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On Noreaga's long-awaited and oft-delayed third album, God's Favorite, the thuggish New York rapper returns with many of the same producers who contributed to his previous album, Melvin Flynt - Da Hustler (1999), namely Ez Elpee, the Neptunes, and Swizz Beatz. Likewise N.O.R.E. teams up with a gang of rappers on God's Favorite, many of whom had contributed to Melvin Flynt. There is one glaring difference between this album and its so-so predecessor, however: Noreaga comes out of the gate here both hungry and focused. Gone is the conceptual framing of Melvin Flynt, as God's Favorite simply consists of hard-hitting jams, one after the other, most of which center on hooks yet are filled with bars upon bars of hardcore rapping. As usual, the Neptunes turn in a couple head-spinners, in this case "Nothin'" and "Grimey." Swizz Beatz turns in some bangers, chief among them "Nahmeanuheard" and its remix, but the Neptunes steal the show throughout God's Favorite, continually lightening up Noreaga's thuggery with their candy-sweet, yet still tough, hooks. Above all, it's good to see N.O.R.E. stick to the basics on God's Favorite. As a rapper, he's as rough as they come and certainly has presence, but he doesn't have the charisma it takes to pull off a conceptual album such as what he tried to do on Melvin Flynt. That's why he works so well with producers like the Neptunes and Swizz Beatz. They take care of the song ideas and let Noreaga roam free to do what he does best, bring the heat, something he does here on God's Favorite in prime form. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi

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