Return of the Hustle
Noreaga is at a crossroads in his 11-year career. After three years as a solo artist on Def Jam, the Queens MC got fed up with the lack of label support he’s received over the years and three weeks ago he severed ties with the label and it’s famous staff. Leaving the house Jigga inherited meant N.O.R.E. had to walk away from a fair amount of material, including the entire One Fan A Day album. At the same time the grimy rapper’s relationship with partner-in rhyme of eleven years, Capone, has changed a bit leaving the prospect of another Capone-N-Norega album up in the air. So now Melyvn Flynt is stuck in record label limbo, as he tries to figure out which lane he wants to swerve in. XXLMag.com recently caught up with the king of reggaeton to talk about what really went down with Def Jam, his thoughts on Jay-Z as president and the future of C-N-N.
What were your reasons behind leaving Def Jam?
I don’t want to compare them to girls, but at the end of the day when you’re in a relationship with a female and you just feel like it’s heading in the wrong way, it’s up to you to cut it off before you get into some domestic violence or a route that you didn’t want to go. So that’s basically what it is. I don’t think we understood each other. There wont be a N.O.R.E. diss Jay-Z song. There will not be a N.O.R..E. diss L.A. Reid song, ’cause that’s my style. [When] I leave a label, I shit on ‘em. But this time, I’m going to take the grown man approach. I came and asked them for what I want. They could’ve easily said, “No.” I asked to be released and they didn’t fight me or I didn’t have to hire no lawyers and I’m glad at that fact.
So what’s going to happen with your unreleased project One Fan A Day? Will it still come out on Def Jam?
They own that material. I left One Fan A Day, ’cause I didn’t want no legal issues with Def Jam. I didn’t want to come out with One Fan A Day and them to say, “We own this material.” So I left records with Mariah Carey. I left records with Big Pun. I left records that I had with Jagged Edge. I was halfway recording it and then L.A. Reid came over. I kinda altered my album ’cause I wanted him to like my shit. I got with Lil’ Jon and I kinda started trying to make music with hooks on there and things of that nature to kinda cater to his needs. And I don’t think that was the right way to do [it].
Were you disappointed with the outcome of your reggaeton album, N.O.R.E. y la Familia…Ya Tú Sabe ?
Absolutely, but I’m not blaming nobody. I did reggaeton because I wanted to do reggaeton. By me doing reggaeton, I got to go to places that I would never go as an hip-hop artist, like Honduras [and] Ecuador. Reggaeton is something that makes money without you spending money. They promised me marketing money that they never used! This is what pissed me off, like this is why I couldn’t continue my relationship. I fuckin helped a company—like, when you look at MTV3, there might not even be a MTV3 if I didn’t do reggaeton. And I’m not saying that I invented the music or created the music, but I introduced it to America. I helped that style and brought it to the forefront. I brung it so black niggas can say, “Aight, cool man. I don’t understand what them niggas is saying, but I like the way the bitches dance to that shit man!” Now look at this shit, you got niggas coming out being millionaires off this music. Now that I did that, I’m wiping my hands with it. I don’t regret it, but I’m moving on and moving back to what people know and love me for.
What were your thoughts on Jay-Z as president of Def Jam?
I love him as a person. I love him as artist. I don’t think me and him connected on a personal level as far as business go. When it came down to him sitting behind that desk, I don’t think me and his vision was eye to eye.
Do you think Jay was making himself a priority over other artist on the label?
I can’t turn around and I can’t say that Jay-Z was paying attention to his self more than he was paying attention these other artists. I can’t say that! I can’t! ’Cause it makes me look corny.
What do you think of the difference between Jay-Z and former president, Lyor Cohen?
In order for you to sign an artist you have to show interest into an artist. You have to go around and Jay is too much of a star to show interest in anybody! When I met Lyor Cohen, he called me and said, “Where you at?” I said, “I’m shooting a video with Big Pun.” He didn’t ask me, “Where?” He didn’t ask me, “Which video?” He just said, “Oh word, you shooting a video with Big Pun? Aight cool, I’ll be there in an hour.” And an hour later sho’ nuff, he showed up and had Ja Rule in his car. That’s like my first time ever meeting Ja Rule. I’m not dissing Jay ’cause I have much respect for Jay, but at the end of the day that’s what a real CEO is to me. A real CEO—a real president is a person that wants somebody and is going to go out and get it. But Jay can’t do that. If Jay goes to see me, he’ll probably be signing more autographs then me!
Several artists on the label seem to share similar sentiments that Jay is only looking out for himself.
I understand where other artists is coming from like, “How come this nigga got a 20 million dollar marketing budget and my marketing budget is $100,000?!” But I didn’t want to go that route, so I’m not complaining about the shit.
How has Def Jam changed since you first signed to the label?
Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles were the people that actually brought me to Def Jam, and with them leaving it was kinda an awkward situation. Lyor got offered a $50 million job, [so] I can’t be mad at him for leaving. And I can’t be mad at Kevin Liles for going with the guy who put him in the business. And you got to realize, when a regime leaves and a new regime takes over, they fire everybody. So I basically didn’t really know people. I went from going to record label almost all the time and playing dice and smoking weed and getting my haircuts there to almost never going at all. I remember Def Jam was a place you go buy weed. I remember the weed niggas would work at Def Jam! I understand things get corporate. I understand things change. I understand certain people gotta start wearing ties now, but I think you should always remain a nigga.
Now that you’ve scraped One Fan A Day, are you coming with any new material?
It’s time to take over the whole globe ’cause that’s what I’m going to do— warm up the whole muthafuckin’ globe like Al Gore and we gon call it Global Warming 11368. The 11368 is symbolic to where I come from, Lefrak City, Queens. It’s strictly hardcore hip-hop. That muthafuckin gum under the table, the piece of shit you step on. It’s the broken up N.O.R.E. with the slang. It’s the lingo, it’s the shit people learned to love me for and the shit people will love me again for.
How’s your relationship with Capone? It’s been reported that you guys weren’t on good terms.
I’ll be 100 percent honest because the world needs to know this. When Capone came home [from jail], he was a different individual. When your homeboy gets locked up, he starts thinking different and he becomes a different person. I became a different person. I was making the money and holding it down for C-N-N. I set it up for him to live lavish and I didn’t make $30 million a year. Name another person who came home to a Lexus, and he didn’t like a Lexus so he skated in a Lexus and got a Mercedes Benz. I did that shit out the kindness of my heart. C-N-N didn’t have no budget. C-N-N, we got signed for $5,000 homeboy. That’s the God’s honest truth. We signed away our publishing. We didn’t even know what publishing was. When he came home, not only did I hire him lawyers to get his publishing back the same way I did, but I also gave him 50 percent of my company, Thugged Out Militainment. But now, we got to learn who each other is. Like, we squashing it and we doing the Capone and Norega thing. We got twelve deals on the table and I’m not signing one of them until I know who he is and he’s starting to know who I am.