The Underrated: Capone-N-Noreaga- The War Report

By @CherchezLaPorsh 

1. Intro
2. Blood Money
3. Driver's Seat
4. Stick You
5. Parole Violators
6. Iraq (See the World)
7. Live On Live Long
8. Neva Die Alone
9. T.O.N.Y. (Top of New York)
10. Channel 10
11. Capone Phone Home (interlude)
12. Stay Tuned (interlude)
13. Capone Bone
14. Halfway Thugs
15. L.A., L.A. (Kuwait mix by Marley Marl)
16. Capone -N- Noreaga Live (interlude)
17. Illegal Life
18. Black Gangstas
19. Closer
20. Capone Phone Home 

Does anyone remember the often ignored page in The Source called “unsigned hype”? Go back to 1995. For those who actually read that column, lucky you, because it was there that Capone and Noreaga were first mentioned. For those of us who ignored that section of the magazine, not to worry because 1997 was when the two would join forces once again to create their cleverly titled debut album "The War Report". As I’m sure most people are aware, Capone was arrested and in jail for the majority of the recording and was also not around for the release. I think this adds to the greatness because even with half the duo missing, the album was executed really well and I guess we have Tragedy Khadafi to thank for that as the unofficial 3rd member.

“Bloody Money” is a song I have a deep appreciation for in general, and I think it sets the tone for the entire album and is what makes it cohesive. This was the best track to start with. Remember I said the album title was so clever right? Well the titles are even cohesive with ”war report” and “bloody money” coupled with the lyrics, it sets the groundwork for what to expect. Essentially what is happening here is a pretty impressive comparison. Capone-N-Noreaga are comparing Queens, NY to a war zone (Iraq to be more specific) and are highlighting whatever they can so the listener “sees” the validity. Although Capone isn’t on this track, I think the point was made and the lyrics support it:

"CNN war report/
Spread across New York/
Guard him Indian style - knees bent/ militant/
Yo the world know Noreaga from Iraq/
Beef with me serious, keep it real, that's that/"

While I think this track was a good one production-wise and lyrically, the ONLY thing about it that doesn’t work in its favor is the exhaustion of adlibs at the end. We could have done without but again, there is a wisdom there I’m sure. After all what is a “report” without talking.

So now that we know we’re in a Iraq-like war zone, let's look at the following track. “Drivers Seat”, I have a love-hate thing with this one. The beats are great, I love Noreaga’s flow and his voice and intonations. It’s just so pleasant to listen to, but I also like Imam Thug as a feature, he's very complimentary. However,  as much as I like the track as a whole, what I don’t like is that Busta was suppose to be on this track and although he initially had a verse, it was cut out (label issues I guess). They did keep him on the tail end of the track, so we do get a glimmer of Busta in the background, but personally I would have LOVED to hear more of him. I think it would have added an edge. Regardless...the “report” must go on.

FINALLY! Capone makes his first track appearance on “Stick You” . Here’s what I like about Capone and Noreaga: they put conversations on wax and I always pay attention to what they say as if I’m there or in a conference call (I also appreciated this in the Animal Thug interlude on the N.O.R.E. album), but we hear this for over a minute. Some will say it’s unnecessary and long, but I find it sets up the song. The intro conversation is a dope precursor “They ain't gonna expect it, we gonna move, it's raining son, they ain't gonna expect it right now” and yeah, they’re definitely talking about sticking someone. Tragedy Khadafi (the unofficial 3rd member) is great, and I think they feed off each other well on this track and I also love hearing Capone. His flow is something between Khadafi and Nore, and the three of them keep the whole “Queens/Iraq” image going. The song is a bit intense as they mention Iraq, bombs, detonation, several Islamic references, gun violence.... you get the point. Here let me point out a few:

Tragedy Khadafi:
“Since we here, we might as well get all of it, Inshallah Allahu Akbar supporter/
CNN, desert men supreme order(word)/”

“Me and shorty from the Mecca, having a session/
Play the Shark Bar, sipping on French connection/"

“Inshallah, we flee the spot mega far/
Jump up in Willy's car, and scream "Alhumdu Allah!/"

This is definitely intense and I love the hook as well, so I think it’s great. It’s the rugged, hardcore edge we looked for and it didn’t disappoint.

We’re about a quarter of the way through this album when we hear “Parole Violators”. Again, great song because Havoc is featured on here, but greatness is always limited, so we only get him on the chorus. It’s also the shortest song on the entire album. The listeners lose out in every way. I love the Mobb Deep style beat on this track. I don’t know what it is about Havoc’s voice, but when he raps, regardless of what he’s saying, it just sounds so smooth and engaging. The only other thing I would have liked to see is more Havoc presence on this track.

This next track kinda makes me chuckle at the irony for a couple reasons:

1) It’s the longest song on the entire album and there’s a bunch of people I’ve had never heard personally before as features.
2) It’s called Iraq! It’s very inline with the intended point of this entire album and catches your attention in that way incase you forgot, but it's funny nevertheless.

