A classic rap album that doesn’t get the shine it deserves turned 18 this week. It’s called The War Report, and it’s by Capone-N-Noreaga, or CNN. Tragedy Khadafi was the mastermind behind the group, hustling on the block to get enough bread for two street cats to make a blockbuster album with producers like Marley Marl, Nashiem Myrick, DJ Clark Kent, Lord Finesse, Buckwild, and many others. Trag appears eight times on the 20-track LP, making it a nearly flawless listen from top to bottom.
We’ve played the album to death, and even though it still sounds fresh, there are other rare CNN songs from that time period that aren’t as well known. Here are some banging rarities, b-sides, original versions, and freestyles from the Queens rappers that you might not have heard.
Capone-N-Noreaga – Closer (Original) [Prod. by DJ Clark Kent]
This was the original version of “Closer” that appeared on initial pressings of the album. The Sam Sneed remix appeared on all later versions, but here Kent provides an uptempo, glitzy beat that gives an uplifting end to a pretty dark album. Sneed’s remix fit the tone of the LP a bit better, but it’s hard to choose between the two.
Noreaga – Married To Marijuana (Prod. by Buckwild)
Originally intended to be on The War Report, Nore’s ode to piffy was left off the album when they ran into issues clearing the sample of Al Green’s “Something.” It’s nonetheless a classic song that has withstood the test of time and deserves placement as a bonus track on the CNN album.
Capone-N-Noreaga – Calm Down (Feat. Nas & Tragedy Khadafi)
It’s always mystified me why Nas wasn’t featured on a single song from The War Report, as the beats sound so ideal for him to rip through. Turns out there was a song recorded called “Calm Down” that featured Esco, but it wasn’t included on the album. Here’s why: E-Money Bags, who was down with Nas at the time, was originally featured on the record, but Trag felt his verse was wack and replaced it with his own. When the time came for Nas to clear the song, he refused.
Noreaga – N.O.R.E. Freestyle (Feat. Musaliny-N-Maze)
During the holiday season of 1997, Penalty released a double-side Noreaga promo called “Have A Very N.O.R.E. Christmas And A Thugged Out New Year” with songs like “Blood Money” and “Live On Live Long” from The War Report as well as loosies like “Married To Marijuana,” “Noreminati,” and this jacking-for-beats session featuring fellow Queens rappers Musaliny-N-Maze. Hearing Jose Luis talk about selling heemies over Dre’s “Puffin’ on Blunts and Drankin’ Tanqueray” will bring a tear to your eye.
Noreaga – Noreminati (Prod. by G-Money)
You might know this as “Alluminati,” a song by Tragedy and Imam T.H.U.G. that appeared on their joint Iron Sheiks EP in ’97. According to the guy who produced the song, Trag’s version was recorded first, but Noreaga’s version is ill too.
Noreaga – Dopefiend
This is a classic N.O.R.E. white label that details the things a dope dealer might see on the regular. Once you hear him say, “I seen this, nigga shootin’ dope in his penis,” you can never unhear it.
Capone-N-Noreaga – 1995 Freestyle
You know Capone was a wild dude because he’s trying to hype people up even when he’s not rhyming: “Yo bob your heads yo, what the fuck!?”
Capone-N-Noreaga – Half A Mil (Feat. Tragedy Khadafi)
This was one of three songs mentioned in CNN’s “Unsigned Hype” article from ’97 (which you can read below) along with a song called “Creme” and a track called “Look What You’ve Done” that have apparently never surfaced. Those three tracks seem to have made up CNN’s demo, and here it’s Trag’s aggressive chorus that elevates the song – “My team push keys through the Panama Canal / Bustin’ they pistols, sippin on Cristal!”
Capone-N-Noreaga – Be In The Hood (Prod. by EZ Elpee)
This was recorded closer to CNN’s second album The Reunion from 2000, but it’s got an undeniable feel-good vibe to it. If you’ve ever left your neighborhood and happily returned, this record should resonate with you.
Capone-N-Noreaga – T.O.N.Y. (DJ Clue Remix)
It’s hard to imagine the beats on The War Report being any better than they already are, but DJ Clue came through lovely with this remix to what is arguably the biggest song off the album. We’ll still give you a side-eye if you think this is iller than Nashiem Myrick and 6 July’s original version, though.
Capone-N-Noreaga – L.A., L.A. (Iraq Mix) [Prod. by Marley Marl]
This was New York’s response to Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York” video where Snoop kicked down the buildings. The Kuwait Mix was included on the album, but the Iraq Mix was on the b-side of the single, and it featured a synthesized version of the bassline from the Dogg Pound record, something of a wink from Marley Marl.
Tragedy Khadafi – Judas Theory (Prod. by Stretch Armstrong)
This isn’t a CNN song but there seems to be some confusion about this record on the internet, so here’s a quick history lesson on who Trag is talking about. The inlay of The War Report had photos of Capone’s crew (from Queensbridge) and Noreaga’s crew (from Lefrak). On Nore’s side, though, was a guy who was whited out and labeled “traitor.” In this video, Nore explains how after that photo was taken, feds raided his spot and that guy was outed as a rat. People seem to think Trag’s “Judas Theory” is dissing CNN, but alas, the record is directed towards that infamous snitch from the below picture.