Capone-N-Noreaga Details Penalty Entertainment Return
Exclusive: CNN emcees Capone and N.O.R.E. discuss their return to Penalty Entertainment and their bond with Neil Levine.
Capone-N-Noreaga's re-signing with Penalty Entertainment is an important one for the Queens, New York duo.
"Penalty did so much for me," Capone says in an interview with HipHopDX regarding the group's re-signing with the label that released Capone-N-Noreaga's debut album, 1997's The War Report. "When we first signed to Penalty, we were young and all that. I actually became a man through Penalty because when I had my situation and I went away to jail, like I didn’t really have nobody. My mother had just died, all I basically had was Penalty, Trag[edy Khadafi] and N.O.R.E. Everybody else that came into my life at that time was through Penalty...That was like my extended family."
N.O.R.E. says Penalty's owner Neil Levine was specifically important in this re-signing because of their work together over the years.
"I’ve been with Neil for a long time," N.O.R.E. says. "I was there when he started to build the company Penalty...I was also there when he started working for other companies. We’ve just maintained a great relationship throughout times from the beginning. I’m glad to call him a business partner, I’m glad to call him an executive that I trust and I’m glad to call him a friend."
Capone echoes N.O.R.E.'s sentiments.
"To see how Neil took care of me, you know in my time, I couldn’t feel better," Capone says. "And to come back around now, I have the opportunity to do it again because we actually made history with Neil. And to come back around all these years later and do it again and have the same outlook as we had before, that we can win, it’s amazing."
Capone-N-Noreaga, also known as CNN, are working on their upcoming group album, which has yet to be titled. Capone says Penalty is the right launching pad for this project.
"Neil believed in us," he says. "We didn’t have to convince him. He believed and right now, it’s like we're back in the same boat. We got somebody that believes in us and we believe in him. So we can’t go wrong."
Capone adds that his love for the imprint goes beyond many other artists' appreciation for their labels.
"A lot of people sign to labels and they just sign to a label, then they got their own thing going and they doing them," Capone says, "but I never really seen somebody sign to a label and really push the label, like push the brand of the label. Because we have our own brand, but Penalty is also a brand that we totally believed in. So it’s no doubt that we want to see Neil blossom and see Penalty grow to what it should’ve been. So we want to be part of that. So I look at it in a situation where we want to build our brand, but we also want to build Penalty’s because you never know, that could be the new Def Jam. That could be a big, super big label and to be part of that growth would be amazing."
Capone Details Neil Levine's Assistance In Court
Capone's allegiance for Penalty comes from years of support from Levine, particularly when he was facing incarceration.
"Neil showed his loyalty from start to finish and I love him for that," Capone says. "And I praised him for that because a lot of record execs, they don’t understand it. Like an artist go to jail, they just forget about ‘em. They move on to the next one. Neil crashed his car coming to court for me, jumped out his brand new crashed car, jumped in a taxi and still made it to court for me. You know what I’m sayin’? These execs these days are not doin’ that, unless they’ve been through it themselves. You know, you got a lot of Black entrepreneurs these days with their own situations, but a lot of corporate America they not doin’ that."
Capone says he couldn't believe Levine left a car crash to make his court appearance, but someone else was also impressed by this gesture.
"My judge couldn’t believe that," Capone says. "My judge gave me extension behind that because he couldn’t believe this guy crashed his brand new car, left in on the highway, jumped in a taxi just to make it to court to talk about that I needed to stay home and finish this album and all that. And he granted me that permission. So that meant a lot to me, ‘cause not only did I get to stay home to finish what I had to finish on the album, but I also got to chill with my brothers. It was a lot, man. It was a lot."
Upon CNN's signing with Penalty, Neil Levine released the following statement in a press release:
"The re-signing of legendary group CNN is a monumental moment in the Penalty legacy and I'm proud to be able to share it with the world," Levine said at the time. "I'm also excited to be able to contribute toward building Nore's vision with Good Belt Gang, a new generation of artists he's passing the torch down to. We're about to re-write history."