Things are looking up for N.O.R.E. The former Def Jam artist recently signed with Roc-A-Fella Records, his new album drops next month, and he's got one of the country's biggest singles with "Oye Mi Canto."
The song, which features Nina Sky and reggaeton artists Daddy Yankee, Gem Star and Big Mato, serves as N.O.R.E.'s first foray into the emerging Latin genre.
"Reggaeton is in my blood like hip-hop is in my blood because I am half Latino-American," said N.O.R.E. "I fell in love with this music. I did this joint originally for a mixtape. The Latino people haven't been spoken to in a while, since [Big] Pun died. They haven't felt like they had something proud [in hip-hop] to stand on, so being both Latin and black, I wanted to rep my Latin side for once. Why not do it with this new music, instead of doing a Spanish rap record? This is what speaks for the inner-city Latino youth."
According to the Queens, New York, native, he's gone through a transition between his last album, God's Favorite, and his new album, One Fan a Day, due December 21.
"I went through my Jamaican stage," he said. "I fell in love with dancehall music. I did a record with Lexxus and Wayne Wonder, and we went to the 'hood in [Jamaica's] Tivoli Gardens. This friend that I have known forever started hanging out with me, and one day he said to me, 'Every time I see you, you make a fan a day.' I looked at him, and it hit me. That's my persona. Even people who didn't like me or like my music, when they come around me they see how down-to-earth I am and that I have manners. I'm not just this average thug that people perceive me to be. So, I said f--- it — One Fan a Day. That's important to me, so I had to run with that."
One Fan a Day features production from the Neptunes, Timbaland, SPK and Midi Mafia, among others. The album features guest artists Mariah Carey, Kanye West, Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek and the Young Gunz's Chris. It also includes an unreleased verse from N.O.R.E.'s good friend Big Pun.
"Pun was my man," N.O.R.E. said of the late MC. "When I entered the rap game I never wanted to make friends. I was the dude who would sit in the corner with the ice grill and wouldn't say anything to anybody. Pun was the first dude to make me break out of that. Pun embraced me like I was his brother.
"I did a record with Mariah Carey [for her album], and I told her, 'I just want you to do a record back,' " he continued. "I asked her if she was a fan of Pun's, and she said she was. So I told her to think like he was still alive. I told her to think of [Pun's] 'It's So Hard' and 'I'm Not a Player.' I wouldn't send her the Pun vocals, so she laid a chorus without me sending her the Pun vocals. I know she was mad at me, but she laced it. The world is going to love it."
While most fans won't be able to hear that collabo yet, N.O.R.E. has teamed with Timbaland for his next single, the fun-loving "Get Down."
"I love bugging out and having fun," said the rapper. "I had a fan come up to me and say, 'Are you going to get back to talking about shooting, to [Capone-N-Noreaga's] War Report days?' I would be fake if I went back to that. I don't live that life anymore. I'm not shooting anyone, and I don't even want to fight. I just want to chill, and my records nowadays reflect that. So that's what I got back to with 'Get Down.' "
Still, Capone-N-Noreaga can look forward to a new album — eventually.
"You can expect a C-N-N album, but I think Capone wasn't feeling Def Jam," N.O.R.E. said candidly. "He was having his problems with the label. They weren't seeing C-N-N's vision. We made another crazy C-N-N album that's sitting in the vaults at Def Jam somewhere. So I felt him when he said he wanted to go and do his own thing. ... No one supervised me on my first solo album. So he has my blessing, and when he's done, hopefully we can get back together and make a whole new album."
In the meantime, fans can also look for N.O.R.E. at the video store. The rapper stars in Roc-A-Fella Films' forthcoming "State Property II" as well as a few other movies.
"In these two years that I took off, I shot five movies," said N.O.R.E. "I'm in a horror movie ['Treasure of the Seven Mummies']. I'm not only the only rapper in the movie, I am the only brother in there, so you know I die early. I'm also starring in 'State Property II.' I play El Pollo Loco, and I have beef with Beanie Sigel and [Roc-A-Fella CEO] Damon Dash in the movie."
N.O.R.E.'s other projects include "MVP," "I Wish I Had a House Like This" and "Death of a Dynasty." "I'm having fun with [acting] right now," he said. "The minute I get to play a doctor or something like that, then I will have to change it up."