Tragedy Khadafi Compares Reunion With C-N-N To Roc-A-Fella Getting Back Together
This year, it seems the trend in hip-hop is nostalgia. In the past few months, we’ve seen crews like Dipset and G-Unit come together to make music that recaptures their original formidable years. With all this talk of the rap game recreating the golden years of the late 1990s/early 2000s, the thought of Capone-N-Noreaga and Tragedy Khadafi hitting the studio again isn’t surprising. The Queens products are best known for their classic album The War Report, but each have gone on to create their own legacies with solo LPs that received attention from fans.
These days, C-N-N and Tragedy have been hanging out a lot. From a huge welcome home concert this past week to constant studio sessions all over the East Coast for The War Report 3, it’s safe to say that Queens rap is back and in full effect. Earlier this week, XXL had the 42-year-old veteran MC—who brought blueberries to share during our interview—swing through the XXL offices to speak on being back with his rap crew again. Trag gave us insight on the C-N-N reunion, why Penalty Entertainment is a good fit for them, and—most importantly—what we can expect from The War Report 3.—Eric Diep
XXL: How did it feel to be performing with C-N-N again at La Quinta in Queens?
Tragedy Khadafi: I felt like I waited 20 years for it. It felt real good. We’ve been speaking for years, but a lot I could respect is that...we all agreed before we worked together, we needed to become friends again and not just be on for the sake of trying to benefit off said brand or whatever. It needed to be genuine. It needed to be authentic and we all agreed on that. We was doing some joints here and there. I'm on the Student Of The Game album with me, N.O.R.E. and Havoc. “Camouflage Unicorns.” And ‘Pone did a few joints for me in between there. We all agreed before we came together and formed again, we had to be [tight]. For me, it was great 'cause that energy was there.
What happened with you guys? Was there some sort of fallout?
Life happened. For a young guy like you, you will come across things where life is gonna happen to you, too, fortunately and unfortunately. But you know, we learn from it. Life happened and money got involved. It got to a point where... You know when I say money, not in terms of dudes getting greedy, but any time there is money involved, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the individuals who actually fall out. You may have people who have a different kind of interest, they want to get involved. You know, planting seeds. And when you are young, you go through that. Sometimes, people can get in your head. I’ve done it. We all do it. It’s things of that nature.
So this reunion has been a long time coming.
Aside from the reunion being a long time coming, I think it’s good for music lovers of that era, as well as this era now. You know, ‘cause we raised a lot of dudes with that album. To see what raised you come together, it's like the groups that raised us or raised me, and [to] see them kind of go separate ways and come back together is a beautiful thing. Imagine if the Roc got back together. The whole Roc. Like, Jay, Beans, Amil, everybody. Sauce Money. Jaz-O. Even Dame. That’s what I equate that to. The Roc getting back together. It’s a good feeling. It’s just good energy.
What about the status of your solo album, Magnum Opus?
I’m ready to drop that like right now. You know what I'm saying? I’m ready to drop that right now. I’m talking to my boy and we can wait 'til after this project drop and kind of piggyback that. I’m ready to drop. Nah mean? Little touch-ups here and there, but I’m ready to go. I’m loaded, G. I’m loaded!
Did you put a pause on your solo career to do the C-N-N thing?
I wouldn’t even say that. It’s all coinciding to me. One feeds off the other and the other feeds off the other. It goes back and forth. I’m not gonna stop being Khadafi, nah mean? Nor am I trying to hinder me and my brothers from doing what we came to do. I wouldn’t expect them to do it. It’s all on the same road to me.
What are your thoughts on C-N-N signing to Penalty Entertainment?
That was the original home. For the most part, Penalty did real good with The War Report. Penalty did real good with N.O.R.E. and helping kind of alley-oop that with Tommy Boy [Music]. I think Neil Levine, he knows what he's doing. He knows how to put the right people in place. He’s respected in the machine. I’m interested to see how well it does in this new age, in this digital world. I think there’s gonna be some challenges in terms of how some of us see it. I watched N.O.R.E.’s promo game, he’s pretty much on top of that. But I think we need to pick up some real guns, you know what I'm saying? And work the project in that way. I’m cool with it.
Penalty was huge for N.O.R.E.’s career in the late 1990s.
