September 8, 2010

Two Reader Gut Reactions: Capone-N-Noreaga - The War Report 2: Report The War (July 13, 2010)

(For today's Reader Review, I'm trying something different. Both Rex and The Professor (who keeps his own blog, Represent Real Hip Hop: you can check it out by clicking here) sent over Gut Reactions for Capone-N-Noreaga's The War Report 2: Report The War, and instead of running them back to back, I decided to save space and combine them. I don't think I'll do this all that often, but I figured you two may be interested in a point-counterpoint between two of your own (although I have to note that neither of these guys ever spoke with each other, which is why this is more disjointed than I would like). Rex starts things off with the intro, while The Professor starts to chime in during the actual track-by-track analysis with his short takes. Leave some comments for both of them below.)

Hip-Hop has been blessed by plenty of duos that complemented each other so well that their combined output always seems to transcend their individual work. Duos such as Eric B. & Rakim, Gang Starr, Kool G Rap and DJ Polo, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Organized Konfusion, Mobb Deep, Tha Dogg Pound, Method Man and Redman, OutKast, EPMD and Capone-N-Noreaga. Some of these acts have always been together. Some haven't collaborated in over a while. Some have broken up and have since reunited. What remains consistent is that all of these artists have never reached the heights of critical (and sometimes commercial) success that they have when they are collaborating.

Case in point: Capone-N-Noreaga. These two have always been tight, but that hasn't stopped them from getting progressively worse ever since their classic debut, The War Report, dropped. After selling five hundred thousand units with virtually no radio airplay and helping Noreaga become a star, the members of CNN were set to benefit from successful solo careers. Unfortunately for them, Capone couldn't stay out of jail, so Noreaga had to hold it down on his own, releasing solo projects which ranged wildly from enjoyable to mediocre at best.

For the purpose of this review, I'm skipping ahead to Capone-N-Noreaga's fourth album, The War Report 2: Report The War. They released two projects in between, but they're obviously hoping that fans have forgotten about them (which we have, since they weren't very good). Hoping to capture lightning in a bottle twice, both C and N crafted a direct sequel to their debut, with the main difference being that Capone managed to stay out of jail during the recording process, so he actually appears on every track this time around.

REX: This was a very good start. There's no real rap album intro bullshit to sit through, just some sampled dialogue that helps set the tone, after which both Capone and Noreaga go in over some somber Alchemist production work. Both of them come strong and place a lot of emotion in their vocals about fallen brothers in the streets and their pain. Powerful track and shows their depth and versatility.
THE PROFESSOR: Well, after that long-ass intro (I left this in because I thought it was funny that what one person thinks isn't your typical “rap album intro bullshit” is the next guy's “long-ass intro”), we get straight to business. Noreaga kicks the song off with a flow similar to his older self from The War Report, while Capone sounds like an entirely different person. The chorus is decent enough, and the instrumental wasn't bad. Overall, this was a very good sign of things to come.

R: Scram Jones brings in a very nice beat that giving The Lox and CNN ample room to wax poetically about...well, the bodega, I suppose. That would help the song's title make sense, anyway. The track worked pretty well, but the chorus was pretty bad.
P: I was kind of surprised to see The Lox appearing on here. All three of the guests do okay (Sheek Louch sounds especially interesting over this Scram Jones beat), but Capone and Noreaga also sound fairly decent. The hook was even manageable. All in all, this song was alright.

R: This was another good beat from Scram Jones, but it draws attention to the poor job that was done sequencing this album, as this track sounds way too much like “Bodega Stories” (which was produced by the same guy). Both Capone and Nore comes across as lazy-sounding, and the title means nothing within the context of the song, save for on the chorus, which isn't alluded to at all in the verses themselves. Although he sounds very sleepy, guest star Raekwon truly destroys the track.
P: This sounded like a leftover from Rae's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Part II. Which means that it was good, but not all that great.

R: I had never heard of the producer Dreddy K. Amarae, but he brought some real heat on here. Capone and Noreaga don't say anything interesting, but the track still sounded, great and, just as importantly, they sound great over it.
P: This song was annoying as fuck. I liked the beat, though.

R: This was produced by resident Ice Water producer BT (who crafted some hot shit on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Part II), who provides some chipmunk soul that sounds pretty good, which is a big deal for me, as I usually find chipmunk soul to be annoying. The rhymes are made up of your typical gangsta thug shit; it isn't atrocious or special in any way, it just is. It has become very apparent that, unless these two have a specific concept to write about, they truly live or die by the beat they rap over.
P: This beat was also annoying, but Noreaga sounded good on here. Capone, however, simply sounded out of his element.

R: “Hood Pride” was released as the first single from The War Report 2: Report The War, and for good reason, as this song is actually good. Swizz Beatz protegee Neo Da Matrix (what an awful name) provides a teriffic beat, Faith Evans provides some great vocals, and both Capone and Nore talk about how the hood raised them and all that (you know, the same stuff gangsta rappers from New York have been talking about since forever).
P: Now this is more like it. I hadn't heard from Faith Evans in a while, but she sounds good on here. This is the best song on The War Report 2: Report The War thus far.

