We at Rap Genius are celebrating this week, as the world has blessed us with a new mixtape by one of our absolute favorite artists. Victor Santiago, Jr., best known as N.O.R.E. or Noreaga, is a veteran Queens-based rapper who has honed and focused his unique aesthetic since 1997, sometimes with rhyme partner Capone and sometimes solo. While working in a duo format can contain the man’s eccentricities, it is by himself that he really goes wild. N.O.R.E.’s style can best be described as a (very intentional) perfect storm of ignorance. He takes the standard rap poses — I’m tough, I sell drugs, I’m better than you, I’m good with words — and blows them up into Technicolor outrageousness. While he sometimes veers off into near-incomprehensibility (usually when rhyming a stream of polysyllabic words), he always keeps his humor and personality. Below, the five best lines of N.O.R.E.’s new release, Crack On Steroids, the title of which is as good an example of his style as we can provide.
5. “Guacamole, my pistol-e/Kick ni**as in they face — soccer goalie” — “Talk 2 Em”
Someone must have told Noreaga about hashtag rap in just the past few months, because the long-played-out style is all over this record, to the point where it becomes yet another in a series of in-jokes. Here, the bordering-on-awful punchline — do soccer goalies really kick people in the face a lot? — melds with the out-of-nowhere pseudo-Spanish (“gun” in Spanish is “pistola,” a fact that the fluent rapper obviously knows) of the first line to make a perfect combination.
4. “They say morning sex is the best breakfast/If her head right, she might get a necklace” – “War Song”
Oh really? They say that? I must have missed that proverb while leafing through Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Oh wait, there it is, right next to “A chain is only as strong as its weakest pistol-e.”
3. “My hood used to call me ‘Papi Shoot-a-lot’/’Cause all I really did was sell coke and just shoot a lot” – “Thiz Iz Hip Hop”
“Hey Nore, how’d you get the nickname ‘Papi Shoot-a-lot’? It’s because of your b-ball game, right? Or was it ‘cause your Chutes and Ladders game is tight?”
2. “To me, you’re more precious than oil/You never saying no, that’s why we both spoiled” – “Baby Girl”
“Baby Girl” is a lovely moment on the album. It’s a fairly straightforward boy-meets-girl love song that shows real emotion. Then, at the very end, Nore shows his deep, abiding love by comparing his girl to…a flammable liquid made up of dead algae and plankton, which is not of very much practical use unless you happen to have a refinery in your backyard.
1. “Cash flow, I go/Hefe, muchacho/Armano, Italiano, horizontal, Verrazano” – “My Alias”
And here is the winner of them all. From a vague idea about pursuing money, our hero spins a dense web of multi-syllabic words that go from vaguely related (Italiano=mob=crime=money) to entirely made-up (Armano?), thus providing the best example of Nore’s unique style.