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Back Together

interview by Meshack Blaq
photos by Animal Chan

I'll always remember the first three times I met Noreaga of C-N-N. The first was on the day of his Los Angeles release party for the NORE album. He was in town and we happened to bump into each other in the elevator at the BMG building, or I should say my crew and his bigger crew crossed paths. At the time, I remember hating on him that very day to my mens telling them, "Who the fuck is this Nore muthafucka anyway?! What?!?" Next thing I know I'm face to face with him and M.U. in the same elevator and all I could say was, "You want some Kronick?". We became instant friends. The second time I saw him was the day of his New York release party for the Melvin Flynt Da Hustler disc. I shook his hand, took his flick and that was it. The third time was later that night just after he came off stage and I grabbed his arm for another flick. I nearly got a terrible beatdown, but the flick was great. The first time I actually got to sit down with him and break bread was when he and his partner Capone completed their Reunion LP and agreed to do this Cover. Over a festive meal along with their Thugged-Out Entertainment and Murder Unit brethren they openly discussed what it's like to be BACK TOGETHER AGAIN.

NORE: (Toasting all at the table) Let's always look out for each other. Our brother is our Brother and our sister is our Sister. If it's our sister, we can't never touch her in a sexual way, and the same goes for our Brothers. Let's keep our lives together the same way these glasses is because that's what's payin' for all the times that we been messed up. Let's make sure we gon' continue to be what we'll be; Thugged-Out, Murder Unit: whatever we are, we gon' be under the umbrella. One Love-Salut' (All chant Salut' in unison with glasses clinging)

CAPONE: One more thing; I Love my Dogs, Man! I Love my Dogs. Before the Rap shit!

NORE: Yea, and I just wanna Big-Up Kronick Magazine. That's the only magazine you can Ćmoke-out in. Let's Big-that-Up, let's Big-that-Up.

CAPONE: When they come to the interview, if you ain't got no ak-rite they Ćmoke you out!

NORE: And Big-Ups to the bud- man. My man gives me a seez-nack every time he sees me.

CAPONE: No matter where we at Kronick always smokes us out!

NORE: He always gives me a seeze-neeze of weeze-neezie. No matter where you see me, right? You always give me a seeze-neez-eaze, right? We been bangin' for awhile!

KRON: Even in L.A-L.A.! When you guys made that first joint, "L.A.-L.A.", from then to now a lot of things have happened to the point where even you and Kurupt made a joint together. What were you and Capone thinking when you made that joint?

NORE: Yo, Kurupt is my closest man on the West Coast. That's insane that the closest person I got to me on the West Coast is Kurupt. That's INSANE!!! We was talkin' about it and that's Kurupt's solo record, Yo. If you really think about it, "New York-New York" didn't really have Daz & Snoop on the record. It was Kurupt rhymin'! Daz & Snoop was just doin' the hook. And Kurupt is my closest man in L.A. You know what that tells you? A lotta times you don't control your own destiny, but you lead your own path into where you're going. Meaning, Kurupt didn't really wanna dis New York. And guess what? We didn't really wanna dis L.A. But we knew that was our opportunity. Fuck That! I don't give a FUCK! I don't care Ćcause I Love the fact that he came out that way and Snoop came out the same way. Snoop came out with Dre dissin' Luke & Eazy-E. Niggaz like us are not gonna wait to get money. Fuck that! If you gonna tell me that if I dis L.A. right now I won't get recognition like that, I'm gonna DISS L.A.! I was fucked up, broke in the Game. I respect the choices and Kurupt respects the choices too. Since we combined, that's me and Capone's closest man's; Daz & Kurupt. We madd close to these Dudes. But if we had never communicated, it'd probably been War, Man! And believe me, it woulda been Real War. Because if we wouldn't be able to go to L.A.; believe me, they wouldn't have been able to come to New York! AT ALL!!! No L.A. artist! I don't care if you didn't even have NOTHIN' to do with it. You would've had problems comin' to New York, Man! Straight up. But that's our closest peoples out there. And that let's you know that if it's meant to be, it's meant to be. But if it's not, it would never pop off. Come on Man; literally, me and Capone wasn't ready for War with Death Row at that time. But they didn't know our bluff Game was tight like Boiler Room!

KRON: So what does it mean for you to represent Queens bein' that it's historic in Hip Hop?

