Swapping camo doesn't make it fresh...
Does it matter that the cover of The War Report 2 is almost, literally, the same as the original thugged-out classic War Report record? Not really. Raekwon basically did the same thing, thinly veiling Cuban Linx II with a new cover color.
And despite the carping of cats who think it's doing a disservice to listeners to try and "remake" your classic record, it doesn't even matter to me that "Pain" and "Bodega Dreams," the first two tracks off War Report 2: Report the War (really...?), sound very similar to "Blood Money" in their use of ghostly piano.
But The War Report came out 13 years ago in '97, when metaphorical references to the Queensbridge ghetto as Iraq didn't carry quite the same type of weight that they would today. And although a hip-hop record exploring parallels between America's war and the struggle of urban youth does have some appeal, don't expect that here.
Backed by a few Scram Jones productions, a banging-but-out-of-place Buckwild track and a handful of lesser-known producers (M3, Araab Muzik, SPK, Neo da Matrix and others), most of War Report 2 consists of the type of warmed-over crime tales Nore was spinning on his solo debut. Three guest spots from Raekwon lend a little authenticity to the proceedings, and it's not like Capone and Noreaga don't have plenty of source material for their rhymes... but a meandering focus and production that recalls some of the more plasticized, hollow moments from QB mates Mobb Deep holds War Report 2 down a little.
The recastings get a little old as well. "Thug Planet" is a boring throwback to "Superthug," and I imagine if I had listened to Nore's other solo work, I would find more derivative stylings.
The final two tracks on The War Report 2, "The Corner" and "Obituary," slow things down and finally bring a little emotion to the proceedings, particularly the latter, where Nore talks about 2009 being a bad year for losing rappers and "having a phone book full of ghosts."
All told, I would give War Report 2 a B minus. Its heart is in the right place, and while you can go home again, you can't always stop your parents from turning your bedroom into a media library.
P.S. What's up with Capone's voice? He had a nice, ashy-but-smoove thing going in the original War Report. So how did his voice get higher since then? Did he have electro-shock therapy when he was locked down?