Money Over Bullsh*t
Interview: Brian “B.Dot” Miller
Kiam “Capone” Holley has had more ups and downs than a kid on a seesaw. Fifteen years ago, the Queens native was serving a bid at New York’s Collins Correctional Facility when he befriended a likeminded MC by the name of Noreaga. The two teenagers later formed a group called C-N-N (Capone-N-Noreaga) and inked their first deal with Penalty Records in 1996. Things hit a snag when Capone returned to the pen for violating his parole and his partner had to finish up their gold-selling debut disc, 1997’s The War Report, on his own. Noreaga went on to relish in solo success with two gold albums, N.O.R.E. (1998) and Melvin Flynt Da Hustler (1999), while his nasally voiced partner was singing the prison blues. After three years in prison Capone was released in February ’99 and began work on C-N-N’s highly anticipated sophomore album, The Reunion (2000). Although the project sold over 470,000 units, the duo was displeased with the lack of support from their label, Tommy Boy Records, and asked for their release. A year later they signed with Def Jam. Trouble, however, would continue to follow Capone once again. In February 2001, he was linked to a shooting outside New York City radio station, Hot 97, when his crew crossed paths with Lil’ Kim’s entourage, who was upset about Foxy Brown’s lyrical diss against the Queen Bee on C-N-N’s “Bang Bang.” As a result, ’Pone was banned from Hot 97 and later released from Def Jam. Taking some time to regroup, Capone put out two solo indie albums—Pain, Time & Glory (2005) and Menace 2 Society (2006)—both of which went largely unnoticed. In recent years, rumors of a strained relationship between Capone and Noreaga have continually surfaced. Fresh from a recent court appearance and working on a new project, Capone gives XXLMag.com the lowdown on the future of C-N-N and his relationship with N.O.R.E.
So you were just in court the other day? Are you in trouble with the law again?
Mad traffic shit, man. I live in the ’burbs of Jerz [New Jersey], all they worried about over there is traffic, man. I don’t got no new cases. My license been suspended for a few years now. I had got my license with a fake name and all that shit. So I had to go through a whole bunch of legal bullshit to get my shit straight.
When you and N.O.R.E first met in jail and decided to form a group, did you really think it’d be successful?
Nah, not really, man. ’Cause back then, when we first started this C-N-N shit, there was a lot of obstacles in the way. It was planned for us to fail, but we didn’t. I had faith in us, but [when] one person [goes] to jail, [it’s] kind of hard looking for a prosperous future.
There’s been rumors of a beef between you and N.O.R.E. How’s your relationship now?
At the end of the day, me and N.O.R.E., we make great music and everything, but we’re two totally different people. We just can’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. That didn’t affect our music, but it affected our friendship. We were young teenagers, 14-years-old in jail together. So a lot of things changed and there’s bigger stakes involved. We’re no longer dealing with a five pack of crack or something. You’re dealing with $500,000, or million-dollar type shit. So when people [are] both financially set in their ways, and one person wants to go one way, [and] one person goes the other way, it causes friction.
It seemed like you started distancing yourself from him when he began venturing into reaggeton.At the time, the reaggeton thing, he wanted to dabble in it and I really wasn’t on it like that ’cause I’m Black. So when I start focusing on my solo career, it was like shit started getting separated. But it’s just a learning process.
So where do you guys stand now?
We about to have a new Capone-N-Noreaga movement. Our deal should be finalized within the next two to three weeks with Koch [Records]. We’re going that route [because] record labels ain’t giving out no money. The majors [might] give out money, but you’re not making [enough] money to pay it back. You got the best rappers coming out and doing 60 [or] 70 thousand their first week.
Is this the first time publicly talking about a new C-N-N album?
Yeah, nobody really knows about this. It’s [still] untitled—we didn’t come up with a title [yet]. We just been grindin’, shooting songs back and forth to each other. Not songs that we’re using for the album, just songs that we [use to] break the [ice]. We’re just checking each other out. ’Cause the one thing about me and N.O.R.E., we don’t got to see each other in 100 years, but we’re going to make some fire ass music just ‘cause of the differences in our style, voices and how we connect.
Do you guys know when you’re gonna release the album?
We don’t got a release date yet, but y’all [will] be the first to know. We’re not even half [way] through recording. [But] the Koch situation, we’ve been working on for a while. We’re not new to the game. We know what the business is, we know what we want and we know what we supposed to get. So the Koch situation took a little longer [so] we [could] get the best deal. There’s nobody up there with a better deal than us. And I’m not talking about, I get $7 [or] $8, that don’t mean nothin’. It’s about how your deal is structured. How you [have] your masters and all that. 50 [Cent] called it a graveyard, but at the end of the day, the average dude on Koch is selling the same records they selling on G-Unit. Prodigy went over there. A muthafucka know where to get his backend money. Fuck the upfront money, ’cause that’s where you go wrong. That’s what everybody in the game learned.
How do you feel when fans say they need another War Report from C-N-N?
I be laughing when people say that, ’cause I say, “We can get another War Report, but I gotta get shot again, my moms gotta die again, I gotta lose three of my homies, I gotta lose my aunt and my uncle, and I [have to go to] jail.” So all of that can get y’all The War Report, if you want me to go through that shit. That’s what brought The War Report out. I went through all that shit the same year I recorded The War Report.
What can fans expect from you in the future?
I’m doing this contest on MySpace (MySpace.com/CaponeFromCNN) called, Capone Presents the Throwdown. It’s for an artist and producer to get featured on my solo album—you win a spot on my solo and I got sponsors, you get a free T-Mobile Sidekick, free studio equipment from Gemini and you get studio time. It’s $25 to enter and if you win, you gonna be on the next Capone album and we might do the same thing for Capone-N-Noreaga. It’s just to give people whose dreams may never come true a chance to be a part of something.
When is your next solo droppin’?
I’m just recording man. Hopefully, I want to release my album basically after the Capone-N-Noreaga album ’cause N.O.R.E. is going to executive produce my album and I’m going to executive produce his [next] solo. We just doing our one two. I got a lot of bangers, man. I got a joint right now called “Talk My Shit” that’s heavy in the street. It just got released, but we getting a lot of good feedback. I’m just grindin’ man.