Capone-N-Noreaga Capone-N-NoreagaThe War Report 2: Report The War
Fed up or motivated by their fans’ chronic request for a second part of “The War Report”, which shook the foundations of New York rap at the end of the 90s, Capone-N-Noreaga have carried out the plan that Nas has refused to put into practice with “Illmatic” for sixteen years now: using popular pressure as an incentive for an artistic shake-up to overcome a prolonged creative slump. The premise is simple: if the streets ask for something specific, which is nothing other than the reclaiming of the sound of the debut (and even of some of its star players), and this formula helps you to reappear with your best recording in a decade, then what’s the problem? Let’s look, for example, at Raekwon, who validated this trend with his second part of “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” and went to the top of all the lists of the best albums of the year, with an irreproachable retro perfume and revivalist essence that became, in turn, his most consistent, regular album in the ten years of his career. Everybody’s happy, and nobody loses.
The case of CNN is very similar to that of Raekwon. Neither the weak “Channel 10” nor even “The Reunion”, their two albums as a group between the publication of the two volumes of “The War Report”, had managed to even give the debut album a run for its money; it was the peak in the explosion of the Queensbridge sound organised by the gangsta conclave made up of Mobb Deep, Nas, AZ and Cormega. It was a rock, an overwhelming mixture of fat beats, dramatic loops, street references and, of course, the hymn “L.A., L.A.”, which helped to lit the definitive match to set off the war between the Coasts. Marley Marl, Buckwild, Lord Finesse or Clark Kent took on the role of musical directors of a radicalised album, with eternal emotional resonances that easily made up for the authors’ lack of skill as rappers, street rats hardened by the culture of violence without shine in the use of language, metaphors, and plays on words. Without going any further, Capone was jailed during its recording, so he appears on fewer occasions than his partner, and it didn’t seem to matter to anybody.
After that, the fall. Noreaga was lucky and skilful enough to start a solo career that, with the support of The Neptunes and Swizz Beats gave him solid financial profits, thanks to “N.O.R.E.” or “God’s Favourite”, which I would say are the only two launches of his career that were up to snuff, but as a band, CNN has stayed so far on the back burner that it needed a shot in the arm to get back into the game. “The War Report 2” can’t compete with its predecessor, and in a thorough comparison between the two, it loses relatively clearly, but that’s not its battle, either. Its mission, which it more than satisfies, focuses on three main aspirations. The first aspiration is to take the pulse of this sound characteristic of the area of Queensbridge and pass it through an up-to-date, coherent filter. To do this, they call on The Alchemist, Scram Jones, Green Lantern, Neo The Matrix, SPK and, as a nod to retro, Buckwild. The coordinates are those expected and desired: a return to hard rap, samples of strings, the dramatic tone and basic principles of that current, with a clearly 90s inspiration. Second: to revive the group’s career, which has leaned in recent years towards supporting a more commercial, accessible sound discourse, with too much electronic beat and too much poorly-developed southern influence; they needed to get back the credibility on the streets that they had lost. Three: they want to join in the vindication of purebred New York hip hop. The announcement of the return of Big Apple rap as we have known it has been a subject up for debate and commentary for the last five years, but in recent months, thanks to the appearance of Roc Marciano’s debut album, this protectionist, hopeful consciousness has been raised to stay.
And in these three areas, “The War Report 2” came out better than expected. Even the clear and explicit attempts at a single, like “Hood Pride”, with the collaboration of Faith Evans, sound credible, well greased in the street machinery of the work as a whole. And the collection of guest stars also adds its grain of sand to consolidating the triumph: Raekwon (on three accounts, he’s also the project’s godfather and the owner of the record label that’s putting it out), Busta Rhymes, The Lox or Nas, featured in one of the album’s highlights, in the company of Buckwild, who can never be pondered enough—these are all prestigious names that help to favour this return to the essence, and recovery of lost credibility. You can tell that they’re all excited and motivated by the idea of participating in the project, it’s not a question of features to fatten up their monthly billing. With all of these incentives, the leading duo’s lyrical contents are almost the least of it all. Noreaga said it some years ago: “I ain’t never gonna be a great writer… but I know how to make gangsta music.” And that’s the heart of the matter. This compilation of common places, stereotypes, funny stories, bad habits and tricks wouldn’t work for documenting a thesis or an essay about the art of lyrical creation in hip hop, but it would work perfectly if we were planning to put out a detailed chronicle of East Coast gangsta rap. Aware of their limitations, Capone and Noreaga have chosen to reinforce the sound aspect to the utmost and make sure of hitting the spot, which is what it’s all about when it comes to the delicate job of putting together such a long-awaited sequel. An excellent play. David BrocCapone-N-Noreaga -- With Me ft. Nas (The War Report 2)