Rap Artist N.O.R.E (formerly NOREaga) was born as Victor Santiago on September 6, 1977 in LeFrak City, Queens, New York, U.S.A., to an African American mother and Puerto Rican father. His stage name N.O.R.E. is a backronym for Niggaz On (the) Run Eatin'. His previous alias, Noreaga, is derived from the Panamanian general Manuel Noriega, who was convicted of drug running. However, he had to change to N.O.R.E. due to Penalty Recordings, his former label, owning the "Noreaga" name, which forced him to bill himself differently after moving to Def Jam Records via Roc-A-Fella Records.
N.O.R.E. is part of the hip hop duo Capone-N-Noreaga (aka C-N-N), alongside fellow Eastcoast rapper Capone (Kiam Holley, born February 8, 1977 in Queensbridge, NY). The pair both endured tough childhoods and multiple run-ins with the law. And it was this trouble with the police that would eventually throw the pair together and form an escape from the life they were living. They met in 1992 whilst incarcerated, serving kitchen duty together at Collins Correctional Facility in New York. The pair became friends and upon their release they decided to team up as a rap duo, taking their performing names from two legendary gangsters.
In 1996, they signed with Penalty Records, in a deal with "25 to Life" records, Tragedy Khadafi's music label. Their first release was the single "Illegal Life," and they followed that up by lining up with Prodigy and Havoc of rap duo Mobb Deep for the track "L.A., L.A.," another salvo in the East Coast/West Coast feud. 96 also saw the pair featured as "Unsigned Hype" in the highly repected Hip Hop magazine The Source.
The pair rise in Hip Hop came to hault in 1997, just before C-N-N released their debut trend-setting album, The War Report. Before the album could be fully completed, Capone was thrown back into prison for violating his parole forcing Noreaga to finish The War Report alone. But with tracks crafted by Lord Finesse, Havoc (of Mobb Deep), Marley Marl, Clark Kent, and a number of other acclaimed producers, The War Report was a substantial underground success and upon its release on June 17, 1997 was very well-received by critics and helped establish the duo as a household name within the hardcore hip hop community. The Source and All Music Guide both rated the album as a 4 out of 5, a great reward for the duo's hard work. Despite the albums strong underground-overtones, the album was surprisingly a commercial success, making the Rap/R&B; Top 5 and going Gold. This street sound turned into a trademark which garnered the group outstanding street credibility.
Furthermore, the album created a large and devoted cult following for the group, and launched the solo career of Noreaga after whilst his partner Capone was still locked up. More importantly, The War Report is often credited with reviving East Coast Hardcore hip hop, signaling a return to realistic and gritty hardcore street rhymes (defined by unapologetic tales of violence and drugs) and spelling an end to the surrealistic, and fictional narratives of Mafiaso rap, which was made more popular at the time thanks to Puff Daddy's pop-orientated Bad Boy Records at its commercial height. With Capone incarcerated, the duo's thugged-out image rang even more true, and the singles "Closer" and "T.O.N.Y. (Top of New York)" saw some action on the rap charts.
Upon the release of The War Report, however, Capone and Noreaga brought new life into the Gangsta Rap sub-genre, becoming an instant underground phenomenon, and foreshadowing the rise of similarly-styled rappers who went on to cross into the mainstream for the remainder of the late-1990s, such as DMX and Ja Rule, and into the following decade 50 Cent and Jadakiss.
Noreaga capitalized on the debut album success by starting a solo career whilst Capone was out of action. Noreaga remained loyal to Capone though, visiting his friend often and even giving Capone executive producer credits on the two popular solo albums that he released, N.O.R.E. and Melvin Flynt -- Da Hustler, which Noreaga recorded over 1998-1999.
On June 16, 1998 Noreaga released his debut solo album, enititled "N.O.R.E." on Penalty Records. The album was a great success reaching #3 on the US Billboard 200 album chart and selling over 1 million copies and certified Platinum. The album was again well recieved by critics earning a 4 out of 5 from All Music Guide. "N.O.R.E." also boasts an impressive guest roster with artists like Busta Rhymes, Nas, Big Pun, Jadakiss, and Cam'Ron all eager to jump in on the album knowing Noreaga had talents.
Just over a year after his debut solo release Noreaga dropped his sophomore set "Melvin Flynt - Da Hustler". The album was not quite as successful as his previous effort but far from disspointed selling over 500,000 copies going Gold, and hitting #9 on the US Billboard 200 album chart.
Capone was released from prison in early 1999 in time to see Noreaga's sophomore set released, and the two immediately reteamed and began work on the much-anticipated "The Reunion" album. The album was released on November 21, 2000 on Tommy Boy Records. It is not as critically acclaimed as their first album, The War Report, but did feature a number of well-received tracks, most notably "Invincible," produced by the legendary DJ Premier.
