N.O.R.E.

Noreality

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Never considered a particularly great lyricist, N.O.R.E. (formerly known as Noreaga) has always managed to get by on his charisma, catchy hooks, and good production, not to mention the strength of his 1997 Capone-N-Noreaga release, The War Report. He uses the same tactics on the follow-up to his reggaeton-flavored N.O.R.E. y la Familia...Ya Tú Sabe, Noreality -- which sees him off the Def Jam roster and with the respected indie label Babygrande -- and as per usual, the results are nothing if not mixed. Swizz Beatz produces and appears on the opener, "Set It Off," which is probably the best track on the album, using N.O.R.E.'s slow, repetitive delivery to its advantage, making it catchy, not tiresome, and even the Tony HeathCliff-made "Throw 'Em Under the Bus" works pretty well, thanks much in part to guest verses by Kurupt and Jadakiss. The same cannot be said, however, about "Sour Diesel" -- which not only has one of the worst lyrics of the year, even by N.O.R.E. standards ("I wake up smoking diesel, I go to sleep smoking diesel/Change my name to Diesel, and my last name Diesel"), but one of the worst beats, a corny, synthy pop thing that has both "Nor-Bay" (as he refers to himself in "Green Light," as in "street eBay") and Styles P singing along to the two-step -- or "I'ma Get You," which, although it boasts the appearance of Kanye West (rhyming, not producing, which apparently can mean adding a few "yeahs" and a word or two in the hook), also boasts the line "Without a record out, shit go down, don't it/Whatever goes up, it gotta go down, don't it." N.O.R.E.'s personality, his excitement about rapping, isn't enough to save these songs, and even though the MC is actually able to hold his own without the help of others on "Drink Champ" and "The Rap Game," the results are not particularly inspiring, his rhymes too slow and too recycled to do much but just play out, which makesNoreality haphazard at best, annoying at worst.

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