“S.O.R.E.” is not a Noreaga album. You don’t have to take my word for that. At his 32nd birthday bash in 2009, he told people in an interview (and I quote) “Do not buy the album coming out on Tuesday! Fuck that shit. That’s not my real album. Fuck that. That’s not it. I’ll announce it on the internet. I’ll let people know, but that’s not it.” Peep the clip yourself below.
Despite that crystal clear condemnation, the record came out on Thugged Out Militainment anyway, the home of many prior (and many future) N.O.R.E. releases. So what’s the deally-o? We don’t really know. Many sources do not list it as part of his official discography, but you can sure find the album online in a whole lot of places. It’s not like he pulled a power move and hit them with DMCA strikes for posting some shit he holds a copyright too, which he certainly could if he wanted to. The vocals are his.
Given the quasi-legal status here you’d think the album was rare, but apparently it only commands a buck or two at retail on the secondary market, which either means that a lot of copies are out there or nobody’s clamoring to get it. Songs like “Move” sound like classic Noreaga though. It could even be a Neptunes/Pharrell beat, but I don’t have liner notes to confirm that, and can’t even tell you if “S.O.R.E.” has any to begin with. The cameos by Nina Sky and Jim Jones feel right though, as does T-Pain crooning the hooks on “My Girl Gangsta.” This track had urban radio crossover written all over it.
I don’t know why N.O.R.E. is so keen to disown this project. I actually like the way he toned down some of his sillier vocal and lyrical excesses from earlier in his solo days, and he reaches out to all sides of the map by doing collaborations like “Set Trip” with Bun B of U.G.K. Thugged Out Militainment even gets multiple shoutouts in the intro of the song, so you wouldn’t know there was any beef over the release of this project from listening to it.
Whether Noreaga is a fan of this album or not, I’m a fan of the old school x new school x reggae vibes of “On & On” featuring Sean Kingston. I keep digging into these tracks expecting to hear weak beats, bad production, or N.O.R.E. delivering half-assed vocals he wouldn’t be proud of. You tell me if you hear any of those things on this track because I sure don’t. In fact when he says “N.O.R.E. got his swag back, I know you missed it” I both believe and agree with him.
Over a decade later I still haven’t seen any good explanation for why he dismissed “S.O.R.E.” and insisted it was not a real N.O.R.E. album. There’s no disputing the fact he wants nothing to do with it. He said it on the record with a camera in his face. It wound up in print all over the place. Maybe he’ll just have to forgive me for hard rocking to classic Noreaga style tracks like “Get It In (Say What)” then. It contains some of N.O.R.E.’s famously bad bars (“sugar free like Crystal Light”) but that’s actually part of the charm. Sometimes the more cornball his lines are the better it sounds.
Maybe one of these days we’ll get a real explanation. I have a few theories about “S.O.R.E.” but nothing I can prove. The first is that maybe he felt the album was TOO commercial and not as thugged out as his fans would expect, so he dissed it before it came out to save his credibility. The second is that he went in the studio to record a bunch of vocals, then without his permission someone came in and mixed them to new instrumentals he had never heard before. I’d be mad af too if I was him. The third is that there was a monetary dispute over royalties that were unpaid, so he was simply putting his foot down and saying “That’s not my shit. Pay me and then we can talk.” Whatever the case “S.O.R.E.” exists whether he likes it or not… but I like it more than I thought I would by a lot.