I'm feeling good, man. I've been in the rap game damn-near 10 years. I want to own my masters and I finally got deals on the table that is allowing me to do such. I'm feeling pretty good, man. I'm feeling pretty good.
What type of label do you want to go to next?
I'm not having any trouble. I didn't want to seem like I was going crazy by wanting to own my masters and ringtones. I wanted to go to a little label that understands the importance of owning your masters and ringtones and getting paid on the downloads. I didn't step to the major labels. I stepped to the little labels that are distributed by the majors that wouldn't find it crazy to do such a deal.
How important is it for you to own your masters and ringtones right now?
At this stage in my career, it's the only important thing. A good friend of mine named Fat Joe sat me down and he explained to me the importance of owning your masters. A good friend of mine named Irv Gotti talked to me about the importance of owning your masters too. At the end of the day, you want to own your whole collection. You want to make your masters worth something. I want to come out with Global Warming and I want this to be a monument. This is my best album. I know people are going to have their different opinions, but me being a courageous guy, I'm going to say that this is my best album. It doesn't matter if it sells a lot, all that matters is that you own the masters and own the material and you can put your songs anywhere and you're in control of the negotiations. I don't think it's too much to ask for. If you're a good businessman, I don't think I'm asking for something that's out of this world.
How is Global Warming changing now that you're not on Def Jam?
To tell you the truth, I started the recording during the time when I was asking for my release. This is a totally different album. I didn't record it under no Def Jam budget and there was nothing from Def Jam. The album recorded under Def Jam was One Fan a Day and that's a mixtape now. We're going to let the people hear that, but this album was a more focused album and it's more of a concept album. There's a song called "Letter to Noriega" to Manuel Noriega where I'm explaining to him who I am. There's songs on there with 3-6 Mafia and T-Pain. There's a song called "Questions" which is a part two to the Khaled freestyle. There's a song called "By Myself" which is a part two to "Sometimes." People tell me that's one of their favorite records. I always wanted to do a part two to "Sometimes" but I didn't want to redo "Sometimes." It's its own song that's going to hold its own entity.
Was it hard to get your release papers from Def Jam?
I think with all the scrutiny and all the fire that Jay-Z and LA Reid are under, they didn't want the headaches. Once I came to them and I expressed to them that I wanted to be released, I don't think they wanted the headaches. You're not going to hear NORE dissing Jay-Z. I'm not hopping on that bandwagon. I don't agree with a lot of things that transpired on my project, but I'm not going to cry over spilt milk. The relationship is done and we're not enemies. I think it's time for me to move on. I'm only 29 years-old, but I'm too old in this game to be complaining about what a record label did or didn't do. I think me complaining is like me going backwards. You're not going to hear any Jay-Z or LA Reid diss records. As a matter of fact, you'll probably hear Jay-Z big-up records and LA Reid big-up records because they didn't have to do that. They could have let me stay there and be unhappy.
I want this project to be my own project where I'm my own boss. If something goes right or wrong, it's on me. I think what they did was fair and they're letting me do what I have to do. I have nothing but good words for them for doing that.
You recently released a freestyle over DJ Khaled's "We Takin' Over". What kind of feedback have you gotten from it so far?
It's crazy because four, five, six years ago, I came back to New York and told them about the No Limit dudes. I was preaching Master P's name and after his project came out, people went crazy. I told people about Juvenile and Lil' Wayne and people didn't pay attention to me. “I'm the first New York dude with Wayne on a track/I knew he sounded big like Guerilla Back/I told Baby that homie's a beast/I knew him before he had gold teeth." You know what I'm saying? And now my brother Fat Joe has a record with him and Cam has a record with him and Fabolous has a record with him. I just know that I'm ahead of time sometimes. "Scott Storch knows that NORE nigga don't play/First nigga that gave him a check when he left Dre." I want the people to know that some of your favorite producers got their break through your boy, el pollo loco, NORE. (laughs)
How did you know Wayne would be a star?
I knew he was going to be a star because he was the youngest in the camp and he had a lot of personality. I haven't seen him recently but I saw him when he was about to come to Def Jam. He had a lot of pizzazz and he loved to rhyme. It's crazy what he's doing now. I knew he was going to be hot. I was the first New York dude to work with B.G., Juvenile and Lil' Wayne. I knew he was going to be crazy, but I didn't know he was going to be this crazy. I'm a big fan of Lil' Wayne.
You also talk about recording with Swizz Beatz and Timbaland before they really blew up and became what they are today. What does that mean to you?
