War Stories: Capone and Noreaga Speak On The Making Of ‘The War Report’
A hardcore rap masterpiece that still bangs 20 years later
As gangster-fied rap became the main commercial face of hip hop music in the late 1990s, selling a rapper’s street life was as crucial to selling music as his or her skills. Upping the ante on mafioso rap fantasies, famed Queens, NY duo Capone-N-Noreaga (C-N-N) would take the idea a step further. The electricity of their street life didn’t just extend to the rhymes but also the story behind the making of their landmark debut.
You never forget your first time hearing the intro to Capone-N-Noreaga’s 1997 LP The War Report. Over Charlamagne’s tense Royal Flush sample, Kiam Akasi Holley and Victor Santiago, Jr. take the toll of a bad day on the battlefields of Iraq and Kuwait. “Jake just rushed everybody,” the combatants lament, recounting the names of their captured brothers in arms. They soon resolve to “revolt this revolution… just start wildin’.” While they are the first to admit that “everybody ain’t ready for this,” they see themselves as the only two left, “the Last of the Mohicans.”
Even as The War Report garnered acclaim for Capone and Noreaga’s stand-out rhyme flows, the artists were earning extra street cred due to the issues they would face while completing the album. Little did they know when they began the project that Capone would soon go to jail for a parole violation, having only recorded a few of the album’s cuts. The situation compelled Noreaga to take the helm and complete the recording (with a strong assist from Tragedy Khadafi), n ot to mention handling much of the promotion of The War Report by himself. For future C-N-N fans, it was a tale of a hustler (Capone) fighting to overcome the odds and counting on the loyalty of a street comrade like Noreaga to hold him down.
C-N-N may not have been known by players at major music labels—N.O.R.E.’s Neptunes-produced smash “Superthug” wouldn’t be released until the following year—but they’d garnered enough hip hop credibility to get producers like Lord Finesse, DJ Clark Kent and Marley Marl to help craft the album—which came out on Penalty / Tommy Boy / Warner Bros.
This Saturday June 17 marks the 20th anniversary of The War Report‘s release. To mark the occasion we connected with Capone and N.O.R.E. on the same secure phone line. Here’s the tale of how Capone and Noreaga (later to become simply known as N.O.R.E) got it done.