CAPONE: Shit, it's like this Man; everybody got they own stompin' grounds. Before Queens got on the map, everybody had they Queens jokes. It was all about clownin' Queens this and baggin' on Queens that. But when Queens got on, everybody wanted to suck Queens' dick. Everybody from every other Borough wanted to do a song with a Nigga from Queens. But that's the Game and that's how the Game goes. If a Nigga got Blacktops in Jersey and he's killin' Ćem? Fuck it! I live in Queens so I'ma bring Blacktops to Queens. Hopefully it'll kill Ćem. Ya heard me? So it's like, if you can't beat Ćem, join Ćem! They couldn't beat us, so they had to join us.

KRON: Nowadays every Rapper switches their name up from this to that, from that to somethin' else. You guys have stayed tried & true to C-N-N. How did you come up with the names Capone & Noreaga? Capone you go first. Did you get the name from Scarface Al Capone?

CAPONE: I ain't got no scars. I'm a pretty Nigga. I'm a straight pretty Nigga. (he laughs) Nah, but on the strength though, like, I used to DJ. Me and this Nigga Royal Flush. We used to DJ and we were partners. So my man Rashim had nicknamed me Kiam Capone at the time. Then when I got the record deal I just ran with Capone Ćcause that had been my name for so long.

KRON: So Nore? Everybody knows about the former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega.

NORE: Well I just wanna make one thing straight; me & Capone was Capone & Noreaga before anybody was Gambinos. Before anybody was usin' Mobster names we was usin' Capone & Noreaga from day one! I got Noreaga from up North (in jail). This is how my name Noreaga stuck with me: I read a book up North and they used to call me Noreaga here and there. I believe it was Capone or somebody else who was up North with me, came home and called me Noreaga in front of my people's. That book I read was so large that people in my house (meaning cell block) thought I wasn't gonna read it. So after I read it, my peoples sat me down and tested me.

KRON: So wait, wait-wait! Were you like a Malcom X Nigga in jail?

NORE: Hell no! But I was readin'. I was intrigued by readin' because you gotta realize that when I went to jail I had a fifth grade reading level. I went from a fifth grade reading level to a 12.5 in less than three months because I never used my brain. I was always wantin' to sell crack; I didn't wanna use my brain. So in less than three months I started readin' books and was readin' shit like Noriega. It was so big, it was the biggest book I ever read. Once I mastered the book, people tested me on it and said I was the name of the book which was the Autobiography of Manuel Noriega. I read like four books on him though and that was the last book. It wasn't exactly him, it was just me wantin' to read about any muthafucka that was dissin' America. They captured him in Panama and he was goin' through it like I was goin' through it.

KRON: What's up with them Cash Money Brothas? How did "Play That Shit" pop off?

NORE: It's all Love. Baby' my man. He's like the CEO. That's my man.

KRON: I noticed how Niggaz are usin' your terms like `Fire Green', Ća City-slicker got Country Grammar', and don't forget "That's Gangsta"! Ya heard?

NORE: But heads ain't even recognizin' that! They ain't even recognizin' that in New York, Baby!! But it's all Love with Baby & Suga Slim; all them dudes is my peoples. They real down to earth peoples. Before they blew up I recognized them, they recognized me, and we connected. And we always knew that if either of us got to the top that we'd link up. Even if we don't get to the top we gon' link up anyway. And that's how that happened.

KRON: Capone, how do you define bein' an Executive Producer?

CAPONE: I look at it like, Son gave me a tag name. At any given moment somebody else could've handled that calling, but I got the call up North sayin', "Yo Dun, help me Executive Produce this album", just on the strength of Nore. Me an' Nore go through our bullshit just like any other group. That's inevitable because that's us. But he gave me a name that I'ma have to live with for the rest of my life, and live up to. And I literally did that too. Every day we'd talk and I'd ask him from inside what he did that day.

KRON: What's up with your Man Q-Tip? We just saw him a few minutes ago.

CAPONE: (To Nore) Yo, I just saw `Tip. I had a lotta questions for Q-Tip, Man. I had to ask him a lot of things I wanted to ask him.

KRON: It was a trip seein' him walkin' down 4th Street with his hair dyed red...

CAPONE: By himself, lookin' bugged-out! He was lookin' bugged-the-fuck-out! Yo Dun, (to Nore again) Dun, DUN. Ya Man... yea he was lookin' bugged-out, Son. But I respect Q-Tip on the reasons he told me he left Violator. That was my main concern. I Love Violator but I just wanted to know why he left. That just like... Nore, remember when we was movin' to Tommy Boy and we saw Queen Latifah at Mr Chow's? We just had to ask her, "Why did you leave Tommy Boy? What's up, Yo?!?" It's just a question you have to ask when you're fuckin' with the people they left. So I had to get a clear understanding of why he left Violator, Yo.

KRON: So Nore, would you consider yourself a hyper young kid on ginseng back in the day?

