New York rapper N.O.R.E. (aka P.A.P.I.) started off his career as part of Capone-N-Noreaga in the mid 90s. Rapping under the name Noreaga, N.O.R.E. made his first foray into the solo spotlight in 1998 with his self-titled debut album. Over his career to date he’s released five studio albums, changed his stage name more times than we can count, and worked with the cream of the hip-hop scene. His new album, and sixth studio album, is Student of the Game.
Student of the Game is a 19-track collection adhering closely to the standard hip-hop album format featuring plenty of guest stars and interludes. Once you get past the pointless opening interlude the album shows some promise. Title track Student of the Game mixes old-school beats with N.O.R.E.’s distinctive rapping style. The track is autobiographical with N.O.R.E. being upfront about his past and his career to date. It’s refreshing not to be assaulted by guns, blunts and bitches style lyrics from the off.
Sadly the promising start quickly gets lot in the mix of guest stars, uninspired lyrics and indistinguishable beats. Tadow is repetitive and meaningless, The Problem featuring Pharrell sounds dated and Built Pyramids breezes by without barely catching your attention. There are moments of promise including the minimal beats of Camouflage Unicorn featuring Tragedy & Havoc and the 90s laidback beats of What I Had To Do featuring Scarface.
The guest stars feel a little predictable too with French Montana, 2 Chainz, Pusha T and Lil’ Wayne all featuring. These rappers have been doing the rounds recently and it would have been nice to have someone new feature on the record.
As always the interludes on the album feel really unnecessary. For the most part they are just people talking random nonsense adding nothing to the record. At least when Eminem does them his are pretty funny but these just feel pointless and self-indulgent.
Student of the Game descends into generic rap by the time it’s over and doesn’t live up to its initial promise. The album’s US chart position hasn’t been great and we can’t help but feel that this is as a result of the middling material here. If N.O.R.E. wants to return to prominence he needs to deliver something a lot better than this album.