Capone-N-Noreaga Interview: Channel 10

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by Alex Shtaerman

Hailing from the Queens, New York projects of Queensbridge and Lefrak City respectively, Capone-N-Noreaga first burst onto the national stage in 1996 with the release of the landmark single “L.A., L.A.”. At a time when many New York artists found themselves embroiled in a vicious feud that pitted East against West in a Hip-Hop war of coasts, “L.A., L.A.” represented a pivotal turning point as the song offered a reply to Tha Dogg Pound’s brazen diss track “New York, New York”. “L.A., L.A.” would quickly become a rallying cry for hoards of NYC fans long hungry for lyrical retribution and Capone-N-Noreaga, aka CNN, would be catapulted from near obscurity directly into the spotlight. At a time when West Coast artists dominated the charts and most MCs in New York seemed reluctant to stray past subliminal jabs in the face of overt attacks, Capone-N-Noreaga finally stood up for all of the five boroughs. It was a turbulent and tragic time, but if you were a Hip-Hop head in New York City in 1996, you’ll likely always remember how and why you heard of CNN.

1997 would see the release of Capone-N-Noreaga’s critically acclaimed debut LP, The War Report. Featuring vivid street-heavy rhymes and groundbreaking production, The War Reportwas instantly embraced by fans and has since come to be overwhelmingly regarded as a Hip-Hop classic. Capone, however, would be unable to see the album to its completion, as the MC was sent to prison following a parole violation. In 2000, following the release of two solo albums by Nore, CNN would return to drop The Reunion; however, soon after the album was recorded Capone would once again be sent back to prison on a gun charge. While Nore continued to advance a flourishing solo career, CNN’s unwavering cult status made the release of a third group project imminent, although as some would point out, the long awaited LP has arrived following a notable delay.

On March 17th, 2009, CNN’s official third album, Channel 10, debuted to fans around the globe. Featuring production from DJ Premier, Alchemist and Havoc as well as guest appearances from the likes of Mobb Deep and The Clipse, Channel 10 represents a welcome breath of fresh air in the carbon monoxide filled garage of today’s rap music. If you already heard the Preemo laced “Grand Royal”, you know what time it is. On the eve of Channel 10’s release caught up with CNN back in New York fresh off their European tour to talk some Hip-Hop. Grab your remote control and tune in.

RIOTSOUND.COM: For anybody that doesn’t know, how did ya’ll get into Hip-Hop and what were you doing prior to rapping?

CAPONE: I used to do what everybody else used to do, man. [Go out] in the streets and get money the best way I can. But at the end of the day, you know, I was fortunate to be from a projects called Queensbridge where we had a lot of artists that was coming out and that had made waves. So, I bumped into Tragedy Khadafi – [who used to go by the name] Intelligent Hoodlum – and we made some moves. But before that I was in jail and I met up with Nore, we was young but we wasn’t thinking about rapping. But then after I came home we made CNN happen and the next thing you know we recorded an album called The War Report and then we made history.

RIOTSOUND.COM: When CNN first debuted there was a very toxic atmosphere at play in Hip-Hop with the East Coast and West Coast feud brewing out of control. CNN made a historic mark on that feud when you broke onto the scene with “L.A., L.A.”. How did that track originally come together?

CAPONE: The track basically came together as we was doing a mixtape for Bad Boy [Records]. At that time it was the East / West Coast beef and we wanted to do a track, you know, to make some noise. And we did “L.A., L.A.” and Puff didn’t want to use [the song] for respectable reasons, so we decided to put it out ourselves. And with the help of Stretch Armstrong, shout out – we did it ourselves and our little ten thousand dollar video made it happen.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What can the fans expect when they go cop Channel 10, and also, why have we had to wait so long for a new CNN record, the fans have definitely been hungry for a long time?

CAPONE: Yea, I mean, it’s politics, with the changes of Def Jam [Records] presidents and leaders, the people that signed us originally when we were on Def Jam, you know, they wasn’t there. So the atmosphere changed and from there a few other things happened but at the end of the day we got back together for the sake of the fans and for the sake of making good music and ‘cause we basically missed each other, you dig.

