In this first installment of “F*ck that I’m Bringing ’96 Back” we take a look at the last real hip hop album from New York, The War Report. Peep game.
The year was 1997, hip hop was beginning the shiny suit era, and closing the gates on the golden age. Puff Daddy, Ma$e, and the Bad Boy sound were about to commercialize the hell out of the once shunned genre, but not without a fight from the underground street duo known as Capone-N-Noreaga.
Keep in mind during this time, street hop was filled with rappers with Mafioso nicknames and over glorified tales cribbed from the movie Scarface. What CNN brought back was hardcore street rap, which was a natural continuation of fellow Queen’s artist such as Kool G Rap and Mobb Deep.
Backed by some of the best production hip hop has ever heard, courtesy of Havoc, Charlemagne, EZ Elpee, Tragedy Khadafi, Buckwild, Lord Finesse, Marley Marl, and DJ Clark Kent. The album spun tales of drug deals gone good and bad, the ills of street life, brotherhood and the consequences of jail. In fact, for half of the album, Capone doesn’t appear on any songs as he was sent back to prison for a parole violation. He does, however, appear in interludes where he is calling in from jail -which has since popularized the “jailhouse call” on everyone’s mixtape and album.
Leaving Noreaga to hold down the majority of tape turned out to not be such a bad idea. Keep in mind, this was Nore before all the Superthug fame and the subsequent string of Neptune hits. He was a much different rapper in those days than he is now. His voice had a higher pitch, he had one of those off beat flows that some how sounds like it fits, and he had the mind state of kid gone wrong trying to roll the dice to change things for the better. He was aggressive, yet still humorous. In fact, he is one of the first rappers I can recall that popularized the “funny adlib” that rappers today such as Jim Jones and Jeezy emulate.
Aside from Nore’s charisma and authentic street cred, the album was also held down by rapper, Tragedy Khadafi, who appears on seven of the fifteen album cuts. Tragedy whose previous work consisted of political commentary rap filtered through Five-Percenter rhetoric was likely the reason the album contained so many Islamic references. It would actually be surprising today if a major record label released an album full of common Muslim greetings (i.e Allahu Akbar, Inshalla) in this anti-Islam environment. Even Noreaga, who has since abandoned the Islamic references in his rhymes, says “Muslims keep Islam safe” in the brotherhood anthem Live on Live Long.
For all those that remember this great body of work, re-listening to this album, some 10 years later, brings back so many good memories. Days filled with chilling on the block, rolling up something, drinking Old-E (can’t believe I drank that), dealing, chest boxing, freestylen’ in the park, and ducking police. This wasn’t only an album, this was our War Report, and a must listen for any student of Hip Hop.
Blood Money, Driver’s Seat, Stick You, Parole Violators, Iraq (See the World), Live on Live Long, Neva Die Alone, T.O.N.Y. (Top of New York), Halfway Thugs, L.A. L.A. (Kuwait Mix), Illegal Life, Black Gangstas, Closer.