Few groups in the history of rap have displayed the sense of unity Capone-N-Noreaga has. While most coteries enjoy the highs of success and part ways during the downslide, CNN never experienced such glory days as a group and to this day, show that their bond is thicker than water by remaining together. Unassumingly making an impact with 1997’s The War Report, the streets were represented by a manifesto of urban reality bites; shady drug dealers, ruthless theoretics and death all wrapped into a cinematic package that would soon carve out a legacy. Although there was a slight disclaimer. Seeing that Capone was incarcerated for much of the album’s recording process, Noreaga fundamentally created his debut, in turn, dramatically affecting the duo’s chemistry for future releases.
Looking to take it back for the first time, Capone-N-Noreaga embark on The War Report 2: Report The War. A decent album whose shortcomings are magnified in the long shadow cast by its predecessor.
Jumping right into it, the bulk of The War Report 2’s first half is a bonanza of vintage mid-90s Hip-Hop that harbors on the group’s nostalgic origins. In case you forgot their flagrant nature, “My Attribute” is a chilly anecdote to jog your memory like it’s running for its life. Setting the scene for pure street cinematography, Scram Jones laces “Bodega Stories” with a grim and illicit melody as CNN and the Lox trade a lifetime’s worth of corner store episodes. And it’s the spaced-out “Thug Planet” that rings the loudest with delinquent pride. Familiar accomplices Imam T.H.U.G. and Musaliny help govern the world of chaos like it was 1997 all over again.
But the inevitable comparisons to the first LP begin to stack up in favor of the glory days. After over a decade of unified insobriety, Capone-N-Noreaga haven’t quite evolved musically and frankly, some songs are just better than others. As executive producer, Raekwon (the transparent inspiration behind veteran rappers blowing the dust off their shelved sequels) keeps it gutter in comparing “Dutches V. Phillies V. Bamboo” but his contributions on “The Reserves” and the dull Firm redux “The Oath” are less than memorable. A senseless track like “Scarface” which spends three minutes bellowing “Scarface flippin’/Scarface money/Get your face scarred playing Scarface dummy” over sporadic drums and bells sounds like the duo are forcing the issue instead of displaying the unnerving realism in deference to the original. Even generals sometimes lose their soldier skills after years on the battlefield.
With The War Report 2, the hood favorites make an honest attempt of trying to command the front lines once again. But if anything, its broadcast will tempt the troops to scroll up one album selection on the iPod and reminisce when CNN was truly at the top of New York.