Remaining relevant in the rap game for a decade and a half is not a simple task. Offering refreshing EPs and mixtapes in addition to a steady stream of group and solo albums has helped N.O.R.E. achieve that feat. Last year, he dropped The N.O.R.E.aster EP in April and the Scared Money in December. Now, the Queens native has put out his mixtape Crack On Steroids with DJ Green Lantern, almost five years after they put out Cocaine On Steroids.
The tape’s opening track, “Kenny Powers,” hints at what’s to come: vintage gritty bars stirred into intoxicating beats that result in a pot of songs containing solid, though not always innovate, street anthems and more (The hook on the opener follows the formula that Drake, Big Sean, Nicki Minaj and others beat into the ground last year: “I got that disrespectful white, Kenny Powers”). The New York MC produces more block bangers with records like “I Got That Yay,” “Talk 2 Em” featuring Gunplay, “Thiz iz Hip-Hop,” “R.E.A.L. (Remember Everybody Ain’t Loyal)” and “My Alias” with longtime partner in rhyme Capone.
The mixtape is not limited to tales of drug sales, fights and drunken nights. N.O.R.E. diversifies with the thought-provoking record “Proud 2 Be,” where he questions hip-hop’s current state of integrity and expresses racial pride. “Scientific, see my jewels,” he raps. “I drop terrific/Wasn’t Christians ’til we came to America/You get it/See we live like Muslims/Kings in the motherland/They taught us to hate ourselves and shot each other and/Treat our women like shit/It’s like we liked it/Turned into a crisis/Real dumb fight shit.” The endearing track “Baby Girl,” featuring Cassie, who provides a soulful and catchy hook, showcases the seldom seen romantic side of the Super Thug.
Though it could have done without “We Aint” featuring and produced by will.i.am, Melvin Flynt’s latest effort provides a platform for a lineup of first-rate features. Busta Rhymes, who will executive produce N.O.R.E.’s forthcoming LP S.U.P.E.R.T.H.U.G., Game and Waka Flocka Flame help craft the unmistakable lead single “Lehhhgooo.” Wale (“Get Her”), Styles P and Raekwon (“Google That”), M-1 (“Proud 2 Be”) and Action Bronson (“Mazel Tov”) all adeptly exercise their lyrical fitness, while Sho Balloti (“Smoke Hookah”) and Glacierz (“War Song”), from N.O.R.E.’s Militianment imprint, impress.
The 25 tracks make the project a bit on the lengthy side, and provides a forum for inevitable peaks and valleys. But by spitting over grimier beats than he did on his previous project, N.O.R.E. stayed true to form. The consistency of compelling bars throughout and the assembling of stellar producers, including DJ Premier and Just Blaze, make Crack On Steroids‘ best moments fitting for the tape’s title: pure dope. —Christopher Minaya (@CM_3)