Rap duo Capone-n-Noreaga aka CNN from Lefrak City “Iraq”, Queens, NY, released “The War Report” in mid ’97 which eventually went on to sell over 500,000 copies being certified Gold. The album received favorable reviews from critics and fans alike even earning a 4 out of 5 mic rating from The Source magazine. With the success of fellow Queens MC’s such as Nas and Mobb Deep at the time, CNN entered the rap game with a voice of their own and able to rep Queens confidently and commanding respect as another heavyweight to be heard. The album features multiple producers including Havoc from Mobb Deep and an appearance from Tragedy Khadafi on over half of the tracks who also served as the project’s executive producer.
Good reviews and dope music, unfortunately, was not enough to get the amount of attention this group deserved but to know why is to understand the tumultuous climate of Hip Hop at the time. The culture was grieving the loss of 2 of the most prolific MC’s we’ve had in 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G., and rap was reaching levels of mainstream success it had yet to see with the popularity of Puff Daddy and his debut album dropping around the same time. Capone-n-Noreaga also were not so quiet in the whole East Coast/West Coast beef which after the shooting death of 2 superstars, gangsta rap’s reputation came to the realization of being forever tainted on both ends of the map.
“Yo, the world know Noreaga from Iraq, beef wit me serious, keep it real that’s that, get stabbed in ya back, my man Alley Cat, little cousin from Jamaica brown-skin thug, thug blood yo we stuck in this game like it’s a drug, my pops was a thug n****, was on the streets too, Uncle Wise been locked since ’82, back on tha streets a hundred-seven got brew, I see you, come see you, writing scrolls, to the rest of tha fam locked in holes, at age eight money come first snatch purse, go to church, yo that’s not me, mommy I’m cursed, Iblis glamorous diabolic devilish, this game real, realer than you think, just think.”
The sound of the record comes in classic East Coast gritty fashion with hardcore production that compliments Noreaga’s unorthodox flow and unapologetic tales of drug sales and crime. Capone is shown holding his own as a unique rhymer as well and shines whenever on a track such as the single “T.O.N.Y.” where he confesses to the judge:
“Yo, I did it for tha love of cash your honor, traffickin‘ across tha Verrazano coke and tha marijuana, see my persona glitters and gold, unlike them other money getters who stack turn quitters then fold, cash and hydro, eyes low lookin‘ Phillippine divide dough, regulate empire state caked up, raked up a hundred thou now we all laced up, what!!”
Havoc has a couple of credits as a producer providing the beats for ‘Parole Violators’ and ‘Illegal Life’ along with Tragedy Khadafi who is just as good lending his voice on every track he appears on. On songs like ‘Stick You’ and ‘Neva Die Alone’ Tragedy’s presence is felt more than that of a feature as listening to him throughout the album his demand for a solo project increases. On the latter track he stands out as the strong undertones of his Arab Nazi lifestyle is displayed as he rides out the instrumental:
“My pops dead now it’s too late to warn me, inform me, D’s wanna plant key’s on me, eternally I wanna sleep without the venom of a snake n**** tryna creep, stakes is high and a thug’s blood runs deep, the Jake’s wanna see me laying under six feet, it’s so unseen now my team work against me, they can’t stop my money moving too intensely, Khadafi I plant bombs where tha Feds be, I’m like Moses in the middle of the Red Sea, with infrared and a case full of hundred ‘G’, leading my thugs to tha land of Ki-nameen, wit no cops pure coke growing on the tree, Arab Nazi Tommy Hill and Nikes on, Guerilla rap song”
In essence, the entire record has the feel of a rap classic but ends up shadowed by calamity and re-routing the genre’s interests. For many Hip Hop heads, it is undeniably a timeless treasure and because of the use of Five Percenter slang, free-spirited narcotics dealings and a strong dislike for the precincts and courts, this LP has lived up to its potential for surviving the times. Hardcore East Coast Hip Hop at its finest.