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Fire Starter: A lot of magazines cover hip-hop's full spectrum, but The Foundation has found its niche in catering solely to the mixtape circuit. Tired of seeing platinum rappers on covers, Foundation isn't gun-shy about spotlighting cats like DJs Drama and Green Lantern, or even the creator of the Mixtape Awards, the late Justo Faison.


Mixtape Monday: Saigon Says Jay-Z Is 'Rain Man'; N.O.R.E. Talks Two New LPs; Mr. Collipark Raises Up New MCs

— by Shaheem Reid and Jayson Rodriguez, with additional reporting by Rahman Dukes.

Artist: N.O.R.E.

Representing: Miami by way of LeFrak City, Queens, New York

Independent Album: Noreality

411: "Can't do the 'Aunt Jackie,' cause my Aunt Jackie's on crack." N.O.R.E. has been attacking the mixtape circuit with lines like the aforementioned nod to that whimsical dance from Harlem. On August 28, N.O. drops his first hip-hop album in four years, Noreality. The cover takes us down memory lane with photos from his career, and some of the rhymes will transplant you back to his 1998 debut, N.O.R.E., when the Queens MC got going by himself for the first time.

N.O.R.E. says he doesn't want to confuse the fans who have been waiting for his Global Warming LP. That will be coming out independently as well in the next few months.

"It's two different projects," he said Friday. "When I began recording Global Warming, it was no Noreality album at all. What happened was, I did so much recording. Usually when you do an album, you throw songs away. You say, 'I'mma put these 14 songs out and then throw the rest away.' I didn't want to do that. I said, 'If I'm entering the independent world, why not do it in a way where I can figure it out with this album, than when I come with the other album?' "

While Noreality is more underground-based, it features more collaborations with big names such as Cool & Dre, Timbaland, Scott Storch and Pharrell Williams.

"Yet and still, I didn't want to slouch people on this album," he added. "I came with arguably the hottest producer right now, Swizz Beatz, on my first single. When you say who the hottest producer is right now, you gotta say either Swizz or Timbaland."

Joints To Check For:
  • "Set It Off." "We just did the video in Miami," N.O.R.E. said. "Fat Joe came out, DJ Khaled came out. Swizz Beatz produced the track, he came down to Miami. Garcia, DJ EFN came out. Smitty came out. We got my boy J. Russ on the record. That's my first Down South artist. We getting up on this, baby.

    "I'll be honest with you, Swizz was running around crazy, he's working on the Eve project, Busta Rhymes, he just worked with 50 Cent," he added. "He was very busy. It took a whole lot for me to get with him. He told me straight up, 'N.O.R.E., I'm not ignoring you. Once I get this record, I'mma let you know.' I been calling him, calling him, and he kept saying, 'I ain't got the right one yet.' Finally he called me and did what he did when he played 'Banned From TV.' He played the song for me over the phone and sang the chorus: 'Set it off in this mutha-----.' I'll be honest with you, he sent me the beat at 5:30 and by 5:45, I sent it back. Right now, Swizz — as an artist — is my favorite artist. I'm a tremendous fan of him as a producer, but as an artist, I love what he's doing. It's funny because this is my first time working with him since '97, '98 — and now 2007."

  • "Drink Champ." " 'Drink Champ' is a record where I called out everybody from G-Unit to Murder Inc. to D-Block to E-40 to Mobb Deep, and I'm telling people real stories," N.O.R.E. explained. "Prodigy came to my studio and fell out from drinking with me. Me and Puff had straight-up Patrón beef. He'd see me and say, 'What's up n---a, you got the Patrón?' I say, 'What's up?' and we go straight in with Patrón shots. I wanted to challenge everybody in hip-hop, whether I drink with you or not, I am the drinking champ. My belt consists of nothing but bottle tops from Grey Goose, Jose Cuervo, Budweiser and Coors Light. ... That's my belt. This has nothing with money, fighting, rapping or guns. This is your lungs, throat and liver."

  • "Shoes." "With this album, I saved the records for the radio like 'Super Thugs,' " he said. "I saved those 'cause I wanted to test the waters. On the same token, I didn't want to have an album just for n---as. So I got two or three records the chicks could like. I did this record called 'Shoes' because a female, one of the first things she recognizes about another female is her shoes. They can tell if this girl is a chicken-head or not by her shoes. I wanted to do something dedicated to that. Although I don't have a foot fetish, I'm not the type of dude to be like, 'Ooh, she has pretty feet.' Even if you have busted feet, I'm not the type of dude to tell you to leave. At the same time, I love to see a sexy female in a sexy pair of shoes. It complements their outfit, it complements how they roll."