NORE: On this record we really are just bringing it back to the essence of what we really thought is Hip-Hop and what we really want Hip-Hop to be and what we remember Hip-Hop as, and we went about it that way. I just want the fans to expect greatness, you know what I mean.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Would you say that on Channel 10 you tried to stay true to the trademark CNN formula and sound, or did you also experiment creatively and go in other directions?

NORE: I think it’s a little bit of both, man. Of course we’re sticking to that original formula but at the same time we’re gonna explore a little bit because it’s only right to do such a thing. Like, I don’t think that you should stay in one box for too long; I think that you should always be able to do other things.

RIOTSOUND.COM: On your second LP together, The Reunion, one of the special things on that album is that ya’ll did a track with DJ Premier, which was something the fans really wanted to see. Do you have any special features or guest appearances on Channel 10 you’d like to mention?

NORE: Yea, definitely. We got another track with Premier, we got Mobb Deep on the album, we got Uncle Murda, Maino, Clipse, Dogg Pound. So it’s basically the same thing, we’re just trying to keep it real G’d up.

RIOTSOUND.COM: CNN just got off a European tour where you hit countries like France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Poland, Denmark and Italy. How would you characterize the fans overseas as opposed to the US?

NORE: I can’t lie, as sad as it is, Europe is like definitely – I mean, they still write graffiti on the walls, they still breakdance. So as far as Hip-Hop goes, it’s definitely a big Hip-Hop scene out there that I’m very impressed by.

CAPONE: I feel like the same way because we just got off the European tour and I ain’t gonna front man, I felt like I was Big Daddy Kane or somebody, that’s how much love I got. I felt it like when Hip-Hop was that way here. It’s different, one thing is when you go to a show and they go crazy over your singles, but it’s different when they get hype to your singles but they go crazy over your album cuts. You know what I’m saying, that’s Hip-Hop.

RIOTSOUND.COM: The two of you have maintained a positive relationship for well over a decade but through it there were long periods where you weren’t working together. Capone was incarcerated for some time and Nore was doing a lot of solo projects. A lot of people would say that being in the music industry it would be hard to maintain a friendship and a good relationship under those circumstances.

CAPONE: Let me ask you a question bro, are you an only child, you got a brother or sister?

RIOTSOUND.COM: No, I’m an only child actually…

CAPONE: Good, you’re like me, so I couldn’t even ask you that. But at the end of the day when you got somebody that’s like your brother or that you consider your brother, you could argue, you could fight, fuss, whatever. But when it comes down to it all ya’ll got it ya’ll, man. Can’t nobody dictate ya’ll future but ya’ll. And that’s what we did, man. We dictate our future, nobody else.

NORE: We just don’t get bombarded with the fuckery. I mean, everybody has their problems but the best thing to do is to keep it non-public. And that’s the reason it’s so easy to come back. A lot of artists, they did things like that where they made diss records towards each other and then came back and tried to be cool again. We’re not really with that.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What do you make of all the beefs going on in Hip-Hop today; it’s hard to say what it’s really about. I mean, at this point is it just straight publicity ploys?

NORE: I think you hit it on the nose, it’s hard to say what it’s about. I mean, I understand the new generation but in many ways I don’t because it’s something that’s totally different from how we first entered the game. But you know what, it’s just best for me to figure it out and just roll with the punches.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Nore, a lot of journalists have been overly concerned about an alleged confrontation that you had with a man at a Miami burger joint and an ensuing online dispute that you were dragged into by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. When that kind of news takes precedent over the music, what does that tell you about the current state of Hip-Hop?

NORE: That just lets you know that’s it’s definitely at a bullshit stage right now. I think people should be going more crazy about New York artists actually doing a New York record with all New York artists on the remix, as opposed to some dude with a purple wig and an incident at a burger joint. When we’re making phenomenal music the bigger news should be that CNN is back together and that the album is done and it’s coming out as opposed to some – whatever happened at a burger spot or whatever some faggot blogger is trying to come at us with.

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