I remember doing "Banned from TV" and talking to Styles and Jada. They were asking me about producers and I said, "Swizz," and they said, "Dee 's nephew?" He was their in-house producer and I was the first to work with him outside of their camp. I just love the fact that I've done that. Timbaland was already built and established, but I gave Scott Storch his first check after he left Dre. Looking at Lil' Wayne, I knew he would be the future. Looking at Pharrell and Swizz Beatz, I'm glad I had the vision. A lot of people credit me for the Neptunes, but people don't credit me for having the foresight with reggaeton, Lil' Wayne, Cash Money, Swizz and things like that. I just wanted people to know a little about my history before we take over the world.
You said on the freestyle, "But they forgot who I is." Do the fans have a short-term memory today?
They do. When I say, "They forgot, they forgot," I'm talking about the fans and the internet kids who think that I can't rhyme or they think I lost it or that I don't got it. I'm letting everyone know that I've been around and I can do it. In 1997, 1998, I was probably one of the best lyrical dudes out there and then I got into straight party music and people stopped paying attention to my vocals. They just wanted to party to my shit so they didn't pay attention to what I was saying.
I said, "Light a candle, run laps around the English Channel." They thought that was something cool and something fly to say. I was lighting a candle for all the dead people and I was so mad that I could run laps around the English Channel. That's a big body of water. Woo! The song was "Superthug" and that was me talking about how I was so super and so strong. A lot of people are just finding out about what the English Channel is and now it makes sense to them. I don't brag about it. I take pride in it.
You also had Kelis on the Melvyn Flint album in '99.
Yeah. I was one of the first artists to work with her besides the Neptunes. I have a lot of love for Kelis. I knew her for a long time.
Can you break down the line in the freestyle, "I earn a salary/My life's like reality"?
At this point, me talking about shooting up a million people is not really realistic. I try to keep my vocals to something that I'm living. Of course I have to throw a little fantasy in there because this is art. The beat is the blank canvas and the lyrics are the paint and the brush. I'm telling them how my life's like reality and how “They close the doors when I hit Shoe Gallery.”
One of the best lines to me was "Karl Malone but I call him Mailboy/My cocaina is mixed with steroids/So go and ask the people/Why my fiends walk around sort of diesel." I'm talking about how I put steroids in my cocaine so my fiends walk around sort of diesel. And the Karl Malone line was because he was known as "The Mailman."
No one shouts out Karl Malone anymore.
Right. I just flipped it to "Mailboy." Everybody talks about the drug epidemic and that's cool, but I'm going to try to give you as much reality as I can and I'm going to try to make it artistic at the same time. That's the game. Everybody is out there and one thing's for certain – music makes me happy and it's the one thing that rocks my boat. I like to prove people wrong who think I can't do it without some people. I want to prove them wrong and this is a big part of my career. This is the comeback of NORE. I don't want to say "comeback" because I just went down the block, but I'm going to show people that I can really rhyme. I'm going to really, really make the point this time.
You also talk about how you found a new way to sell crack.
"Get it to your email, like Digiwaxx!" Digiwaxx are my people and a couple of them are from Queens and are big fans of NORE. Whenever I do a joint, they'll blast it out for me through the email. This is the new wave. If I was going to sell crack, that's how I would do it, "Get it to your email, like Digiwaxx!"
Big Pun's death anniversary recently passed. What did he mean to you?
He meant the world to me. I have a song with him called "Talking in my Sleep." It's one of the illest, most creative records I've done in a long time. I'm actually sleeping but I'm talking. In the verse, I say something like, "I know you're in Heaven/On earth you were a person/In death you're a legend." You never think the people you crack jokes with are legends. He's a legend. He was my man on earth. It's crazy because I look at a lot of people and how they praise him and I just look at them and I miss him.
Just because I had a personal relationship with him doesn't mean other people don't miss him just as much as I do. I had a conversation with Pitbull and he told me how much he praised Pun. A lot of people never got a chance to meet him. I never got a chance to meet 'Pac. It's crazy to see how much more that these guys matter and how much that they really are legends when you have personal relationships with them. I had a close, personal relationship with Pun and I'm honored to have known him.
A lot of Latin rappers talk about being the next Pun and at times they rhyme like him. Is that paying tribute or them being disrespectful?
I think that that's fantastic. If I could rhyme more like Pun, I would try to, but I can't. I hear it in a couple of these new guys that are out there. I hear it in Joell Ortiz. I think he's a phenomenal artist and I'm a fan of him. There's another artist. I can't remember his name but I think he's from Brooklyn. To me, he sounds like Pun and I don't think that's a bad thing. I think for Pun's legacy to live on, that's a great thing. I'm going to jack Pun's lines forever. A lot of people criticized Jay-Z for doing that to BIG but I understand why he does that. He did it to keep his man's legacy alive. I think Pun's legacy should live on forever. The more the merrier because of what he stood for. He was a great individual and he was one of my best friends.