Things have changed, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. They did good with The War Report, in my opinion. It was a hard-edged record. There weren’t any commercial singles on there. It went gold. That was good. No commercial records at all. You had “Closer” and all that, but that wasn’t the forte of what the formula of what C-N-N was. It was moreso a joint that popped.
What is your process going into the third War Report? How do you top a hip-hop classic?
That was a bit of my concern with going in and doing this. Seeing how we can mesh together and at the same time, keep that integrity. Keep that integrity energy and that pulse that we initially had with The War Report. Realistically, you can’t recreate something over again. You can duplicate it and nine times out of ten with an album of that magnitude; you won’t necessarily get the same effect because it's a different time. Time is not the same. Life is not the same, and we are not the same. To try to mimic that, it could be fruitless. I believe moreso that we need to be in the space where we're not necessarily trying to duplicate that, but just come with the same kind of energy. The same kind of energy will produce the same results. We don’t have to say exactly the same things. We're gonna get a sprinkle of certain things you are familiar with ‘cause it's only right.
In general, how do you feel about reunions? Do you think they're a way for rappers to put the battery pack in their careers?
That’s what I was saying earlier. We all agreed to it. Everybody is gonna say that in an interview. “Yo, the love!” The thing about us is that this is how you know it's authentic, because if it was fake, we would have did this shit already. The reason why it took so long is 'cause it wasn’t fake. It wasn’t gonna be no, “Yo! What up dun?” And we go to the studio and we’re like, “Fuck that motherfucker.” It wasn’t gonna be like that. It was gonna be moreso like, “Listen man, it’s gonna take time.” It’s a lot of things—unfortunately, but fortunately for us. We wasn’t just them dudes just making music. We had certain kinds of lifestyles I don’t particularly adhere to now as my life as an older man with children.
It’s a known fact that we were living a certain kind of lifestyle. So there are a lot of layers of things there. Again, to answer your question, do I feel like the reunion thing—obviously, they did a reunion record for them. Everybody looked at them like, “Yo, you’re supposed to have Trag on it," or whatever. Again, of course, I would have loved to be on it, but circumstances didn’t permit that. People don’t understand they had to reunite when they did The Reunion album. They go through they thing. We all go through shit. It wasn’t always C-N-N, Trag. It was a whole bunch of stuff that I am proud to say as men maturing in our life is a good thing. Reuniting? Does it help jumpstart the career? Yeah. People want to root for their team again. It’s like motherfuckin’ Jordan but he ain’t beat up.
Are you guys trying to revitalize New York gangsta rap with this album?
With us, it wasn’t really gangsta rap. Like, we all came from different perspectives. At times, we might have enhanced on hints a little bit of the quote-unquote "gangsta" side. But it was never really a gangster thing. It was moreso that’s just what we was livin’. Yo, we never called ourselves: “Yo! I’m a gangsta.” Like, we never said that. It’s just how we was livin’. It was just our culture, our lifestyle. To me, that album just spoke to a whole generation. Similar to The Infamous album, similar to Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. Those particular albums—and many other albums—all spoke to a specific generation at a specific time. I think with this album, what could you expect? You could expect fire. Let’s be clear—me, N.O.R.E. and Capone are very competitive. But in a good way.
You can expect some surprises, too. We’ve got a few surprises on there that’s gonna have people like, “Wow! That’s crazy.” We did some shit like where we kind of flipped something that dudes gonna be like, “Yo, that’s crazy.” And they not gonna know how to take it at first. You gonna get it when you hear it, B. It’s some shit.
Troy Ave is always talking about restoring the feeling and bringing New York back. What are you and C-N-N trying to add to hip-hop right now that's missing?
Honestly, I’m not trying to bring anything back. ‘Cause when we made The War Report, we wasn’t reaching back for something. We were reaching forward. But we were living in the now. It just so happens when you make a classic album, people always want you to reach back to bring it here. I don’t look at it as reaching back with this; I'm going in just to put it out there. I just want to give you what I am now. I’ma do it the same way in terms of the commitment. My focus. My energy. My creativity. God willing, you will embrace it even more. Just for the simple fact, “Damn, how do you do that and do this in this type of time span?” My personal goal is to just make some hot shit. In terms of New York? Yeah, I want New York to be on top. C’mon. This is where we at. This is where we from. At the same time, I’m not trying to bring New York back. For me, New York never left.