Victor Santiago, Jr., best known by his stage name N.O.R.E. or Noreaga (born September 6, 1976), is an American rapper. He is one half of the group Capone-N-Noreaga.
Santiago’s career gained fame in 1996 when he used the stage name Noreaga (after Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega) as part of the duo Capone-N-Noreaga with rapper Capone (whom he met while serving time in prison). They signed to Penalty Recordings in 1996 and released their debut album as a group, The War Report, in 1997. The War Report was a commercial and critical success which made the group well known among rap audiences. The album received praise for using the traditional grimey boom-bap sound of classic New York City hip hop, which at that time was falling out of favor to a more futuristic sound. The album peaked at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the singles « Illegal Life », « Closer », and « T.O.N.Y. (Top of New York) » all charted on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks chart .
Following the release of the album, Capone was again sentenced to a jail term, which left Noreaga to make an album on his own. His solo debut, N.O.R.E, was released in 1998. The title was an acronym for « Niggaz On the Run Eatin’« . The album was even more successful than the group’s debut, charting at #3 on the Billboard Hot 200 and being certified platinum. Guest performers on the album include Nas, Kool G Rap, Big Pun, and Busta Rhymes. It also featured in many cases a different production style than The War Report, including the modern futuristic sound, with tracks produced by newer producers such as The Neptunes and Swizz Beatz. The Neptunes produced the hit « Superthug » which reached #36 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot Rap Tracks chart. This song, along with Mase‘s hit « Lookin’ At Me », was one of the Neptunes’ first high profile productions and made them one of the most sought after production groups in hip hop. It also started their relationship with Noreaga as they would produce more hits for him in the future.
One more solo album was released under the stage name Noreaga. The 1999 album Melvin Flynt – Da Hustler was a moderate success, reaching the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 200 and certified gold, but it did not reach the success of N.O.R.E.. The album’s most successful single (produced by The Neptunes) was « Oh No » which reached #49 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks chart.
Capone was released from prison in 1999. The two released their second album as a group in 2000, The Reunion. The album was not well received critically and failed to match the commercial success of the duo’s first album or Noreaga’s solo albums. Allmusic reviewer Matt Conaway summed up the album by stating « With The Reunion, Capone-N-Noreaga take a step backward. » The group would not release another album until 2009.
Noreaga continued to pursue his career as a solo artist. He changed his stage name to N.O.R.E., and after some delays, his third solo studio album, God’s Favorite, was released in 2002. The album peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. It contained the major hit « Nothin' » (produced by The Neptunes) which reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100. It became N.O.R.E.’s highest charting hit.
Following this album N.O.R.E. changed his musical focus. He began recording some Spanish songs to reflect his Puerto Rican background and made some reggaeton songs rather than traditional hip hop. The reggaeton single « Oye Mi Canto » was released in 2004 and became a major hit, peaking at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was originally supposed to be a single from an upcoming album titled 1 Fan a Day, but the album was never never released. Instead, N.O.R.E. released a mixed reggaeton and hip hop album in 2006, N.O.R.E. y la Familia…Ya Tú Sabe, which included « Oye Mi Canto » as a bonus track. The album had both English and Spanish language tracks. It did not chart nearly as well as any of N.O.R.E.’s previous solo albums, as it only reached #82 on the Billboard Hot 200.
Following this to date N.O.R.E. has released two more solo albums, Noreality in 2007 and S.O.R.E. in 2009, both of which failed to chart. In 2009 he also released a third album with Capone, Channel 10 which charted at #136 on the Billboard 200. In 2010 a fourth Capone-N-Noreaga album, The War Report 2, was released. Its first single was « Hood Pride », featuring Faith Evans. N.O.R.E. is also working on a seventh solo album, to be titled Student of the Game. In June 2011 Busta Rhymes, who N.O.R.E. had collaborated with before, stated on his twitter account, that he had officially signed N.O.R.E. to his newly founded record label Conglomerate Records.