R: A short and sweet track. It features both a great chorus from Rae and a great beat by Tha Bizness, and both Capone and Nore sound inspired. This was the best song yet.
P: Don't get too excited: Raekwon only has chorus duty on here. Capone and Noreaga also sound uninspired. This was pretty shitty.
(At this point I have to laugh, because I know that these two are listening to the same album, but their opinions are so far removed from each other, I don't even thing these two are on the same planet.)

R: Diggin' In The Crates resident producer Buckwild brings a nice, if a bit boring, beat for Nas and CNN to rap emphatically about snitching and standing up for your fellow soldiers. They all sound great, but Nas does his usual shit, ethering Capone and Nore in the process. Two great tracks in a row. Also, I'm surprised that there haven't been any awful songs so far.
P: Pretty rough Beat on here. Noreaga sounds like his old The War Report self, and God's Son does his thing. (Capone merely sounds okay.) This would have been a fantastic song if the chorus didn't suck so much. Toward the end of track, there's a brief skit involving a letter to Tragedy Khadafi, a friend of CNN who is currently serving time in prison, and that leads into...

R: I don't know much of SPK's work, but he arrives with a beat that lives up to the original classic track. Unlike last time, when Noreaga was talking about Capone while he was locked up, this track features both C and N rhyming about Tragedy Khadafi, who basically played the role of missing third member on The War Report, making as many appearances as Capone did (well, he actually put in more work than Capone when you could all of his production credits). It was interesting to hear how big a role Tragedy plays in their lives. That's three great songs in a row.
P: This song, a sequel to a track that originally appeared on The War Report, was pretty good as a dedication to Tragedy Khadafi. It sounds incomplete, but it's still worth a listen.

R: Awful producer name aside, Hazardis Soundz provides a nice cinematic beat, and each artist recites an oath (hence the title) in a different language before rapping about some random mafia stuff. The concept wasn't bad, and Capone and Nore sound decent enough, but once again, the guests are running shit. That's four in a row.
P: After a long-ass intro, we get down to business, with each artist taking an oath. The instrumental is pretty tight, and everything runs smoothly, at least until Busta Rhymes fucks everything up.

R: An uplifting beat from Kyze puts CNN into the right mood to rhyme about how they met and how they decided to get into the rap game. This was one of those songs that only a musical duo with real love for each other could record, and the emotion in their voices even help strengthen the lyrics. I found the chorus to be a bit disappointing, though. Otherwise, there have now been five great songs in a row. Seriously.
P: “Brother From Another” is about the duo outside of the music business. I found this to be pretty touching.

R: This “Planet Rock”-inspired song has a vicious beat. On here, Imam T.H.U.G. and Musaliny connect with Capone and Noreaga for the first time since The War Report. While the chorus is terrible, it does make you want to stomp the shit out of someone, so I suppose it kind of worked. Each rapper also holds their own (for the most part), so this track just bangs in general. That's six great tracks in a row. That's almost unheard of these days.
P: I liked this track because of its purposely-1990s vibe. Another good track.

R: Contains one of the more high-energy beats on The War Report 2: Report The War. However, the beat was at a higher difficulty setting than either Capone or Noreaga know what to do with. I take that back: Nore does what he can, but Capone sounds awkward as hell. This would have been a much better fit for a much better rapper (like, oh, let's just say Ghostface Killah).
P: Max's favorite word: Meh.

R: M3 comes with a really interesting beat, one that sounds both militant and somber at once. I really liked the singing by Avery Storm on the hook, too. Both Capone and Noreaga sound good enough, if unspectacular: that's one of the more consistent traits on the album.
P: It's halfway decent. But I won't give it a pass.

R: After looking at the title of the track, DJ Green Lantern (the Evil Genius) brings a very appropriate beat, breaking out the organs and everything. This was hardly a song at all: both men begin their verses with long introductions, in which they get emotional about all of the friends and family members they've seen pass away over the years, and then they each fire off some quick verses. They also hand out praise to some of their fallen comrades in hip hop. This was a nice way to end the album, but you won't want to listen to this track more than once. You could say that Capone and Noreaga wasted the instrumental, but it's hard to be critical when they are mourning the dead.
P: This was a decent way to end an album.

(Capone and Noreaga had previously announced that there would be a track entitled “T.O.N.Y. Part 2” on The War Report 2: Report The War, but it failed to make the final cut, so who knows if it ever existed in the first place.)

