Rapper turned multimedia maven N.O.R.E. has built a reputation for his hyperbolic declarations as co-host of his wildly popular podcast Drink Champs, on which he usually recalls his accomplishments within the industry through rose-colored lens.
However, the reformed hard-rock made waves as a guest during an appearance on the I Am Athlete podcast, during which he remembered himself as being the “hottest rapper” in Hip-Hop in 1998, a year that saw blockbuster releases and debuts from icons like Jay-Z, DMX, Lauryn Hill, Big Pun, Master P, and Outkast, just to name a few.
“I was the hottest rapper in the world,” the 44-year-old told I Am Athlete co-hosts Brandon Marshall, Chad Johnson, and Channing Crowder, referring to the period surrounding the release of his platinum-certified solo debut album, N.O.R.E.
“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!”
While N.O.R.E. being the hottest star in rap at that time is highly debatable given the monumental aforementioned artists who dropped seminal bodies of work that outsold N.O.R.E. by millions of copies, he does have a case for being one of the hottest debut soloists at the time.
Outside of DMX and Big Pun, the Lefrak rep was certainly one of the new spitters to make a big splash on the charts that year with his smash Neptunes-produced single, “Superthug,” the streets (“N.O.R.E.” and “Banned from T.V.”), and on features alongside the likes of his Borinquen brethren Pun (“You Came Up”). He may not have the metrics to back up his case, but in terms of longevity and reinvention, N.O.R.E. is arguably hotter than he’s ever been more than 20 years after the fact.
Watch N.O.R.E.’s interview on the I Am Athlete podcast below.