N.O.R.E : God’s Favourite

Our appetite remains whetted

Noreaga – or N.O.R.E as he’s now chosen to be called – is a clunky, punch-drunk rapper. He hasn’t got much to say for himself either, and that’s no recommendation in his chosen field. He has one trick up his sleeve, however, and it’s a good ‘un.

There are few vocalists who compliment production dons The Neptunes quite as forcefully as N.O.R.E.. None of The Neptunes’ many past conquests – not Britney, nor even [a][/a], Kelis or Jay-Z

– measure up to the Afro-Hispanic New Yorker, a former con born Victor Santiago who boasts reasonably on ‘Grimey’ that [I]”he’s teaching the whole damn world how to rhyme over Neptunes’ beats”[/I]. It’s the sophisticated swish of their rhythmic sword backed with his lumbering vocal anvil smash: a powerful one-two. Luckily for N.O.R.E (an acronym for – oh yes – Niggas On The Run Eating), there are four new collaborations here.

Swizz Beatz also tosses one diamond of hip-hop distortion (‘Nahmeanuheard’) into the pot, but it’s The Neptunes who rescue ‘God’s Favourite’ from the mediocre, just as their collaboration on the mighty ‘Oh No’ for his last album, ‘Melvin Flynt – Da Hustler’, almost saved that half-arsed offering. But Swizz blots his copy-book with a sickly Cindy Lauper sample on the ridiculous ‘Love Ya Moms’ and even the proven combo of Ja Rule and producer Irv Gotti sound programmed onto autopilot on ‘Live My Life’. Nope, Noreaga is lucky to have The Neptunes on his team (and it’s a two-way love affair: The Neptunes’ Pharell Williams says that working with Noreaga is one of his favourite commissions).

With this in mind, the partnership’s best two songs are sequenced nice and early, setting a benchmark the rest of the album fails to match. But what a start! After an overly long, chest-beating intro ,’Nothin”s pared-down funk and the awesomely menacing ‘Grimey’ roll into view, with Pharell providing better raps on both than his employer. The rest of the record is subsequently a tad underwhelming, if enlivened by two other fine ‘Tunes tunes, ‘Head Bussa’ and ‘Consider This’. Maybe one day in the future they’ll go the whole hog and produce an entire album together. Our appetite remains whetted.

Ted Kessler