September 28, 2007

Capone-N-Noreaga - The War Report (June 17, 1997)


Does anyone remember being slightly creeped out at the album cover when The War Report dropped? No? It's just me? I don't see how that's possible; come on, picture an army made up of only robot Capones and Noreagas. It's kinda like that horror flick, Multiplicity, starring Michael Keaton. What do you mean, it was supposed to be a comedy?

Anyway, Capone-N-Noreaga, also known as Capone and Noreaga, is a rap duo that came straight outta Queens, New York. Capone, whose name used to be Kiam Holley until a tragic boating "incident", was from the Queensbridge housing projects, but for some reason, always turned down the locally brewed water offered on a regular basis by the likes of Nasir Jones and Cormega H. Macy; he instead opted for Ozarka. Noreaga, or Victor Santiago if you're nasty, hails from Lefrak City, and often refers to his old housing projects by the code name "Iraq", which right off the bat will make The War Report an uneasy listening experience for some.

CNN, as they often call themselves in an effort to make things more efficient, met each other while in prison, and decided that rhyming together would be a nice diversion to, I don't know, being in prison. Once released, they got the word out, even appearing in the Unsigned Hype column in the hip hop bible of yore, The Source. They signed a deal with Penalty Records, and with the help of Tragedy Khadafi (the former Intelligent Hoodlum), recorded their debut The War Report. In fact, Tragedy helped with production work, guest rhymes, catering, mixing, sample clearing, wardrobe, marketing, and underwater basket weaving, to such a degree that many people considered him a third member of the group. Which would be a stupid assumption. Notice the name of the duo is Capone-N-Noreaga, not CNN & Friends.

CNN & Friends wouldn't be that far off, though. Midway through the recording process, Capone violated his parole and was sent back to the clink, leaving Nore all by his lonesome. To fill the void left by Capone, Noreaga and Tragedy called in some favors. Guest spots include both halves of Mobb Deep, who I'm guessing were hanging out at the diner on the corner about a block from the studio, Tragedy's boy Iman Thug, and a bunch of Nore's weed carriers, and production duties were in the very capable hands, of Lord Finesse, Nashiem Myrick (of Puff Daddy's Hitmen), Marley Marl (!!!), and Tragedy himself. Together, the mostly solo Noreaga, with a few assists from Capone, delivered a grimy and hardcore East Coast gangsta rap album, with the help of Capone's infrequent narratives and Noreaga's ridiculous non-sequiturs and visual imagery.

The War Report is considered to be a hip hop classic, and is credited with both establishing the career of Noreaga (not Capone, though) and ending the East Coast's infatuation with the Mafia that was started by the Wu-Tang Clan (and immediately dropped by the Wu-Tang Clan) and pushed toward its inevitable demise by Nas and The Firm. I wouldn't go that far; that would be placing too much importance on a rap album that was made strictly to be entertaining. As for that "classic" moniker, though...

1. INTRO
Yes! A rap album intro! I haven't heard one of these in such a long time!

2. BLOODY MONEY
EZ Elpee brings a simplistic but effective banger for Noreaga to rhyme over. Looking back, guys, was it wise to have the first song on The War Report be a Noreaga solo effort?

3. DRIVER'S SEAT (FEAT IMAN THUG)
Iman Thug sounds like Ghostface Killah at a slightly sped-up RPM. That being said, wow, this song is super-annoying.

4. STICK YOU (FEAT TRAGEDY KHADAFI)
I don't like how the song waits until the one minute nine second mark to start, since it actually sounds pretty good. Features the first of approximately nine hundred and eighty-four guest appearances by Tragedy The Intelligent Khadafi. Also features the first rhymes by Capone to be featured on The War Report. The self-censoring in the chorus is off-putting, as it disrupts the flow of the track, especially since it's not like the verses are censored.

5. PAROLE VIOLATORS (FEAT HAVOC AND TRAGEDY KHADAFI)
Don't get excited; Havoc only appears on the hook. Nore and Tragedy provide Mobb Deep-esque rhymes over a Mobb Deep-esque beat, one that was actually provided by Tragedy. I find it interesting that, on a so-called "underground" hip hop album, Tragedy's references to rape are backmasked.

6. IRAQ (SEE THE WORLD) (FEAT CASTRO, MENDOSA, MUSALINY, & TROY OUTLAW)
Noreaga and the fine folks who carry his pot on a regular basis, over an EZ Elpee banger (any news on whatever happened to him? Anyone?). It should go without saying that Noreaga included this track for the same reason that all semi-successful rappers put their friends on: not out of loyalty, but so there will be at least one song where they have the best sounding verse.

7. LIVE ON LIVE LONG
Nore's tribute to Capone, who was in prison for the majority of this album's recording. Maybe it's just me, but considering Noreaga went on to a somewhat successful solo career (at least, for one album, anyway), I don't think he really minded carrying the burden of The War Report on his shoulders.

