled spirit and the momentum of a smash summer single. He has definitely re-arrived, poised to regain his super-thug status with the release of his third solo effort entitled Grimey…God’s Favorite this winter.
"I feel relieved," explains N.O.R.E., who along with CNN partner Capone were both released from their contracts and picked up by Def Jam following this year’s highly anticipated but commercially disappointing The Reunion album. "I put my heart into that last CNN album and I was feeling like a failure after it dropped. But when I went on Hot 97 and announced that we were free agents, before I could get the words out of my mouth, my two-way was ringing. ‘What do you mean? We want y’all.’ Def Jam kept their ear to the street and bought us out of our contract. That’s when I knew how important I was to the hip hop community."
If it was a sense of affirmation that N.O.R.E. needed to kick start the second leg of his career, then that’s just what he got. With the support of hip-hop’s most successful label, N.O.R.E. confidently embarked on his new 16-track long player. Recorded in just six weeks, Grimey…is a return to the organized noise of ‘98s brilliant N.O.R.E. "This was the most focused I’ve ever been," N.O.R.E. says, having recorded the entire album in New York, the first time since his ’96 CNN debut opus The War Report. "When I went to Miami I was at the strip clubs. I lost focus. This time I stayed in NY, in the depths of hell. I literally had to sleep out in the hood, leave my ATM card at home, and get grimey."
N.O.R.E.’s self-initiated purge of luxury paid off. Blending the abrasively sonic creations of such familiar producers as EZ Elpee, SPK, Kyze, Swizz Beats and the Neptunes, fused with N.O.R.E.’s