June 17 In Hip-Hop History: Capone-N-Noreaga Drop Debut Album

The War Report

Photo: Penalty Recordings/Tommy Boy Records

Before became a podcast host and interview extraordinaire, N.O.R.E. fka Noreaga got his foot in the door of the music industry as one-half of Capone-N-Noreaga. The Queens natives formed the rap duo two years before they released their debut album, which dropped on this day 26 years ago.

On June 17, 1997, Kiam 'Capone' Holley and Victor 'Noreaga' Santiago released their first LP The War Report. The 20-track album contains a slew of influential records like “T.O.N.Y. (Top Of New York)", "Bloody Money," “Driver’s Seat," “L.A., L.A.," “Neva Die Alone," and “Iraq (See The World)." It also includes Noreaga's dedication to Capone "Live On, Live Long."

Capone and Noreaga first met in 1992 while they were serving time at Greenhaven Prison in New York for unrelated attempted murder charges. While they were inside, they bonded over their love for basketball and their roots in Queens. Capone earned his name as a DJ before he got locked up. Noreaga, on the other hand, got his stage name from a book he read during his time in prison about Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.

“I read a book up North (prison) and they used to call me Noreaga here and there,” N.O.R.E. previously explained. “That book was so large that people in my house [cell block] thought I wasn't gonna read it. So after I read it, my peoples tested me on it and said I was the name of the book.”

After they got out, C-N-N was born. In 1996, the duo was signed to Penalty Recordings (which later was acquired by Tommy Boy Records) and dropped their debut album a year later. Noreaga's aforementioned song for Capone was meant as a tribute to his rapping partner, who was re-incarcerated while they were recording their first album. Since Capone was locked up, Noreaga was forced to finish the album on his own.

The War Report also features appearances from Busta Rhymes, Mobb Deep, Imam T.H.U.G., Castro, Musaliny, Mendosa, Troy Outlaw and Tragedy Khadafi, who appears on more than half of the songs on the album. At one point, Tragedy was considered an unofficial member of the group. Nas also makes a cameo at the end of the album. The War Report also featured production from Havoc, Buckwild, Lord Finesse, Marley Marl, DJ Clark Kent and more.

The duo's debut went on to achieve commercial success during a time when Gangsta Rap in New York was overshadowed by chart-topping hits from Diddy & Bad Boy Records. One of the album's track's "L.A., L.A," was a response to Tha Dogg Pound's "New York, New York," which caused controversy and added fuel to the flames of the infamous West Coast/East coast beef that was happening at the time. Nonetheless, C-N-N still made an impression on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts with their first album, which is still considered one of the greatest debut albums in rap history.

Over two decades later, N.O.R.E. is more focused on his hit podcast Drink Champs with DJ EFN than his legendary music career. The show dives deep into the duo's album in its special episode in honor of The War Report's 25th anniversary. Drink Champ's new episode is essentially a C-N-N reunion with appearances from Capone, Tragedy Khadafi, Busta Rhymes and more. Listen to the entire episode below before the video drops everywhere.

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