8. NEVA DIE ALONE (FEAT TRAGEDY KHADAFI)
Capone appearance number two. Get past the creepy-ass laughter at the beginning, and you'll be rewarded with a song that's actually decent, even though it sounds like it ends prematurely, which I've noticed is a consistent trend on this album.

9. T.O.N.Y. (TOP OF NEW YORK) (FEAT TRAGEDY KHADAFI)
When "T.O.N..Y." was released as a single, I couldn't really get into it, and today it's no surprise why: it doesn't sound anything like a song that should have been played on the radio back in 1997. Nashiem Myrick and Carlos "Six July" Brody provide Capone, Noreaga, and Tragedy with a slow-moving, yet damn near cinematic instrumental to work with, and even though the rhymes aren't always on par with the beat, you'll be returning to this track often, especially if you're a fan of East Coast hip hop.

10. CHANNEL 10
Lord Finesse provides a track that the duo seem to utilize more as a skit than an actual song.

11. CAPONE PHONE HOME (INTERLUDE)
...

12. STAY TUNED
With that title alone, you would think that this was the end of the album. Nope, sorry, you're not that lucky.

13. CAPONE BONE
Wow. This is one of the most imaginative (and by "imaginative", I mean "ignorant") song titles I've seen in a while. Marley Marl produced this?! Say it ain't so! This song is awful, and sadly, it's the only Capone solo song, which will probably lead my two readers to believe that I don't think much of Capone's ability to carry a song. Well, read into that whatever you like.

14. HALFWAY THUGS
Another Noreaga solo. Nore obviously has more of a presence on the mic, which is probably why he got that solo deal in the first place. And if he had rhymed over beats like this exclusively, I might still be following his career.

15. L.A., L.A. (KUWAIT MIX) (FEAT MOBB DEEP & TRAGEDY KHADAFI)
When Tha Dogg Pound, with an assist from Snoop Dogg, released the video for their "New York, New York", the fine folks in Queens took offense to the scenes featuring a larger-than-life Snoop stomping on New York buildings. (It's important to note that the song wasn't actually supposed to be a dis, but the video was probably more of a poor artistic choice by Snoop than anything else.) Anyway, Mobb Deep, Tragedy, and then-newcomers Capone and Noreaga retaliated, with the help of Marley Marl, with a response track that could also be seen as simply a song, not a dis. (This was obviously a far cry from the battle raps of today, where artists title their songs "Fuck You Max" and "No, Really, Fuck You, Max (Kutmasta Kurt Mix)".) There are actually two versions of this track: this one, which utilizes the same basic beat structure that you would later hear on The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Long Kiss Goodnight", and the original version, which jacked Tha Dogg Pound's beat wholesale; both feature the same lyrics.

16. CAPONE-N-NOREAGA LIVE (INTERLUDE)
...

17. ILLEGAL LIFE (FEAT HAVOC)
This was the first actual song I heard by Capone-N-Noreaga, and I only turned it up on the radio because I thought it was a new Mobb Deep release, what with Havoc on the chorus and all. Good thing I did; I still love this song to this day, even though I can't decipher what the vocal sample is supposed to be saying.

18. BLACK GANGSTAS (FEAT TRAGEDY KHADAFI)
If The War Report was a movie, Tragedy wouldn't just have a cameo role; he would be eligible for a Best Supporting Actor award, with the amount of screentime he would have. This song isn't that good, but it features both members, and the beat is pretty interesting.

19. CLOSER (FEAT NNEKA MORTON)
This song sucks. There's a remix floating around that was produced by Sam Sneed, whose "U Better Recognize" (featuring Dr. Dre), from the Murder Was The Case soundtrack, I've always loved. Pretty sure that version sucks too, though. You'll thank me when you skip this track.

20. CAPONE PHONE HOME OUTRO
Exactly as the title reads.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The War Report, while not great, seems to have actually held up ten years later. Most of the tracks presented here haven't lost a step. The continuous references to Iraq are strange to listen to, but once you recall that there was no war in Iraq back in 1997, you'll look past them. The War Report is simply a thug rap album from New York, released at the pinnacle of the movement, back when Mobb Deep didn't suck, and as long as you have a tolerance for violent and misogynistic lyrics, you could do a lot worse than CNN.

BUY OR BURN? You can probably find this album for less than eight bucks, no problem, and you should actually spend the money. With your purchase, you'll receive: one (1) shiny reflective disc that seems to play music when prompted, one (1) plastic jewel case which may or may not be good for the environment (probably not, now that I think about it), and one (1) album booklet, which contains a fun game of "Who the fuck was the guy Photoshopped out of the group shot?"

