Victor Santiago, or Papi NORE (formerly Noreaga) of Queens, New York and Capone-N-Noreaga has several connections in the hip-hop industry and a pretty deep catalog, but his album record in and out of CNN is hit or miss. The 2015 Capone-N-Noreaga album Lessons was a noticeably lacking set, and it followed the better though not excellent War Report 2 (2010). This off-and-on pattern goes back to their first hailed LP, the original War Report from 1997.
As the de facto leader of the duo because of his sizable solo work and because he’s put in the most out-of-jail contributions to the music, N.O.R.E. (which stands for Ni**as On the Run Eatin’) has been plagued over the years by this same phenomenon. His last LP, Student of the Game, was a solid effort, but before that, Noreality couldn’t compare to its predecessor, God’s Favorite. N.O.R.E. y la Familia may not count since it’s a reggaeton album. Now, we have Drunk Uncle (March 25, Thugged Out Militainment), a collection of songs with just as many skits, nearly filled to capacity with guests and dreadfully short on newness. Besides the humor in the skits and some hearty I-will-survive spirit in a few songs, Drunk Uncle is a let-down.
“Moments” offers wisdom and heartwarming nostalgia by N.O.R.E., and songs like “Want Me Dead,” “Get It” and “Make ‘em Pay” have the feeling and tone of overcoming obstacles and making it through hardships; however, all the other disconnected pieces either fashion get-rich gangster attitudes or dedications to drinking and partying or attraction and infatuation (“Buckets” and “Outta My Mind” respectively). The music production is of a thrown-back unexperimental NYC persuasion and doesn’t deserve a ton of critique, maybe some but that’s it. It’s mainly just there because it has to be there.
Some of N.O.R.E.’s many guests here prove entertaining. Kool G Rap, Fat Joe, Jadakiss and a few other lyricists are nice listening to, but the makers altogether have just scratched the surface of new things they could have done with beats-plus-rhymes. On a grand scheme, there are few ways in which Drunk Uncle is inventive or creative, and some of the best rapping is reserved for the bonus section, as in the work done by A$AP Ferg and Sanogram in “Slime Season” for example. Basically, if you’re looking for a decent gangster rap album with really funny skits, then help yourself, but if you want a fresh product, Drunk Uncle by N.O.R.E. is not your album.