N.O.R.E. claims he was the hottest rapper in comparison to DMX, Big Pun and others in 1998.

In an interview with the I Am Athlete podcast, which premiered on YouTube on Monday (Oct. 25), the Queens rapper explained how artists sign bad contracts and aren't able to own their masters. N.O.R.E. went on to say that he was “the hottest rapper in the world” when he signed his solo record deal in 1998, with Penalty/Tommy Boy Records.

"I was the hottest rapper in the world," he stated. "I could’ve held out, but I wanted a million dollars."

When I Am Athlete cohost Brandon Marshall questioned N.O.R.E.’s claim that he was the "hottest rapper" in 1998, the rap veteran quickly broke it down.

“I was!” he shot back. “In 1998? Who was it? Me, DMX, Big Pun, Cam’ron. I was the hottest at the time I signed. And, other than DMX, I sold the most in my first week. DMX did 220[K], I did 163[K]. Plus, the other 18,000 that they pre-sold from me because they bootlegged it and they still counted it."

N.O.R.E. is referencing his self-titled debut album on Penalty/Tommy Boy Records, which was released on July 14, 1998. The LP sold 163,000 copies in its first week of release and hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album chart on Aug. 1, 1998. Plus, the album tracks “Superthug," "N.O.R.E." and the fantastic posse track “Banned From T.V.” featuring Nature, Big Pun, Cam'ron, Jadakiss and Styles P were hit singles and considered classics in N.O.R.E.'s expansive discography.

So N.O.R.E.’s claim is not so far-fetched.

However, 1998 also saw monumental rap releases including Jay-Z’s Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life, Master P’s MP Da Last Don, OutKast’s Aquemini, Big Pun’s Capital Punishment, Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and let’s not forget DMX’s historic back-to-back No. 1’s with It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. All these projects surpassed N.O.R.E.’s debut album—sales-wise—in their first week of release.

But certainly, N.O.R.E.’s claim will spark a debate among rap heads on social media.

Watch N.O.R.E. on the I Am Athlete podcast below. Fast-forward to the 11-minute mark to hear N.O.R.E talk about ownership and being the hottest rapper in 1998.

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