Although Victor "Noreaga" Santiago says the all-star artists guided by Violator Management never have any beef, the rapper does acknowledge they keep one another on their toes.
"When I did 'Grimey,' " Noreaga said of his new single, "Busta [Rhymes] was in the other room doing ['What It Is']. It was a beautiful, friendly competition."
Produced by the Neptunes, the song is Nore's first recording since he and his partner Capone — who's in the studio with Timbaland working on his own solo project, which will drop close to Nore's album — left their former label, Tommy Boy, and signed with Def Jam.
"We wanted to go with the best label possible," Noreaga explained. "A label that wouldn't change our image, [where] we could still sell records. For us, that was Def Jam."
Nore, who'll drop a Capone-N-Noreaga album in 2002, claimed it was Tommy Boy's inability to properly promote their four LPs (Nore has recorded two solo albums along with Capone-N-Noreaga's two) that caused them to leave the label. Unlike most lengthy label-split battles, there was no long litigation process in order for both sides to come to an agreement. According to Noreaga, he and Capone asked for and were granted their release. While he appreciates that, Nore still holds a grudge.
"You're gonna hear [me] on mix tapes dissing Tommy Boy," said the rapper, who calls out the label on "Grimey." "You've got to realize, I made a great album called N.O.R.E., the greatest album I ever made. That sh-- sold 800,000, and them motherf---ers couldn't push it to go platinum? It's not like I didn't have the records. I could have put something [else] out there to make it go overboard."
With his Tommy Boy days behind him, the MC is hoping "Grimey" — which he's given HBO the OK to use in the network's "KO Nation" series — helps him to finally push a million units. Not only is the song one of three leadoff singles from the upcoming Violator: V2.0 compilation, but the track will also appear on Nore's new solo album. Due out later this year, the LP will be titled either God's Favorite or Off the Yerzabulb. "We got that saying from Fred Sanford on 'Sanford and Son.' That means 'off the hook' or 'off the heezy,' but to the third power," he explained.
"I usually do 30 songs for an album and pick 14," Nore said, adding that he has recorded 15 tracks in two weeks. "But everything I'm doing is a hit. I'm only doing five or six more songs. I'm not on my own di--, but I really zoned out and had fun on this album. The last time it was like this was [with] The War Report [by Capone-N-Noreaga] and N.O.R.E."
Produced by his own Thugged Out Entertainment beatmaking staff, the Neptunes, Minnesota and Swizz Beatz, Nore said the LP will feature his insight on life as well as his usual frenzied party bangers. It will also be the self-proclaimed superthug's most hardcore material to date, he said.
"I wanted to stay grimy without going overboard," said Nore, laughing, of his recording preparation. "I went overboard on [the last CNN album]. I started sleeping in the 'hood. I got roach bites, all types of crazy sh--."
Describing the album, Nore said "I Thought You Heard" holds up with his vintage club stompers. Elsewhere, "Black Clouds" finds him shedding light on why some of his peers, despite fame and fortune, get in jeopardizing situations. "I Love You Mama" is a posse cut, with everyone paying maternal tribute.
Speaking of Nore's mom, she's the one who has him hell-bent on reaching the platinum plateau. "[My mother] said, 'I never asked you to meet anybody in this business, but I want to meet [Big] Pun.' I was like, 'Say Prince or Michael Jackson. Pun? That's no sweat.' "
Figuring that his good friend "would always be here," Nore felt no sense of urgency in granting his mother's wish until it was too late; Pun passed away the week after her request.
"I couldn't even give that to her dog," Nore said. "The woman who gave me birth. She recently said to me, 'I want you to go platinum.' I've got to give that to her."
"Before we signed our deal, [another record company] offered us a label deal, with 50/50 on the profits and a great amount of money up front," Nore explained. "But we wouldn't be able to sell a lot of records on that label. Capone wanted [the deal] so bad, he was like, 'They're gonna give us mad money, we could have mad houses, cars, we could have everything.' I was like, 'Nah.' I've really got something to prove."
Aside from his musical projects, Nore said his "Whut! Whut!" movie may finally be seeing the light of day. While he has taken a break from production, if all goes well with negotiations with HBO to air the film, he'll finish shooting soon, he said.
" 'Whut! Whut!' is a straight raw documentary," Nore explained. "You'll see fights. You'll see Puff Daddy cursing, you'll see Snoop Dogg really smoking weed. When I first got into the game, I thought all these rappers were fake individuals. But as time changed, [I saw] that these are ex-criminals and ex-cons that have really lived through rap. If it wasn't no rap, they would be in your house, stealing your car, selling you crack, buying crack. Rap saved these [people]. I wanted to do this movie to show the visual of how real these guys are."
To Nore these days, nothing is more real than being "just a gold artist."
"I will not stop until I'm platinum," Nore said. "You will be tired of me 20 years from now when I'm old with a cane and no teeth. We need a platinum plaque. Gold ain't even in style no more."