When rapper Noreaga turned into N.O.R.E. earlier this decade, it was worrisome. Longtime fans adored him as half of the killer Queens duo Capone-N-Noreaga, which in the mid-to-late-'90s helped take back New York's crown as the seat of real street rap. In the face of adversity from West Coast gangstas and the shiny Puff Daddys of the world, the twosome crafted beats that were hard and their lyrics harder. After all, the 1996 debut album was called War Report. At the turn of the millennium, they jumped ship to Tommy Boy Records from Def Jam, lost the rights to their name, decided to go by CNN, and fizzled out after shelving a 2003 album and experiencing legal troubles.

Enter N.O.R.E., Noreaga's new moniker for his solo work. The change in name, though it happened in the early '00s, marked a change in musical style by the middle of the decade. His hit 2006 single, "Oye Mi Canto," was pure reggaeton. And despite the track's mainstream success, many fans were aghast. Eventually, Noreaga moved to Miami, befriended topnotch local MC Garcia and the Crazy Hood camp, and came to his senses. He declared on a Garcia single he would perform reggaeton "no mas." These days, when he's not busy tweeting about his diet and workout regimen, he's putting the final touches on an upcoming album titled N.O.R.E. Part II: Born Again.


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