You have another line on the freestyle where you say, "White Rapper Show, I left, I had to bump/I broke out fast, I thought I was being Punked." What happened?
I'm glad I did the show. Prior to me actually recording the show, the way it was explained to me what was going on, it didn't make sense to me. At the time, there was a lot of the Punked thing going on. VH1 and MTV are both under Viacom and I put it together. One guy had won a challenge and it was crazy. I wish I would have stayed and listened more and opened up a little more, but at the same time, I thought I was being Punked. It wasn't right. The questions being asked weren't right and I'm a professional and you don't have to prep me much, but they just threw me in a room with models and champagne. It really wasn't me.
I wish that they would have shown me the show prior to me being on it because I'm a huge fan of the White Rapper Show. I didn't think they were going to use my part because it was boring and it didn't come across correct, but they edited it and it was real short. But I wasn't feeling it because of how I was put in the situation. I thought I was being Punked. I wanted to get out of there before a gorilla jumped out and told me I was being Punked or some crazy shit like that. But after seeing the first episode, I turned into a big fan of the White Rapper Show.
People saw me and they came up to me and they asked me why I left. People who know me personally know that I'm not like that. I'm the type of person who shows love. I speak to everybody and I answer questions. I sign autographs and kick it with the fans. I'm the most down-to-earth person there is. The fame doesn't do nothing for me. I'm still the same person. I just thought from the questions being asked on the show that I was being Punked.
How's the remix to "My Name is N.O." with D-Nice coming?
D-Nice is running all over. I'm trying to catch him. Hopefully we're going to make it happen. I have a couple of people's verses who did it but at the end of the day, my album is so humongous. I want to thank Dame Grease for giving me tracks along with Cool N Dre, Scott Storch, Pharrell and Swizz Beatz if he hits me in time. I want to thank everybody, especially OZ and the Deacon. They're the new Neptunes. They're a little bit of Pharrell, Scott Storch and Cool N Dre. Of course there's SPK and Kyze. I really got serious on this record. There's a lot of records. If people are a fan of N.O.R.E., they're going to love Global Warming. I got really, really, really serious with this album.
Ideally, when would Global Warming come out?
Right now, we have three or four deals on the table and the last deal that we're waiting for comes in tomorrow. When we get it, it's done. I'm really satisfied. I lived out in Miami for two months and DJ EFN was my A&R. Hazardis Soundz Productions engineered and I basically zoned out. I wanted to make music to make me happy again. I think I accomplished that goal and everybody who hears it is very, very impressed. I got real serious. We're looking for a summer release on the project.
How important was DJ EFN to Global Warming?
EFN helped out in every shape, form, way and fashion. He's a real big fan of hip-hop. When you go to an EFN party, you're going to hear all the real hip-hop. His sets make sense. He just helped on the concepts and all that. One thing about EFN is he's a DJ, but he's also an honest person in reality. He would tell me if he thought we should do it a certain way. He didn't want to hear me do something that I had done before. I went in there like a new artist. I had to create a new atmosphere. Even though I've known him forever, I had to work with him on a serious note.
I really needed a pure hip-hop fan on this process to help me with what to do and help me with the direction I was going. The crazy thing about it is that with all the producers on the album, Pharrell is the biggest name on the album and EFN didn't like what we did. He told me we needed another track. A&R's are thinking sales-wise and how it would be hot to have his name on the album and to use that and EFN isn't thinking like that. He's thinking about me and his company that we're going to put together. His honest opinion means more to me than any opinion any A&R in the industry could have ever given me.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists?
I think if you're an up-and-coming artist, you should never stop. You should always go forward and go for your goal and you should always test yourself. That's what I did on this album. I tested myself and reinvented myself. Nas made Illmatic and made another classic with Stillmatic. Jay-Z made Reasonable Doubt and then came back with The Blueprint.
I really nailed this album because I challenged myself. I said, "No rappers want beef so I beef with myself." I really went out there and challenged myself. It was really nobody else out there but me. I think young artists coming up, striving and struggling, if they would think more about pleasing themselves and not other people, they would get along better in life.
What do you want to say to everybody?
I'm back! (laughs) I'm back, I'm feeling good and I haven't been spitting like this in awhile. I'm having fun with it and I'm not getting too serious with it and busting my brain in the studio. I'm having fun with it. That's something we take for granted in the game. We stop having fun in the game after awhile and you get worried about your points and publishing and profit splits. I went back to just having fun. I'm having fun and please, please pay attention because everything I'm dropping is classic material. I will not let you down with this. Global Warming is the best and you're going to be shocked because I brought it back to that real hip-hop and the shit that people love me for.