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Married since 2009, rapper N.O.R.E., and his wife Neri Santiago say the key to their successful marriage is balance. “I’m loud and boisterous. I’m always into something, and she’s quiet,” N.O.R.E. says. “A lot of times people want to marry you know, the person, that best friend or the person that acts like a best friend.”

But, he adds, “Really, sometimes, it’s really, really just about making your life work. Like you know, in a lot of ways, she’s like the opposite of me. And we balance each other out.”

The couple are huge fans of Marriage Boot Camp, particularly N.O.R.E. They’ve watched all iterations of the show, especially last year’s season which featured their good friends, Styles P and his wife Adjua. The couple has been together for 24 years and have weathered many storms, including the loss of a child. The Santiagos say that the experience that their personal friends had on the show helped convince them to join the cast.

“We felt like it was time for us to get a counselor to help us with our issues and for us to be more open with each other.”—Neri Santiago

Additionally, N.O.R.E., says that he got the call to appear on the show just after the passing of his friend DMX. Says Noreaga, “The last six weeks of DMX’s life, he literally lived down the block from my house. I’ve literally seen them every day. So we got close, as close as we used to be in 1998.”

He adds that when the offer to be a part of Marriage Boot Camp and the upcoming season of Love & Hip Hop: Miami, the calls came at the perfect time, as he was grieving his friend. “So that I wasn’t just sitting around thinking about what I had just went through.”

The WE tv series, Marriage Boot Camp is based on a non-profit seminar by the same name. The series debuted in 2013 and is in its 17th season. The show began with regular couples and then added reality stars and celebrities to the cast. Hip-Hop stars came on board in Season 14 giving fans a look into the inner workings of the marriages of some of the genre’s most interesting stars, and what it takes to make a marriage to a high-profile artist work.

“N.O.R.E and I are very private as far as you know, being in the limelight with our relationship, and there is more than what people see. This is an opportunity for us to you know, tell our problems and get help because we never had counseling before,” Neri says. “Some of our issues we’ve had for a long time, and we’ve been married a long time and we felt like it was time for us to get a counselor to help us with our issues and for us to be more open with each other.”

She adds, “When you’re married a long time, either you’re gonna have a lot of problems because you don’t communicate, or things are going to get boring and we didn’t want that to happen to us.”

“I like talking more than rapping.”—N.O.R.E.

On Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition, couples get counseling and participate in games and challenges. The result is great reality tv that is intimate and passionate. N.O.R.E., says that he witnessed how the show positively impacted people that he knows and as a fan when he was called to participate he jumped at the opportunity.

And it isn’t the first one. The Queens rapper will also join the cast of Love & Hip Hop: Miami and has launched a successful podcast, Drink Champs, and is an amazing interviewer and host. He said that the transition to a different kind of career was a natural transition.

“I like talking more than rapping,” he says, “When I go in and make a record, I gotta be intricate. I gotta be thinking, thinking about a hook, I got to be thinking about ending of the record everything. But talking, I grew up talking in barbershops all my life. I just had no idea that talking in the barbershop was training me for my life.”

He explains the level of work that goes into making a record or mixtape is quite different from dropping a podcast like Drink Champs, but that one thing remains the same. “The thrill,” he says. “That’s how I match that energy, the thrill of putting out a project and getting that feedback from the fans and from audiences. This time it’s a podcast or an internet show.”

N.O.R.E. says that what he has gotten most from transitioning in his career is freedom. “I’m trying to do, and it’s gonna sound a little crazy, but I’m trying to do really whatever I want. And I’m fortunate that I got there by being my own boss. But, if I want to ask for advice or for information, I do. But, I got here by being a maverick.”

As for their appearance on Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition, N.O.R.E and Neri say that there is a lot that they learned about each other even all these years later. “I don’t want to spoil the moment for you guys, so you’re gonna have to wait and see but during one of the games, he said something that surprised me a lot,” Neri says. “And it was actually a shocker to me. So I don’t want to give it away, you’re gonna have to tune in and watch.”

After their turn on the show, they do have some advice for couples. “I would honestly say just be transparent with each other,” N.O.R.E., says.

“We’ve been married a really long time,” adds Neri. “I feel like our main thing is just give and take. Just, you know, focus on what’s really the issue. That’s how you move on and just keep moving forward and have a successful marriage.”

Marriage Boot Camp: Hip-Hop Edition air Thursdays at 9 pm on WE tv.

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