When most people think of N.O.R.E., the word "pioneer" might not come to mind. But the Queens, New York, rapper was one of the first artists to work with both Swizz Beatz and the Neptunes before the producers reached multiplatinum success.
And now, with his forthcoming album, Global Warming 11368, due in late summer, you can add another first to N.O.R.E.'s list.
"I think I got the first T-Pain record without him using the voice-box thing," he said, laughing. "The dude can actually sing without it. That's his trademark, so I guess he's sticking with it. But I didn't care what he gave me. I was a big T-Pain fan before he blew up, so I was just excited, and he did it in such a prompt time. He got it right back to me. He's just a real person. He said he wanted to work with me, I said I wanted to work with you. So I referenced the hook [for him], and he sent it right back to me. He really kept it real. So big up to him for that."
N.O.R.E. is going to need plenty of favors like that to make his album a success. Global Warming 11368 is his first project since parting ways with Def Jam earlier this year to go independent. The album title is a reference to his pursuit of worldly sounds through reggaetón (Global Warming) and his attempt to remember his grittier roots (11368 is his native LeFrak City, Queens, zip code).
The half-black, half-Puerto Rican rapper had been scheduled to release both a hip-hop album and a reggaetón album under the Def Jam and Roc la Familia banners, respectively, but only the Latin-flavored collection saw the light of day, with minimum promotion and little fanfare (see "N.O.R.E. Serves Up Reggaeton, But Already Has Pharrell On Lock For Next Hip-Hop LP").
Now on his own, N.O.R.E. has recruited old friends Swizz and Pharrell, along with Bun B, Kurupt, Jadakiss and Scott Storch, who produced the T-Pain collabo "I Want (a Girlfriend)."
He recently leaked the street cut "Don't Worry, I'll Wait," which features Three 6 Mafia and was produced by his new production team, OZ and the Deacon. "They're like the next Neptunes and Timbaland," N.O.R.E. said. He plans to release his first official single soon, but he kept that song title and guest under wraps.
Although N.O.R.E. is set on putting out the album himself, he said he's been surprised by the tabloid-like rumor mill surrounding possible future label homes.
"It's crazy," he said. "I know that people know I'm a free agent, but when they see me with T.I. — I was just kicking it with him on the 'Make It Rain' video set — the next day it says [on the Internet], 'He's with Grand Hustle!' It's powerful, man."
For now, though, N.O.R.E. said that the rumors of him signing anywhere — Grand Hustle, the Inc., etc. — are all false.
"Maybe the rumors will help us talk about it later," he said, laughing. "But I want to do it on my own. I really want to take a chance. I'mma go out there and bug out. If I fall on my face, I don't got anyone to blame but me. If I get up and get next to God [it's so good], like he's in 15A and I'll be on 14B, then I can take credit for that. I'm only 29, but I feel like I'm too old in this game to be a person to complain about record labels. So I'mma go out there and get mine."