NORE: Yea, I did. I do nowadays but I didn't back then. I dropped out in 7th grade. I never really felt school. I never gave-a-fuck about school. I never was that type of dude. I was more into the streets. And I was the dude that was "in the movie theatre when the movie Juice came out and a kid got shot at the movie theatre", in Queens. That was me and God Bless the dead to the dude that I shot. He's dead now. I had nothin' to do with his murder some time later, but God Bless him. Times change and people change and things change. Then and there I felt like shootin' a Nigga to make me be well respected. But that shit is nothin, Man!

KRON: Does Thugged-Out have anything to do with the influence of 2Pac on Hip Hop?

NORE: Naw, Thugged-Out is a mentality Man! I know people that work 9-5's every day and is more Thugged-Out than me when I be in the Hoods of Lefrak or Queens Bridge, or the South Bronx or Brooklyn, or whatever. They more Thugged-Out than me and they wear suits and ties everyday. Thugged-Out is a mentality, Man. You understand what I'm sayin'? When you got people that's gettin' crazy-dough behind these other people that's bein' in the forefront of people, that's bein' Thugged-Out, Man! Thugged-Out is a mentality, Man. I mean, you can walk past people everyday; those whiteboys right there (pointing to a table of 6-8 people dining at the upscale, tony Indo-Chine) is probably THUGGED-THE-FUCK-OUT but we don't know it because they look like that and we thinkin' Thugged-Out is a Nigga with a hat on backwards, a bandana and a doo-rag on. We ain't thinkin' Thugged-Out means to do something that's unordinary. And whenever you do something unordinary, you're Thugged-Out. It doesn't mater your Race, your ethnic background or your sexual preference. I know Homos that's Thugged-Out! Homo-Thugs, Man! That's why when I said Homo-Thugs the thug is still in there, for Real! I know Homo-Crackheads that'll pound Niggaz out, that I would have to shoot!!

KRON: What's up with Two-ways Nore? You got any comments on Two-ways?

NORE: Hold up!(To Murder Unit) Y'all heard what ya boy said? Wait Up. Yo D-Boss, you heard his question? Tell him who originated Two-Ways, Nigga! Look, I was the first person with a Two-way pager. When I had my Two-way pager they told me I'm walkin' around with a fax machine or a VCR on my hip. Or I got a Internet on my hip. You know what? Two years later, look at it! Everybody at the table got a Two-way. Everybody in Hip Hop got a Two-way. Every Record label got a Two-way. I INVENTED TWO-WAYS (Like Al Gore & the Internet?). And I take full credit for ME! The ONLY person in THE INDUSTRY that had a Two-way before me was DJ Clue. And that's it. But Clue did not do anything with his Two-way.

KRON: Nore, have you calmed down after all the success or are you still the same crazy-wild Kid that you were when you first got in the Game?

NORE: Hell yea, I've calmed down a lot. But I'm still the same crazy-wild kid. I'm still on the run eatin'. I'm fat as a muh'fucka right now. I lost 40 pounds but I stopped workin' out. I got a rhyme comin' up soon where I say, "they call me Fatboy; see my gun kinda fat boy! I done lost weight but I like bein' Fat Boy!!" And that's Real because I was a skinny anemic dude my whole life, and I finally had the chance to be fat. At first I was cool with it, then I was ashamed of it. But now I like bein' fat, but I'm not fat. I'm chubby and it's cool bein' chubby, Man.

KRON: Do people still get in fights at your live shows? Do Niggaz still Thug-Out at your shows like there's no tomorrow? Are girls scared to come to the shows cause Niggaz be Thuggin'?

NORE: Naw. After "Oh No" the girls took me from the dudes. See, "Super Thug" was a Nigga record, but "Oh No" was a chick record; and the chicks took me from the Niggaz. The chicks beat the Niggaz up, Yo! But when the girls took me from the Niggaz, that's when I became Commercial. The Niggaz was like, "Nore's Commercial"! Yea, I was in a Bentley with a thousand women in the desert. But for the record: I did not touch any one of those girls that day on the "Oh No" Video set. That's for the record! I'ma tell you the truth: I was so happy to work with Hype Williams and spend a million dollars, that you know what? Coochie was not on my mind. But even if coochie was on my mind, I did not touch them girls. Because Hype is a very professional Real Director. And the way he makes you feel; the way he treats you when you spend that million dollars, is you FEEL like a million dollars. And for the record, all those women that was there at the "Oh No" Video; I did not touch one of them! And ALL of them DID wanna make me fall out of my element; and I WANTED to be fallin' out of my element. But I did not fall out of my element. That's for the record, for the Industry.

KRON: Do you have a problem with how the Melvin Flynt album did?

