CNN Classics: Capone-N-Noreaga On Making Their Key Records

"L.A., L.A." f/ Mobb Deep & Tragedy Khadafi (1997)

Noreaga: “To tell you the truth, we didn’t know if the West Coast was dissing us or not. We wasn’t sure. I just remember a dude from my hood, his name was Chaz, had the Dogg Pound album early. We thought he was a genius at the time because he had all the records two months prior to the albums coming out. Back in the days, they used to give the DJs the record two months prior to the record dropping. [Chaz] figured out a way to be on the DJ list, and this is a regular hood guy with no industry ties. So he played it for me on the way to Stretch Armstrong’s house, and he asked me if I thought they were dissing us. This is way before the video, two months prior to 'NY, NY' [actually] dropping. 

“So we went to Strech Armstrong’s house with Mobb Deep and we were thinking of a record to do. It was originally done for a Bad Boy mixtape. Back in the day, Bad Boy was hiring DJs to do their mixtapes; they hired Clue, Envy, and for this one they hired Stretch Armstrong. And we was sitting at his house with nothing to do. I asked Stretch if he had the 'New York, New York' record, and we all sat back and listened to it but we couldn’t tell if they was dissing us or not. That’s why if you really listen to 'L.A., L.A.,' the concept is dissing them but the actual song has no disses at all. The thing was, as we was listening to 'New York, New York,' we couldn’t find no disses from them either. So we just figured we’ll respond the same way they attacked us.

“We recorded it the same day. Mobb Deep came. We had a whole bunch of underground tapes that were circulating in the Lefrak/Queensbridge area. So Prodigy had already wrote his rhyme, 'Get word back to Noreaga.' He already had that rhyme. I was just sitting there like, 'Wow!' And he stepped to me and he was like, 'Yo kid, I’m really a fan of what you doing.' And he had my name in his rhyme! I was like 'Oh shit!' I was honored.

“I didn’t even think Prodigy was going to come to the video shoot, I thought he was going to stay away from it period. But that week Tupac released 'Hit’em Up' and he said, 'Don’t you dudes got sickle cell?' or something like that. And Prodigy was furious. He was calling us like, 'When we shooting the video?!' 

“The craziest part was Prodigy’s record label felt his verse was inappropriate and told him to take his verse off the record. That’s why if you see the 'L.A., L.A.' video, Prodigy doesn’t have a verse in the video because he said 'JFK on my way to L.A.' He was the only person indicating a diss. So his label took him off the record. And the final verdict of that was the only person Tupac actually dissed was Prodigy, the person who took the verse off the record. I always thought that was ironic as hell.

Capone: “That song came about when we seen an opening, like 'You know what? We got to get on. And we can’t get on by just sitting around and waiting for it to happen, we got to make it happen.' That’s what we did. 

“I mean, I felt really upset. I was pissed off because they came to my hood and kicked down the buildings. They didn’t go to Lefrak, they didn’t go to South Jamaica. They came to muthafuckin’ Queensbridge and kicked down the buildings. So when I heard the record I was pissed. I wanted to fuckin’ go choke the shit outta Snoop Dogg. Him and Kurupt’s ass. But at the end of the day I knew what I had planned and what I wanted to do. But we can’t win, Snoop Dogg is Snoop Dogg. But now that’s my big homie, that’s one of my best homies. I would never disrespect big homie. But at the that time I might have punched him in his face ’cause I was trying to get on. I might have done anything at that time. 

“In all actuality, the main objective of the song was to start a drama because we had to get a buzz. That record made us to the point where people were like, 'These guys right here is going to make a mark in the hip-hop game.' That song got us a Source 'Unsigned Hype.' When 'L.A., L.A.' came out, people never knew how we looked. But when we got that 'Unsigned Hype' and we shot the video, people were like, 'Oh, that’sCapone-N-Noreaga.' 

“That video was real. We shot that shit with only a little bit of money, thanks to Stretch Armstrong and his pops who believed in us. Everything done to make that record work was done to make a mark. We didn’t want the video to be us kicking down L.A.’s buildings, the building was to make sure muthafuckas knew where we was from. That’s why we shot the video in Queensbridge and threw niggas off the 59th Street Bridge. That was Tragedy’s idea [to throw people off the bridge]. He spent a lot of time wrapping that rug up and all that shit. All types of shit like that. A lot of people that didn’t see that video and are just seeing it are like, 'Oh y'all muthafuckas was crazy!'

“I look at it now, it was crazy because I was mad pissed off then but I love the record now. [Laughs.] Not only do I love it because it was a groundbreaking record for us and them, but it kind of bridged the gap between both coasts in the long run. Because Snoop was eventually able to perform 'NY, NY' out here, and we was able to go to L.A. and perform 'L.A., L.A.' That shit was amazing. This was like in ’99 or 2000, only a few years after the album. They gave this a boiling hot reception, not even warm. They look at it like in a kind of intricate way we was bigging L.A. up. The funny shit is so many people jacked the 'L.A., L.A. the big city of dreams' thing and threw it in their songs. It was just crazy to have New York mutahfuckas saying 'L.A.' At the time, they may have wanted to throw bottles at us. Two years later, time passed and they had time to understand what it meant to hip-hop. But I wouldn’t have gone and performed that shit in ’97. Hell, no! [Laughs.]”

Tags: capone, cnn, music, nore
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