Last week, HipHopDX stopped by the EMI Records offices in New York to preview the final mix of Capone-N-Noreaga‘s The War Report 2. To be released July 13 through Raekwon‘s Ice H20 imprint – the same team that brought last year’s acclaimed Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II sequel, another ’90s homage, this album hopes to recreate the excitement, energy and chemistry that added a critical chapter to the Queens Hip Hop saga.

The question in many minds is how closely the personnel between the June, 1997 release and the July, 2010 will be. C-N-N manager/rapper Imam T.H.U.G. makes an expected return, as does longtime affiliate Musaliny, both on the “Planet Rock”-ispired “Thug Planet.” Busta Rhymes also returns, this time on “The Oath,” a conceptual track that features mutual friend and colleague, Raekwon – and brief guest vocals from one of this year’s most talked about stars. One superior veteran producer returns to the camouflage camp in D.I.T.C.‘s Buckwild, who delivers one of the album’s most-talked about cuts in “With Me.”

“With Me,” will draw many into this project. Although the War Report sequel does not feature Tragedy Khadafi or Mobb Deep, one key Queens representative does show up in Nas. Nas appears on “With Me,” to deliver a verse that sounds straight out of his It Was Written mind-state, after notably going absent on OB4CL2.

The War Report 2 balances old with the new. Production work from Alchemist, the aforementioned Buckwild and H20’s own BT will feel to fans as ’90s beats stored away in a safety deposit box, awaiting such an occasion. Meanwhile, Cam’ron in-house producer Araab Muzik and Swizz Beatz‘ protege Neo Da Matrix both deliver very contemporary-sounding backdrops for ‘Pone and N.O.R.E. Both old and new sounds alike are driven by low-end bass, with few topping Alchemist’s album-opener, “Pain,” which comes from subs-in-the-trunk era of music-making.

Lyrically, this album’s subject matter is both true to C-N-N form, and stripped down from the duo’s success and stardom. The lyrics are not rooted in bragging about money, legacy or success, but rather surviving the times. “Favor For A Favor” speaks to both the streets and the Rap industry, as a modus operandi to endure the tough times. “Bodega Stories” and “Dutches vs. Phillies vs. Bamboo” are evident of the group’s New York street appeal. These are classic N.O.R.E. subjects, comparing how one likes to roll up, and what really goes on in one of the northeast’s cultural mainstays.

Later on, the album looks inward. Treating the H20/C-N-N camps like a Cosa Nostra, songs like “Brother From Another” and “The Oath” focus on the street families and dedication within the group, to each other. Just as Channel 10‘s “The Argument” captured honest dialog between the partners-in-rhyme, so do these verses. “Live On, Live Long, Pt. 2” serves as a dedication to the then-incarcerated Tragedy Khadafi, who, as the group says, served both as a mentor and in making the ’97 classic possible. The verses are honest, and inadvertently speak to the turmoil that’s shaped the Queensbridge Rap community over the last 15 years.

Just as the case with Nas, fans will be pleased to see Raekwon appear on three songs within the album he’s executive producing. Other ’90s New York Rap titans The L.O.X. also appear, on “Bodega Stories” , and deliver masterful, short verses that show chemistry between C-N-N and D-Block. Singers Faith Evans and Avery Storm also chime in, on the two aforementioned contemporary tracks, “The Corner” and “Hood Pride.”

The War Report 2 closes with the duo acknowledging various deaths in Rap. “Obituary” is largely talked and not in traditional verse, but the duo uses the Green Lantern-produced opportunity to mention names including Half-A-Mil, Killa Sha, Mike Beck, K.L. and Dolla, all the way back to Scott La Rock, Soulja Slim and Eazy E. The list is hauntingly long, but serves as a milestone to many names, faces and voices Hip Hop has lost.

Calling back to the times of a unified New York front, Capone-N-Noreaga’s War Report sequel calls back to the glory and the imagery of the iced-out medallions era, and the album’s presentation, guest-list and sound suggest that this is more than just a talking-point sequel, Ice H20 might be freezing time.

Purchase The War Report 2 by Capone-N-Noreaga