NORE: I don't have a problem with how the last album did because it still went Gold. And I was happy goin' Gold because if I have the same amount of fans goin' Gold, I don't give a fuck about goin' Platinum! But the fact that it still went Gold and I felt I didn't do the best I could do on Melvin Flynt because of my father's death. I'm not the kid who grew up in the Hood without my father. I always had my father and I always had my mother. So that put me under a lot of stress, but at the same time it still went Gold.

KRON: So how did it feel for a kid from Lefrak to spend a million dollars on a Rap Video?

NORE: Well fuck even spendin' a million dollars. It comes a time in any Rap artists' career where you're gonna HAVE TO fuck with Hype Williams. If you have a Hit Record or get on that by fuckin' with this Nigga, that Nigga, the otha Nigga; at one point YOU GONNA HAVE TO FUCK WITH Hype Williams. And that was my goal, Man. I had to mess with Hype at one point in my career, or my career wouldn't have been complete. So fuck the million dollars. That's a part of every artist's career of people asking, "Well who did you work with? Who you worked with?" Well, I worked with Hype Williams just like all these otha Super Hip Hop Niggaz! You think I wanted to be the only muthafucka that DIDN'T work with Hype Williams? What if Hype dies tomorrow, God forbid? I wanna be the Nigga that's gonna be at his funeral sayin', "Well I gave him a million dollars, too! I gave his ass a million, TOO!!", you know what I'm sayin'- sayin'? ĆCause he's the Nigga that's in the Game where, "Alright cool! You almost Platinum? Fuck with him and he's gonna make you Platinum or he's gonna make you a Star". Fuck even if you're Platinum, that's what Hype does; Hype makes you a star, Man! He makes you a STAR! That's why his name is Hype. I'm tellin' you!

KRON: Capone, as a kid growin' up in Queens Bridge how is it for you dealin' with Executive-type people in suits & ties on Madison Ave and Downtown Broadway?

CAPONE: It's nothin, Ćcause I had the same Niggaz on Madison & Downtown Broadway that was coppin' crack from me. Same white Niggaz I meet with right now, they was the types coppin' crack from me. I had the Pepsi Cola man coppin' crack. I had the Mailman coppin' crack. UPS man coppin' crack. Crack doesn't discriminate. Crack is like a UPS job; anybody can get it! I was 12 when I started. I got my hands on a little bit of money and I was tryin' to get Niggaz to work for me, Kingpin style. That was at 12 -years old. My man Will Crime put me on to the Game earlier, so I was the entrance to the Game for otha Niggaz.

KRON: How is the Hip Hop Game like the crack Game?

CAPONE: You gotta serve fiends! Rap listeners is fiends. If your dimes is too little they ain't gonna buy it. You gotta make bricks; gotta make big product and they gon' buy it. Now as long as I can serve the fiends, I'ma get rich!

NORE: Yo hold on, hold on, hold on. One second. Ask Capone; we be comin' in the studio orderin' 20 bottles of Chardonnay. This is like our fifth or sixth one, and Niggaz is RIGHT, right now! Russian Chardonnay Nigga! Put it in the interview, Nigga! Sonoma Valley Russian River shit, Nigga! Tha Cali Russians is doin' it! RUSSIAN RIVERA, Nigga! That's that new shit!

KRON: So Capone, did you read any good books while in prison?

CAPONE: Message To The Blackman by The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is one. The Spook Who Sat By The Door is another one. And I think everybody needs to read Soul On Ice by Eldridge Cleaver, Man. That's a good book. But back to that question about dealin' with Executives; I know I'm a good person as far as speaking-wise to ANY group of people. I think I can speak to a male audience and make Ćem feel what I'm feelin'. With a female audience I can speak to Ćem and make Ćem clearly understand that everybody's not out for the same goal. As far as the males, they need to know that the male figure is most important to the society right now, without them feelin' inferior.

KRON: Did you ever feel inferior growin' up?

CAPONE: I'm the only child with no brothers or sisters, so I had to fend for myself. I always felt like if shit hit the fan, I don't got nobody to call on; no brother, no sisters. So I felt inferior. Otherwise I got my gun so I could make muh'fuckas feel inferior. That's the way I went with it.

KRON: Was the gun an equalizer for you?

CAPONE: It's the immortalizer!!

KRON: Do you live in fear of another felony?

CAPONE: Yea. I'm just scared, Man. If the Police pull me over and they know what I been through; they'd be like, "Oh we gon' plant this on him". I can't stand it! So I live in fear, Man. It's like everybody's talkin' about Illuminati. You either fear it or you'll become it. If you become you know how to win. If you fear it, you lose.