Noe: Deal Or NOE Deal
Baltimore native NOE's career as a rapper will always be weighed down by the baggage of a voice that sounds eerily reminiscent of Jay-Z's. But given that two of the most hyped new artists in hip-hop right now sound exactly like Andre 3000 and Eminem--B.o.B. and Asher Roth, respectively--a vocal similarity to a lyrical legend may not be the liability it was once thought. And NOE's latest mixtape, Deal Or NOE Deal, shows the MC further establishing his own sense of flow and vocabulary, leaving the timbre of his voice as more of a vestigial reminder of Jay-Z than an inevitable comparison.
NOE's membership in Byrd Gang, the new crew from Jim Jones of Harlem's Diplomats, by and large determines his current musical direction: cold, hard NYC beats and guest verses from other Jones lieutenants such as Mel Matrix and Chink Santana. But NOE brings along a scrappy female MC from Baltimore, Si-Notes, for a couple tracks, and stands out from the Byrd Gang with internal rhymes and clever food-based punchlines: "I had a futon, broke, clippin' coupons/ Now I'm sittin' on a stack of lettuce like a crouton."
Of course, aligning himself with Jones, one of Jay-Z's most prominent enemies, seems bound to complicate matters, though NOE's yet to become a pawn in that beef. But he comes close on "Jackin' Swagga From Us," a pointless answer song to last year's hit posse cut "Swagga Like Us," which featured Jay-Z. The other MCs on the new track, Twista and Lil Wayne, have cause to accuse others of jocking their style, but when imitation is the topic, NOE has no other choice than to be categorized as an imitator, a tag he should know to avoid by now.