Capone-N-Noreaga - The Re-Union      
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written by Justin Britten    
Rewind to 1997. Noreaga was still a skinny little kid from the projects, Capone found himself incarcerated during the album's production, and one of the year's best songs ("Thug Calm Down," featuring Nas) was taken off their album at the last minute, due to sampling issues. Throughout it all, the duo still managed to release The War Report, a stand-out LP of 1997. To many, this album boasted some of that year's best production, and seemed to be one of the only consistent street records in a time where New York was dominated by Puffy fever. CNN quickly found themselves compared to the likes of Mobb Deep; and their associations with Nas and Marley Marl certainly didn't hurt their credibility. Combine that with a lead single produced by Nashiem Myrick, an underrated genius behind the boards, and you have the start to a promising hip-hop career. Unfortunately in hip-hop, dropping a solid debut is both a blessing and a curse, because it raises high expectations for a sophomore release.

The album opens with a truly horrible remake of the Sam Cooke soul classic, "A Change is Gone Come." It sickens me when timeless music is molested by less talented, dime-a-dozen singers, but this isn't an R&B album, so moving along. The first single, "Phone Time," produced by L.E.S., is a conversation between the two rappers during Capone's incarceration. The concept is nice and it's executed well. That's about the last innovative song on the album, however, and that's only the first song. The Reunion features some undeniably solid material, but that's almost solely due to the production. Capone isn't a bad emcee, and Noreaga is entertaining despite his dumb-thug mannerisms, but neither manages to outshine the beats they're rapping over. That's to be expected when you have a production line-up ranging from the veteran DJ Premier to everyone's newest favorite producer, Alchemist. Premo laces "Invincible" with some nice sampling and scratching (big surprise, right?), while Alchemist handles "Queens" and "Bang Bang," featuring Foxy Brown's verbal assault on Lil Kim. Isn't it fun when wack rappers go at it? It's like watching two mediocre WNBA players struggling in a one-on-one game. You just want a 6'7" guy to steal the ball and dunk on both of them.

The clear highlight of this album, however, is "B EZ," featuring the newly inspired Nas. From his sharp lyrics to hungry delivery, he seems to have had a lighter up to his ass during his recent guest appearances. Could this all be a series of elaborate cock-teases until Nas drops another disappointing album, or will he keep up this rejuvenated intensity? Either or, this track is nice. L.E.S. handles some solid production for the second time on the album, and Noreaga adds energy to the hook. As the album approaches the end, we're hit with another excellent Queens collaboration. "Queens Finest" features Mobb Deep, dispelling any petty beef rumors between the two duos. The production, handled by Havoc, is as grimy as you'd expect, but Prodigy sounds asleep on the mic (more so than usual). The two groups mesh well together though, creating one of the only tracks reminiscent of The War Report. "You Can't Kill Me," another one of the album closers, is nicely produced by Dame Grease. This is an extremely cinematic, adrenaline rush, similar to some of Nashiem Myrick's work.

As previously mentioned, the album has some noticeably mediocre songs. "Y' All Don't Wanna" is produced by Dru Hill's Nokio (why???), who seems to have just recycled "What These Bitches Want" from DMX' third album. He illustrates the true difference between a good/quality producer vs a gimmick/fad producer. Any brainless chimpanzee can bang on a keyboard until he comes up with something that sounds half-decent, but only talented musicians can create a catalog of good songs. This track has single written all over it though, so even if you don't hear it on the LP, you're bound to get sick of it eventually. "Full Steezy" is another Capone solo dedicated to the women (similar to "Capone Bone" from The War Report). Nas seems to have started a trend in Queensbridge thugs singing on hooks. Who's going to have to get shot before this madness comes to an end?

Basically, this album probably won't be remembered a year from now, but it's definitely not without its moments. The tight songs outweigh the bad ones, and it's comforting to finally hear someone to keep Noreaga from rapping for three verses. If you're looking for some good Queens/thug/mindless raps with nice production, a better bet would be to grab Prodigy's album when you see it on the shelf next to this. You can hear better Alchemist beats, but no Nas verse. Also, The War Report is must have album for any fan of production. Although The Reunion doesn't live up to their debut, they've still delivered an album of straight bangers to bump for a while.

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