Don't Sleep: Other Notable Selections This Week
  • Trae - It Is What It Is
  • WC - West Coast or Nothing
  • DJ Glew & Grand Hustle - The Tip Top of Hip-Hop
  • Mu Dills - Grind City 2
  • Hurricane Chris - Louisi-Animal
  • Suny Redd, Sha Stimuli and Flash Da Biskit - Hometown Heroes

'Hood's Heavy Rotation: Bubbling Below The Radar
  • Kanye West (featuring Lil Wayne) - "Barry Bonds"
  • Twista (featuring T-Pain) - "Creep Fast"
  • Talib Kweli (featuring Justin Timberlake) - "The Nature"
  • David Banner - "So Special"
  • Red Café and DJ Envy (featuring Nina Sky) - "Things You Do"
  • Sheek Louch (featuring Jadakiss) - "Survival in the City"
  • Keyshia Cole (featuring Missy Elliott, Young Dro and T.I.) - "Let It Go" remix

Celebrity Faves

  Kim Kardashian
She's Paris Hilton's homie, Bruce Jenner's stepdaughter and the lady that a bunch of celebrity dudes (OK, a bunch of any dudes) would love to get with. Kim Kardashian pops up on the cover of King magazine's September issue. The Armenian ingénue says she's into rap, but R&B is her first love.

"I like Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Omarion and Rihanna," she said. "I'm in love with this Rihanna song, me and my good friend Aubrey [of Danity Kane] were obsessed with this Rihanna song, 'Rehab.' Track number 10! Any girl that's gone through a breakup [should listen to it]. We both have the same taste in music so we vibe together. Or she'll text me and we make each other mixes. Every time she comes to town she stays with me. We are stuck on a song and we'll listen to it over and over again for hours."

The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground

We all know Mr. Collipark had the biggest success of his career producing some of the Ying Yang Twins' most memorable tracks like "Wait (The Whisper Song)" and "Shake." After quietly parting ways with the Atlanta duo last year, Collipark, it seemed, went missing in action. But the DJ-turned-producer has resurfaced as of late with another set of talented Southern rappers. This time, though, Collipark is taking a hands-off approach as he guides the careers of the new class — Hurricane Chris and Soulja Boy, whose track "Crank That" has produced some of the wildest videos on the Web since all the "Aunt Jackie" clips began poppin' up.

  Mr. Collipark and Hurricane Chris
"It's incredible to find two talents like that in that short period of time," Collipark told us recently. "But the records they were pushing, most people just walk by them. Most people that heard 'A Bay Bay' before it popped just wrote it off as a gimmick, but that's my advantage. 'Cause I know a hit record. I know what people want to hear. I don't give a damn what another rapper or what another producer wants to hear. I know what they want to hear in the streets. So when I hear a record like 'A Bay Bay,' it's a no-brainer to me."

But Collipark almost didn't have a chance to move on the record. Originally, he thought the song belonged to Lil' Boosie. But after learning it belonged to the unsigned Hurricane, Collipark made his way to Shreveport, Louisiana, to check out Chris in person. "And when I met him, and saw all the culture and all that sh--, I was like, man, this is mind-blowing," he said.

Collipark took Chris over to Polo Grounds Music and he'll be executive-producing his debut, 51/50 Ratchet (that's 101 percent real, according to Hurricane). " 'A Bay Bay' kicked the door down, but we're gonna continue to be the hottest," Chris said. "I got something for the clubs, for the streets, for the white folks and the gangsters."

Included in that list is his next single, "Hand Clap." According to Chris, it's a dance song for a step featured in his "A Bay Bay" video. "It's an uptempo dance track," Hurricane explained. "Then after that, [the third single] has a sample from an Earth, Wind & Fire track, and Collipark produced the beat. We got a lot of heat dropping."

  Soulja Boy, Hurricane Chris and Mr. Collipark
It was Soulja Boy's constant heat rock on the Web that sparked Collipark's interest in the 17-year-old Mississippi resident. Before his breakout, "Crank That," took off, Soulja put out records that got minor club play. Memphis DJ Freddy Hydro put Collipark onto Soulja Boy, but Collipark passed on the music he first heard.

"Just off the quality," Collipark explained. "I'm a DJ and a producer, so just off that. He played 10 seconds and I was like, 'I don't care who likes that, but I can't f--- with that.' "

"My vocals were so distorted that it was hardly getting any [radio] play," Soulja admitted.

But after two other people told Collipark about Soulja Boy that same week, he decided to look into it. "For him to come from sitting in his bedroom making funny songs to amassing this huge-ass following by himself to where he is now," Collipark said of his signee, "that's genius to me."

That's exactly how Soulja Boy came up with his breakout track, "Crank That." "I was just sitting at the computer, tracking the beat, and I started singing the track in my head," he said of the lead single from his debut, Souljaboytellem.com. "And I just dropped the hook. And as I was doing the song in my head, I started adding instruments to the songs in my head. I put in on the Internet and it was like a million hits in a couple weeks."

The song's Superman dance wasn't even his idea. Three dreadlock-sporting kids out of Atlanta shot a YouTube video after hearing the track and came up with the dance themselves for the most part, which led them to becoming Soulja Boy's official show dancers.

