If you’re looking for one of the most storied regions in Hip-Hop, then look no further than the borough of Queens, New York.
Home to some of the biggest names like this guy who made a little known album called Illmatic, an old school trio that introduced urban America to shell-toe Adidas with the fat laces; and oh yeah—some other guy who was shot nine times and lived to sell millions and millions of records while creating headaches for would-be challengers.
However, the aforementioned aren’t the only individuals who carved a place for themselves in the Hip-Hop history books, because the pair of Kiam “Capone” Holley and Victor “Nore” Santiago have been writing their story for years.
Back when Capone-N-Noreaga first came onto the scene with their classic debut The War Report in 1997, it seemed like another round of Queens MC’s would solidify their place amongst the elite.
Then Capone got locked up forcing Nore to be become the face of the group, and he did so by releasing his solo album N.O.R.E. in lieu of his partner’s incarceration.
The two would then again reunite on The Reunion album in 2000, which didn’t get the same critical acclaim as The War Report, but it was still well received nonetheless.
From that point on, the next nine years featured the two of them doing solo projects with Capone staying close to his New York roots, while Nore embraced more of his Latin heritage by diving head first into more Reggaeton-influenced music.
But as the first decade of the 2000’s draws to a close, the group that left so many possibilities up in the air returns with their long-awaited and well-overdue third album, Channel 10 (derived from a song off their first album with the same name). [Click here to read review]
So can the “Kings Of Queens” recapture their dual-thrones, and the faith of their loyal subjects? You’re just going to have to re-enlist in the war and found out…
iHipHop.com: What’s new with you guys?
Capone: What’s popping, everything is good you know what I’m saying?
iHipHop.com: My first question is; why did it take almost ten years for you guys to come back together with another project?
Capone: At the end of that day, it was just politics… We were going through all these trials and tribulations with labels…
We left Tommy Boy [Records], and then we went over to Def Jam, but the Def Jam deal folded because the people that signed us like Lyor [Cohen] and Kevin Liles left. During that time we were still dropping music, but for us to come out with another album was too much politics.
You know how it goes when you’re dealing with labels; one day they’re telling you that you’re coming out next week, and then next week turns into next year… So that’s what happened, and we chose to take our situation independent…
iHipHop.com: How did you two keep your focus throughout all that hoop-la?
Capone: We’re strong individuals… We came in the game when it was a powerhouse, and you had to be really strong with thick skin to survive… At the end of the day, a lot of people love Nore, and me and that kept us focused on pleasing the fans and everybody else that wanted to see us together.
iHipHop.com: The name of new album is Channel 10 [Click here to read review], so whom did you work with on the project?
Capone: As far as production goes, we worked with Preemo, Havoc, and Alchemist. We worked with a lot of people, but overall we kept it in-house, and we made the best album possible.
Everybody that knows CNN knows that most of our production is in-house, but we’ll still get 4-5 records from the top producers that helped us make the CNN brand.
iHipHop.com: Any guest spots on the album?
Nore: As far as guest appearances on the album, we worked with Mobb Deep, Uncle Murda, Maino, The Clipse, and Tha Dogg Pound; but they’re all on one record…
iHipHop.com: Did you guys make it a goal to go back and get those same producers that you worked with back then versus trying to work with some newer names?
Nore: We pretty much went with what was dope; you know what I’m saying? That was our whole purpose… It didn’t matter if the person had a name or didn’t have a name… We wanted to go with what we thought was dope, and I think that’s what we came up with…
iHipHop.com: When you guys first got back in the studio together, was it difficult to find that chemistry again?
Capone: It’s like riding a bike man; once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget it. Once we got in the studio, Nore didn’t have to tell me anything, and I didn’t have to tell him anything because we’re seasoned already.
We know what we have to do, and even if we don’t see each other for ten months, we go through the same sh*t; because the same sh*t is happening in the streets no matter where we’re at.
iHipHop.com: So does this project officially mark the return of CNN?
Capone: It definitely officially marks the return of CNN… This is the first album where we’re interacting more than usual; you know what I’m saying? We’re not just going 8-bars, 8-bars, or verse-verse. We’re going line for line, and word for word; we’re going in on each other. We’re doing like M.O.P., we’re doing stuff that you don’t think CNN would do.
iHipHop.com: So Nore, how was this like for you personally, since you’ve been doing the solo thing for a while? Did you feel relieved to be back in the group setting?