I love that Noreaga is on the chorus, I think his voice was perfect to have in between the featured artists. I have to be honest though, even though I had never heard of them before, I do like all these guys and I think they did well with lyrics and word look:

“Bad guys and black whips left the scene rowdy/
Air cloudy, a bunch of smoke flow astoundly/
New assembly, new identity, remember me/
Keep remedy for the poison of my enemy..”

“The streets got me thinkin bout my man's passin/
Stashin, the lex with a passion, gotta make it happen/
The block steamin' and 12 K the cops schemin/
Security be on my back for wrong reason/”

I only gave you snippets of two verses, but I love when rappers throw together words like “rowdy” “cloudy” “astoundly” or “passin” “stashin”, “passion” “steamin”, “schemin”, it’s fun, it works and it flows and of course they make it sound great.

Not even halfway through the album and this wins over my heart, right here, with “Live On Live Long”, this is the reason I love Capone and Noreaga as a duo and in general. So, as we all know Capone was in jail during the large part of the recording of this album and of course Nore dedicates an entire track to Capone. My heart melts when I hear this track.  He starts it “C.N.N. live long. Live on word up. Check it. Dedicated know what I'm sayin'"? The essence of friendship especially for these two. Look at how he talks to "Pone"...

"Yo Pone I know you left and goin up creek soon/
You know my address God write me letters keep me in tune/
I still remember when we first met..."

and then the chorus:

"So if ya heart stop beatin', I'll go back in time/
Make your heartbeat again/
Real niggas till the end/
We try to succeed/
nigga smoke weed/
To real niggas that could relate it/"

What does it for me is the chorus, and this makes me want to go and get Capone outta jail myself just so these two can get back to their CNN shenanigans. There is not one bad thing I can say about this song. I appreciate that Nore opens up like this. This is the one track I get to and I repeat 5 times before I continue on. Such a gem!

How dope is it that after the dedicated track to Capone he's on the next two tracks. (See why I appreciate song placement so much) And just after Nore pulls on my heartstrings and makes me miss Capone, he makes consecutive appearances on the next two tracks "Neva Die Alone" and "T.O.N.Y", and of course both these songs are dope. We get right back to the essence of the album with more warfare imagery. Both these songs are great however, "T.O.N.Y" gained more commercial success and is easily a fan favorite.

Let's jump a couple tracks to "Capone Bone", this song only has Capone on it and although I know it leaves itself wide open to criticism, some of us really appreciate it. Why? Because it's a full length song with only Capone. I like Capone's flow and delivery and although I don't connect to the lyrics, I don't mind. I just like his presence and I appreciate the effort. For everything that was going on personally for him, I love that he was able to record a solo joint for this. I think it was necessary for both himself and for the entirety of the album and I'm glad they kept it on.

This next one is probably my favorite, if not my second favorite on the album. "Halfway Thugs", I wonder if anyone even knows who produced this? And even if you do know, I wonder if anyone appreciates the absolute brilliance this guy brings to songs. Produced by Charlemagne, this guy has the touch of gold, because I can't get enough of the beat and the way this whole song just plays out. Kind of a play on the "halfway crooks" lyric on Mobb Deep's "Shook Ones Pt. 2", this was cleverly titled Halfway Thugs and allegedly took stabs at Prodigy.

He also makes references to the "16th letter" which would be "P" in the alphabet, but I'm not here to decipher codes. What I do like is the entire track is a well executed diss track. Going at Prodigy, with the track as a spin off of a Mobb Deep lyric, using a very Mobb Deep type beat AND lacing the song with "sting worthy" lines (if it was in fact a diss) was brilliant. For those who doubt Noreaga's lyrical ability I hope they reconsider, as he nailed this one and I thank the Hip hop gods for Charlemagne, because this song is amazing.

Here is an immense amount of irony because the very next song features Prodigy (that's why I have doubts the diss was about P). Anyways, I have to mention "L.A, L.A"  for one special reason.

1) This beat is similar to the same one used by BIG for "Long Kiss Goodnight" and because Marley Marl was on production, it's destined to be great. The song is basically a reply to Snoop's "New York, New York" so I like all the references to the west vs. The east. This song was also a single and did rather well commercially.

There are just a few more tracks that remain after this one and that's "Illegal Life", "Black Gangstas", and "Closer". As expected, these are all dope tracks. Dark sounding beats, we see Havoc one more (short) time, Khadafi makes his last appearance on a hook and "The War Report" closes out with the appropriately titled track "Closer" that ends with Noreaga by himself accompanied by an R&B vocal. Great way to bring it together and end the "report".

So here we have it, '97's greatest duo album. I truly believe that this year was perfect for hi phop to get this, and there weren't many duo albums that year, so they got a perfectly set stage to make their entrance. This is the album that introduced us heavily to Tragedy Khadafi and he didn't disappoint. I think given the utter drama that was going on personally for Capone, his presence was appreciated. Of course we would've loved more, but I'll take what I can get. These two are pretty dope and I just love them as a team. This album was amazing and I love it just as much as I did in 1997.



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