BEST TRACKS: "Illegal Life"; "T.O.N.Y."; "Halfway Thugs"; "Bloody Money"; "Stick You"; "Parole Violators"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Mobb Deep - Juvenile Hell
Mobb Deep - The Infamous
Mobb Deep - Hell On Earth
Mobb Deep - Murda Musik

21 comments:

  1. never really understood why so many hail this a a classic ... whenever I give it a try i only get through the fisrt 3 or 4 songs and then I've had it with CNN.
    It's a classic ... example of a very overrated album by 2 overrated rappers !

    PS But I have to admit I still enjoy the track they did with Adam F on his concept album .

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  2. ^ overrated rapper? You're kidding, right?

    This album IS a classic.

    Nice piece Max.

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  3. kidding ? who? Me ? AS if ...
    no , Ivan , I'm deadserious, whenever I try to listen to Noreaga I fall asleep or get annoyed by his voice, i just don't like him .
    If it's a classic to you, ok, no problem, but it just doesn't do the trick for me personally

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  4. Can't say either one of these two guys are my favorite rappers by themselves but all the ingredients cooked up for a classic on this LP in my opinion. Then again I also like their second album. But I don't think I have ever been able to listen to either of their solo LP's all the way through. These two group albums are a right place, right time, stars all aligned type deal to me.

    About the rape references... Although the group may have been a grimey "underground" type group, one could never say that the label they were on was. Penalty was owned and distributed by Tommy Boy who had many multi-platinum discs to their credit.

    Greta read even though I disagree with your opinion on the album.

    d.

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  5. The true beast on this one is Tragedy "Intelligent Hoodlum" Khadafi. Rips it.

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  6. This album is a classic. No. Question.

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  7. just to tell you that.. IRAQ = LEFRAK, QUEENS... aight, thats how its called

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  8. um...yeah, i already knew that, thanks.

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  9. i dunno what the fuuuck u guys sayin...its a dope album...definitelly a classic....anyone know fi theres an instrumental version of the album, i'm not askin for download details i jsut wnana know if it ever came out cuz i'm in love wioth the live on live long beat....that shits phat

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  10. AnonymousMay 07, 2008

    " The War Report is simply a thug rap album from New York, released at the pinnacle of the movement,"

    instrumental album would be nice...

    mr.childs...

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  11. The Nighttime VultureAugust 26, 2008

    WOW...my first trip to this site and this is my last read up Max, your taste is horrible lol.

    While you like some of the shit I like, the way you diss albums like this, H.N.I.C., murda Muzik is mind boggling. MAN YOU FLIPPIN SAID Soul On Ice is weak for goodness sake. LMAO! Theres a reason this shit is 75 bucks on sites like Amazon and not just because it was pulled off shelves.

    I conclude that you are either white, or just one of them elitists. If the latter is the answer, peace god. all entitled to our opinions, but as I leave, I want to say...........


    MOBB DEEP FOR LIFE!

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  12. okay i lied, i wont leave yet, i'm compelled to see what else you dont like.

    I mean Its Dark and Hell is Hot? GEEZ! This man doesnt even think Styles P & Mase bodied N.D.S.S.

    Ima check 5 more albums and I'm out.

    If you write anything bad about Hell on earth, the infamous, reasonable doubt, ironman or enta da stage (random selections), i may drop dead.

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  13. The vocal sample in "Illegal Life" says "live on".

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  14. I really need to know a Noreaga song, it was the last tune on the capone-n-noreaga mix tape by funkmaster flex, the lyrics start "im from l-e-f-r-ak c-i-t-y stay with a bag of the ly, around the way they call me poppi and call him ky"

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  15. I both disagree with your review and find it annoying. you seem more focussed on showcasing your eloquence rather than delivering a concise review. you write well, but I dont find you as entertaining as you seem to find yourself. this album IS a classic, but there's no accounting for taste.

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  16. That Rack Was a Freestyle On a lox Beat.

    Here u Go http://00bb0173.linkbucks.com

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  17. To me this album is a classic.

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  18. A classic? Are all of you people fucking kidding me? The production is the only standout here, and even then, it's not incredible.

    Capone and Noreaga are mediocre, tending towards bad rappers. They have nothing to say, and say it in a generic way to boot. WHAT WHAT

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  19. AnonymousMay 16, 2011

    all this album need is a couple of nice creative mcs instead of these dudes. tragedy is nice though.

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  20. Black Gangstas is a goddamn classic, what're you talking about?! Closer, however, is truly one of the worst songs I've ever heard. And BTW, when this was made, Capone was much better than Nore. Too bad he wasted his solo shot along with a fucking banging Marley Marl beat on a motherfucking sex rap. Truly a shame.

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  21. Nore ripped this album. He had his own unique style and flow and even though he uses words he doesn't completely know the meaning of, it works. Just when you think he's f****** up, he drops an ill word that rhymes and is dope

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