N.O.R.E.
Y La Familia …Ya Tu Sabe
Def Jam
2006
B-



compared to Spanish, English—with its scattered legacy of fluid, florid French and Latin roots glossing over harsh, blunt Germanic diction—is quite obviously the more difficult language to rap in. As such, maybe we should’ve expected the consistent overlapping that rap and Reggaetón have undergone in recent years. Daddy Yankee is now a common sight on TRL and BET. R. Kelly featured Puerto Rican pair Wisin Y Yandel on TP.3 Reloaded’s “Burn It Up.” Hell, Snoop Dogg just released “Vato,” the organ-fueled narrative centered on Latino and Black L.A. gang-bangers with Cyprus Hill’s B-Real. And now N.O.R.E., one-half of Capone-N-Noreaga, the former prison mates turned Gulf War-evoking hoodlums, jumps in headfirst.

I may speak as much Spanish as the average “Laguna Beach” cast member, but I’m willing to bet that the “Y La Famila” of the title loosely translates to “…and the family.” That massive, massive family on Y La Famila…Ya Tu Sabe, and N.O.R.E.’s commitment to musical curiosity (remember, he was one of the first guys to work with the Neptunes even if he regarded their productions as “tinkerbell beats”) keep the record coyly afloat and maybe, for those inclined, a Technicolor-pleasant introduction to Reggaetón. Def Jam style.

“Oye Mi Canto” has been on the radio for months (the album’s been delayed almost a full year), and its Pan-Latin vibe seems as good a flagship for the album as any. Nina Sky coos and reps at the same time: “Columbiano! … Cubano! Mexicano!” N.O.R.E. gnaw-raps some more pride and Daddy Yankee spins through the last minute, breezing over candy-coated percussion. “Mas Miz” sounds almost stereotypical: galloping drums increasing in tempo until they’re in furious, spiky little cycles and matching the chants from Fat Joe, Chico Bling, Nina Sky, and about a half-dozen other voices.

N.O.R.E. raps in English any time he’s not singing a hook; he’s more of a ringleader/director/tour guide than narrator. Subject-wise, it’s all brotherhood and party stuff, “Trafico” a generic Tony Montana chest-puffing party jam is the hardest it gets. Maybe women are fetishized (at least half the songs absolutely reek of male-hunter machismo) and maybe it’s grinding in parts but, mostly, Sabe is melodramatic, maudlin, tears-and-laughter confections whipped into a satisfying froth. It’s sunny, universal helplessly energetic stuff that, at least for a few more months, seems nicely of the moment. And, hey, some stuff (“Chachi”) doesn’t even need a translation.



Reviewed by: Evan McGarvey
Reviewed on: 2006-10-19
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