One of the most successful hardcore hip hip groups to emerge at the end of the 90's "golden era" was Capone N Noreaga, affectionately known as CNN. The Queens duo has had many ups and downs but have found themselves in a solid spot at this point in their career. With a solid core following, they can afford to do albums for their sheer enjoyment, and Nore has enjoyed his time being active on twitter and frequenting the Breakfast Club. With plenty of experience under their belts, CNN drops their new album " Lessons"
The album starts off with an intro by Tragedy Khadafi, one of the instrumental figures in the Queens rap scene who helped bring the duo to the mainstream. He is a perfect person to bring in this album because he taught them a lot as well as learned himself as the group has gone through many ups and downs and he figures as the de facto third member on this album. Musically, "Future" opens the album in classic Capone N Noreaga style with a grimey beat that samples audio from the cult classic The Warriors. Nore actually seems to put thought into his bars on this joint and he has his trademark realism and a throwback to NY seriousness on this track. This is also a great chance to see how Capone is different and how they work together, while Capone raps more about what has happened than leading into what is to come.
"Pizza" is some cool throwback NY shit that doesn't have a real cohesive point other than to just showcase an event as they experienced it. "Foul 120" has the same vibe of mix tape NY rap and features solid performances from Raekwon, Capone and Tragedy. Noreaga however trips all over the beat and it seems like he is out of rhymes by this point in the album. I also was digging the chamber music feel of "Shooters Worldwide" as well as "7 Continents" with Tragedy and Royal Flush.
The album isn't without mis-steps that don't involve Nore. "3 on 3" which features Tragedy and the Lox is just a bunch of noise in a failed attempt to have a classic posse cut. It just doesn't work. "Chinese Girl" is totally something that should have never seen the light of day for real. "Not Stick You pt 2" tries to have a story and give depth with the phone line effects but the beat is boring, and the story itself doesn't make sense and it's a generic robbery tale.
Capone n Noreaga are never going to be everyone's cup of tea even if you are a fan of that era of rap music. It's hardcore but that doesn't make it good. This album is too long and I understand the allegiance with Tragedy but he doesn't add enough to be on so many songs. Thats the other thing, there are too many tracks. At 12 it would have been still more songs than I would like to see that I would consider as less than stellar but it would be at least half. The first 6 or 7 tracks are cool and I think accomplished the core goal of the album but it loses steam and gets old pretty fast.