Nore: It was pretty easy for me because I’m originally a group member, so it was pretty easy for me to come back in and do the group thing. That’s how I started, so to get back into it wasn’t nothing for me…
iHipHop.com: Obviously The War Report and The Reunion were big records, so did you guys feel any pressure to keep that momentum going with Channel 10?
Capone: There’s always pressure, every album you make is going to be some pressure… The first album is like busting that first nut, and once you do that everything else is pressure.
If people respect your first album, they’re going to always expect you to top that, and that’s going to be hard because the first album is so stuck in their brain that nothing you do is going to top that, no matter what you do.
iHipHop.com: Did you stick to the original CNN formula, or did you guys try anything new?
Capone: Man we stuck to the script… CNN are “Stick to the script n*ggas.” The only thing different on the album is our song ‘Rotate,’ and that was a plus for us because it gives people an idea of where CNN is coming next. That’s as far as making a club record, because we were never really big in the club, and for everything else, I was even home for.
N*ggas look at us like we’re too hardcore, but there’s nothing wrong with that because the n*ggas in the clubs are gangsters. So we feel that we need to be in there…
iHipHop.com: But do you think that the new gimmicky side to Hip-Hop has made it a little harder for groups such as yourselves since you’ve never been into that kind of stuff?
Nore: I think that people are going to respect you for whom you are; I don’t care how much time has passed. The people are always going to respect you for being you…
iHipHop.com: How was the creative process like? Was there a lot of compromising going around?
Capone: We were on the same page through the whole album man… The only time we fell off pace was the “argument,” because we really had an argument and we fixed it the next day.
We talked about it, and we ended up making a record called the ‘Argument.’ That record just happened to be one of the biggest records we performed when we were on our European tour.
iHipHop.com: [Laughs]… So you guys had an argument, and then made a song called ‘Argument’?
Capone: We were just arguing as brothers, you know what I’m saying? I might have smoked all his roach clips, or he might have thrown my blunt away by accident thinking it was garbage, but we argued. At the end of the day, we took it there with each other, and then we put it on record.
iHipHop.com: During the whole CNN hiatus, did you two ever think you would come together again for another album?
Capone: We man we just grew up… We grew up in the game of life, Nore and me are history makers, and in order to make history sometimes, you have to sit back and watch what’s being made.
iHipHop.com: You guys have been around for over ten years, and have seen a lot. So is there anything that really bothers you about the current state of Hip-Hop?
Capone: I can tell you the best thing is that you can get more money doing a lot of different things. This right here gives artists the chance to be entrepreneurs and real businessmen…
iHipHop.com: Were there any scheduling conflicts with making this record seeing that Nore lives down in Miami now?
Capone: Nah I went down to Miami baby, and I was down there for month’s man… Word… We didn’t have no problems at all about that.
iHipHop.com: With the way Hip-Hop is now, every Tuesday when you go to the record store, there’s like 30 albums out. Do you guys feel like you’re fighting for position?
Capone: At the end of the day, our name is already out there, so just by you hearing us we’re making noise. CNN really doesn’t have any competition, because everybody that we’re competing with is in their own realm right now. The LOX are concentrating on Jada, with Mobb Deep; “P” is up North, you know what I mean? So right now there isn’t anybody dropping that’s going to be CNN’s competition.
We’re going to be right in our own realm, you know what I’m saying? You can’t compare Kanye [West] to CNN, you can’t compare Jada to CNN, and you can’t compare Jigga to CNN. All those dudes are dropping, but they’re not affecting our movement.
Nore: Man, Capone was very-to-the point on that one…
iHipHop.com: [Laughs]… You’re right… So did you guys sit down, and think about the album concept-wise at first, or did you just go in and start making songs?
Nore: At first we tried to conform a little bit with the Shawty Lo record, then we turned around and was like, “Nah, lets just keep it to what we know.” So that’s what we basically did, and it worked out fine for us.
iHipHop.com: Do you guys have any timetable on how much longer you want to stay in the game before you take a step back and take on more of an executive role?
Nore: We have at least ten more years man… Hopefully man… As long as we stay up to what’s popping, and what the young cats are doing… If we continue to do that, I think we’ll be good…