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1 January, 2002@12:00 am

It seems as if a summer cannot go by, without a release from N.O.R.E.. Whether solo or with Capone, he has been one of the most consistent thug rappers falling victim only to flaky labels. Now with Def Jam and getting the overdue push he deserves, you can guarantee that there’s no stopping him now.

The album jumps off with the current club banger, “Nothin’”, as he works magic once again with N.E.R.D. (The Neptunes). Working with Chad and Pharrell has been paying off since “Super Thug” and their chemistry explodes all over this project. “Full Mode” seems like an obvious choice for a single, amped up production full of funk and handclaps. Pharrell even spits his own verse sure to keep people on the dancefloor, but it’s Nore’s who comes off with cocky and still clever with lines like “if all dogs go to heaven yo, and if that’s so, let’s shoot dog tomorrow yo, let’s see if he go.” His confidence level seems to be at an all time high, seeming to be convinced everyone is on his dick. He has Mashonda singing “they wanna be like him, smoke like him, live like him, but they can’t fuck with him” on “Wanna Be Like Him” and Kelis sets off the warning chant “his name is N.O.R.E., don’t push him you’ll be sorry” on “Consider This”.

There is more to Victor Santiago than ego and party joints. On the S.P.K. crafted “Love Ya Moms”, the whole Thugged Out family come through with a positive message over a flipped version of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” beat. He touches on personal shortcomings and the struggle to push through towards a brighter future on “Black Clouds”. “Grimey” which seemed to serve as a resurrection smash for him last year is included, as well as mix tape favorites “Live My Life” (w/ Ja Rule), “Nahmeanuheard” and it’s all-star remix (w/ Capone, Cassidy, Cam’ron, and Fat Joe.)

While other rappers who were recently given the spotlight with major deals have seemed to conform to label demands and doing whatever it takes (read: selling out) to push units, the Queens-bred hustler sticks to his guns. He may not win awards for his lyricism, but he pushes on with a solid album that will bang from the streets to clubs and back for months to come.

  Mixtape D.L.
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