"And now Beyoncé's doing it, too," Soulja said in disbelief. "I was just like, 'Wow, I'm in there, we in there right now.' " (B has incorporated the recording into a dance breakdown in her Beyonce Experience concert.)

The plan now is to up the ante on "Crank That," which already has a high bar due to all the YouTube videos. Soulja just premiered his clip for the track recently. "Everyone has been doing their own version of the dance," he said. "That's gonna lead to higher expectations to how you really do it, and for the official video. But I think the official one is gonna triple-time the hits for the other ones. It has to, there's already like 60,000 videos out there." ...

"He's gone now!" Saigon's rap career is finally fast-tracked now that he has an official single from his debut LP, The Greatest Story Never Told. "Come on Baby" has been burning up the mix shows, and a video is forthcoming.

"Being that it's rock-influenced, I wanna get a rock band. Remember [Run-DMC's] 'Walk This Way'? I wanted to do it just like that," he explained of a treatment he has in his head. "Me and Just [Blaze] in one side of the studio, doing some rap stuff, they doing their rock stuff [on another side], then we banging on the wall. We wanna use 'Walk This Way' as sort of like a blueprint. The record is real rock-influenced, let's incorporate that into the video, instead of us just being in the club.

"It's just me braggin' about being good on the mic," he added about the record, which samples the J. Geils Band. "I was like OK, I put 'Pain in My Life' out. People know I'm a serious artist. But to get more of a graduation-scale introduction to the world, a bigger scale, I wanted to let them know I like to have fun as well. I'm a human being. I'm not just a preachy type of guy. 'Pain in My Life' was a little preachy, I wanted to show diversity. I don't want to be typecast and put in a category of just a backpack rapper or conscious rapper or gangster rapper. I'm one of the rappers you can't typecast because I can do a song with Dead Prez, I can do a song with Uncle Murda, then do a song with Jay-Z."

Sai has remix of "Come on Baby" in the works that Jay has already laid vocals to. "Yeah, Jay's on my album. He's on the remix to the single, he aired it out. I still gotta go back and rewrite my verse," the Yardfather told.

"He really does the 'Rain Man' thing, he doesn't sit down and write," he continued. "For mad years, I was like, 'He's too clever, I don't believe he don't write [lyrics] down. He's too on point.' But with this beat, when he came to record to it, he never heard the beat before and his rhyme went so perfect with the beat. I was like he couldn't have wrote this at home, he couldn't have had this in the stash. Maybe this dude do got more brain cells than everybody else. I tell him all the time, 'You an alien, man.' "

Faith Evans, Devin the Dude, Fat Man Scoop and Q-Tip are all also on the LP. ...

  DJ Smallz
All of Florida was united recently in Miami at the second annual Ozone Awards, and DJ Smallz is trying to make sure that's not just a yearly thing but rather the Sunshine State's modus operandi moving forward. Smallz recently put out his first produced track from his latest LP, The Future of Florida, and he lined up 30 artists from all over the state to get on the monster track.

"This record is a catalyst for the Southern Smoke album, which I plan on releasing summer of 2008," he said, adding that he currently has three deals on the table for the project. "So this isn't gonna be on the album, but this is something to kind of introduce and give people a taste of what I'm working on for the album. And I'm just trying to follow in the ranks of Drama and Khaled. On this record, I kind of wanted to introduce my production skills. [But also] I wanted to go into the studio and create history and do something totally different and capitalize off of this Florida market, which was reintroduced by Khaled and Plies. They kind of put the attention and focus back on Florida. And I kind of want to keep that Florida movement going as much as I can."

Smallz said the 15-minute track took him two months to finish after he originally had 65 verses to work with.

Florida native Garcia, who released his album, Life Unscripted, last month, echoed Smallz almost word for word.

"When everybody from Miami comes out, you know, Miami is really big on supporting its own," he explained. "We really getting our lessons right now from Atlanta and Houston, how they really piggyback their artists and really support their own. It took Miami a little while to understand that, but now that Miami has that understanding, it seems like it's been nonstop [support for each other since]."

Garcia recorded with some out-of-towners for his album, including Bun B, DJ Honda and N.O.R.E., but the rapper told us his tracks stayed true to his 305 living more than anything else.

"I got this one joint on my album called 'Clear My Mind,' which is about my parents getting divorced, and just subjects like that, really touching, emotional joints," Garcia said. "Then you also got the club bangers like 'Who's Crazy,' which is self-explanatory, so we just going from A to Z on this one. No topic was really safe, we just wanted to leave it all on the table. That's why it's called Life Unscripted. We wanted to cover all angles inside the life, you know?"

For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.

Hungry for more hip-hop coverage? Sink your teeth into our spankin'-new "Hottest MCs in the Game" feature. For a full-length feature on the role of mixtapes in the music industry, check out "Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry."

For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines

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Photo: MTV News

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