The album struggled to go gold, allegedly due to the lack of promotion from Tommy Boy Records, and it also suffered from mixed reviews. In addition, Capone was again sent back to prison right before the albums release, for violating a probation sentence on gun possession, no doubt further hurting promotion. He was charged with assault following a nightclub brawl involving gunfire in Queens, but the charge was dropped due to lack of evidence. Not long after the incident, he was arrested at a Greensboro, NC, airport for possession of marijuana, but avoided jail time.
Dissatisfied with the promotion, Capone-N-Noreaga asked to be released from their contract, and went on to sign with prominent label Def Jam in 2001. Tommy Boy Records retained the trademarks to the names "Capone-N-Noreaga" and "Noreaga", so the pair were forced to shorten their name to C-N-N, and Noreaga was forced to bill himself as N.O.R.E. (or NORE) for his future solo works.
On June 25, 2002 N.O.R.E. released his third solo album in "God's Favorite" through Def Jam Records. The album followed suit of N.O.R.E.'s previous solo's and didn't fail to impress. The album reached #3 on the US Billboard 200 chart shifting 800,000 units in the U.S. and been certified Gold by the RIAA.
Capone and N.O.R.E. teamed up again and recorded a new album in 2003 called "What up 2 Da Hood", with a lead single, "Yes Sir". The lead single was issued on mixtapes and promoted by a video, but it failed to make an impact, and the album was shelved. In the same year, the duo found themselves being implicated in a non-fatal shooting between rival rap groups, one of which involved rapper Lil' Kim and her entourage after a chance encounter outside New York radio station Hot 97. Capone-N-Noreaga have denied any involvement in the shooting, for which they were not charged, stating that they "hope that whoever is responsible for this will be brought to justice". In the 2005 trial, Lil' Kim and her manager Damion Butler (aka D-Roc), along with friend Suif Jackson, were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms with Lil' Kim getting 366 days behind bars.
During 2004 and early 2005 N.O.R.E. worked on waht would be his fourth solo album and his debut on Roc-A-Fella Records and distributed by Def Jam Recordings. It was planned to be released in December 2005 under th title of "1 Fan a Day" but been pushed back several times and was never officially released. The first single is "Oye Mi Canto", which features Daddy Yankee, Nina Sky, Gem Star & Big Mato, and this track went onto appear on N.O.R.E.'s next album released after "1 Fan a Day" was shelved. The second single was planned as "I'm a G", which was produced by The Neptunes. There were guest appearances by Daddy Yankee, Nina Sky, Gem Star, Big Mato, Ashanti, Lil' Jon, Timbaland, Mariah Carey, the late Big Pun and others. Some of the tracks have since been leaked onto the Internet.
In early 2005, Def Jam released Capone from his contract but kept on N.O.R.E., leaving the group's status in disarray. Capone released his debut album Pain, Time, and Glory, in the same year but unfortunately the album didnt sell well at all.
Capone and NORE's relationship deteriorated around the time of Capone's exit from Def Jam, but NORE kept focus on his career and released forth solo album "N.O.R.E. y la Familia...Ya Tú Sabe" on July 18th 2006. The album was a Hip-Hop/Reggeaton project and featured guest appearances from, Daddy Yankee, Fat Joe, Diddy, Ja Rule, Pharrell Williams but the album failed to sell well at all. In an interview N.O.R.E. expressed his disappointed with the results the album stating "I was absolutely not comfortable with the results of the album" and followed up with "At the end of the day, it didn’t turn out the way I expected it to because of label support. When you got people who didn’t spend any money and promise you a whole bunch of things, it’s like aaaagggghhhh."
In the same interview though N.O.R.E. declared the two year fued between himself and Capone was over and wanted to ask fans if they wanted a new album from the duo a possible collaboration would be CNN's first studio project since their sophomore album The Reunion, which was released in 2000. N.O.R.E. said "I did 18-20 joints for my new album, and what happened was, while I was working on these joints and traveling, everywhere I went, people were like, What’s up with the CNN, is there gonna be another CNN album? So I opened up a poll on my MySpace page and fans have been begging for at least one more CNN album."
Although he and Capone hadn’t spoken in over two years, N.O.R.E revealed that they recently made amends. "The other day he happened to reach out to me and I finally got over what we were going through and it look’s like we’re gonna go in [the studio]," stated N.O.R.E. "It was just big differences, At the end of the day, we answered our fans the politically correct way by saying I was doing Reggeaton. And I was doing five movies, so I was little bit busy. But the real story was there were a whole bunch of big differences."
N.O.R.E. then dropped his next solo album "Noreality" an album he was working on from 2005 until early 2007. It was released on August 28, 2007 and "My Name Is NO", a promotional song for the album, was released but was not present on the album. The album featured an impressive roster of guest artists and producers alike with guests including Three 6 Mafia, Jadakiss, Kurupt, Capone, Swizz Beatz, Tru Life, J. Ru$$, Styles P, Kanye West, and more. Producers on the album include EFN, Hazardis Sounds, SPK, Scott Storch, Pharrell, Cool & Dre, and Swizz Beatz among others. The first single taken from the album was "Set It Off" feat. Swizz Beatz and J. Russ. The album peaked at number 3 in the Billboard charts.
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