R: I have to say that I was very impressed with The War Report 2: Report The War. Capone and Noreaga have banged out an album that both rivals their classic debut and accompanies it quite well. Both projects tread the same territories: snitching, brotherly love, their hood, death, women, alcohol, weed, organized crime, murder, and the like, but these two have managed to do so over some very good musical selections, with a startling chemistry few duos or groups have ever managed to muster even in their finest moments. You could even argue that this sequel is a more complete product than the original, as Capone and Noreaga share every track, and they have less guests this time around. The War Report 2: Report The War is also just the right size. sixty-two minutes with no (real) skits. There isn't a weak beat on the entire album, and nearly every guest makes a strong appearance (except for Musalini, who kind of sucks). Aside from the part where two Scram Jones productions played back-to-back, even the sequencing on here was well though-out. (You shouldn't ever listen to tracks two and three together, as they sound far too similar and it actually detracts from both of them when you do.) I highly recommend a purchase. While you're at it, you should pick up The War Report as well, as you won't be disappointed. However, if you hate albums that glorify violence, drug use, liquor, the mob, and the degradation of women, then you just wasted your time reading this review.
P: The War Report 2: Report The War is a pretty decent album, although some of the songs clashed with one another. Noreaga sounded like a rejuvenated rookie artist at times, which was a nice change of pace. I'm surprised that Capone and Noreaga actually took it back to the streets as they promised, as opposed to going the mainstream route (although it does sometimes steer into that territory). While it was one of the better albums I've listened to all summer, you still shouldn't rush out and buy it: a burn will suffice. It isn't consistent enough for me to recommend a purchase.

- Rex & The Professor

(Yeah, I know, that was weird, kind of awkward, and I probably won't do that again. Let me know what you think of both the album and the format by leaving some comments below.)


  1. Cliff Da ClimbtronSeptember 08, 2010

    Love the format. Do this as often as possible. Album was okay but far from classic.

  2. "However, if you hate albums that glorify violence, drug use, liquor, the mob, and the degradation of women, then you just wasted your time reading this review."

    Or listening to this genre of music in general.

  3. The Professor should get shot for his contribution. Just saying "Meh" and "Decent" is not reviewing but merely acknowledging songs.

    The layout on the other hand was actually pretty good. Probably should do this more.

  4. Rex & The Professor: The Good cop-Bad cop team of 2010!

  5. I find this format rather annoying, really. Kind of like listening to a schizofrenic person. I suggest you split 'em up after all. (Yeah, I know I shouldn't tell you what to do on your own blog but you kinda asked for it... literally)

  6. djbosscrewwreckaSeptember 09, 2010

    This is a great format that gives a nice balance of opinion to reviews. It would be better if both reviewers made the same amount of comments though - I wanna know why something is good, average or bad, not just that someone thinks it's good, average or bad.
    I thought this album was gonna be a weak follow up to the original, but I'm gonna check it out now on the basis of reading this.

  7. It was pretty funny reading two opposing reviews for the same shit...I think it depends on the level of album thought, b/c if you did this for Illmatic it would just be too long. But for shit like this it is pretty entertaining

  8. It has it's moments. It isn't very cohesive though. Perhaps you should publish the reviews seperately first and then put 'em together. That might be a good idea for say "the Black album".

  9. Btw, @ Max, have you ever listened to 50 Cent's shelved "Power of the Dollar" album? Regardless if you like it, it would make a fine addition to your "Unreleased" section which hasn't been updated in a while.

  10. i like this idea but i think it would work better if the two reviewers had totally opposite opinions on the album. you know, one dude loves it and one dude hates it

  11. also who else read the professors parts in a british accent? anyone?

  12. This format was funny. I think rex was coked out of his mind when he said the reserves song was hot. But anyway, I like the review.

    Peace Max

  13. This format was funny. I found Rex Review poor, because this album wasn't all that good. Some parts on my review didnt make sense. i know ppl. But anyway, thanks Max for posting this on your blogspot. Make sure you go to my blogspot. I haven't been on there for a while, but still. Check itout

  14. I enjoyed the format. But I was wondering, did "The Professor" really provide that little commentary or was he edited down because he said the same thing as "Rex"? Because if so maybe there could be a "they both said" part first, then the differences after. If this was the case (that they said made similar comments) it gave the impression that "Rex" dominated the review more.

  15. I do edit these reviews down, but I don't remove entire paragraphs to make it appear as though one of the authors didn't say anything. Rex didn't dominate the review: he just had more to say.

  16. I'm with Protoman that two people who had two compeltely different takes could do an album, in a Dan Aykroyd/Jane Curtin vintage SNL type style (or Even Stevphen), but that'd take some pre-planning and also might be more for entertainment than an honest review from the two people.

  17. the professor is kind of a dick for commenting on rex being coked out when he put in more work on the review...kind of a low blow

  18. fantastic review.

  19. I know my review was short. But on the next one, it's going to be long. I promiss

  20. "Kind of like listening to a schizophrenic person."


  21. I'm pretty sure Dreddy K. Amarae is Dreddy Krueger, the Wu-Tang related producer.