N.O.R.E. at White Room, Miami

Better than: What one might expect from a world-class MC in an unfamiliar situation.

The review: Whenever a formerly well-known artist dips under the radar for several years, you can't help but wonder what he gets up to in his free time. So when word came that N.O.R.E. was set to appear at the White Room in Miami, it was hard to pass on the chance to see what the Queens-raised, Miami-residing MC has been doing in recent years. It has been years since he dropped his biggest hit, "Nothin'," on his former major label, Def Jam.

A little after 1 in the morning, local talents Mike Chadi and Max-a-Milli took the stage in White Room's back room in an attempt to get the crowd warmed up. Both artists reveled in their brief performance time, but it was obvious who the crowd was there to see. After a brief intermission, some of the audience dispersed to the lounge to get some more drinks as they patiently awaited N.O.R.E.'s arrival. But as the time crept well past 2, some people began to grow visibly impatient while others flat out left the building.

N.O.R.E. finally appeared around 2:30, and despite a somewhat sparse crowd, he let it be known immediately that he was right in his element. "We're going to make this real intimate in here," he said. "I want you to really feel me tonight."

And he did just that. Instead of performing onstage, the MC took to the floor and immersed himself in the center of the crowd, urging those around him to sing along and feel his energy. It was clear his crowd-moving skills are still very much intact, and he got everybody hyped as he led off with his hit "Superthug."

Between songs, N.O.R.E. stopped for some banter. Despite having performed in sold-out auditoriums and coliseums, he said, there was nothing quite like the up-close atmosphere of a small crowd. "Even though there are only ten of you in here," he said jokingly (there were probably around 200), "I can tell that you are a real hip-hop crowd, and I respect you all for that."

A sentimental moment came around 3 a.m.,  when he stopped to commemorate the death of his father exactly 11 years before (July 3, 1998). In honor of his passing, N.O.R.E. played the song "Sometimes" in his father's honor. By the time the track was over, he seemed at a loss for words.

The last song, though, was the one everyone was waiting for: "Nothin'," which got the crowd jumping. It was a fitting finale to a solid performance by a well-rounded and multitalented lyricist.

Critic's notebook:

Personal bias: I've had love for N.O.R.E. since years ago thanks to the undeniable infectiousness of his single "Nothin'." Being just feet from him when he performed the single live probably wasn't nearly the triumphant feat that I believed it was.

Random detail: The White Room was a decent setting, but the club wasn't full.

By the way: Next up for N.O.R.E. seems to be his upcoming album, S.O.R.E. (Album of N.O.R.E.), which is expected to drop in the third quarter of this year.

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Chris Robinson