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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nas & Damian Marley: Distant Relatives

By Nick Carrabine

"No matter where you're from -- you can be Native American, Italian, Jewish, Latino, African-American -- whatever you are, we're all distant relatives. That's what me and Damian are saying. First and foremost, the Jamaicans, Haitians, Bahamians, African-Americans, we're distant relatives to our long-lost brothers and sisters in the motherland, and we're connecting with them first. And then, second, is the whole human family -- everybody in the world is family." -Nas

No one likes a collaboration album.

They rarely ever work, they usually seem forced and worse, most are just made for the money.

If you don’t agree, see Jay-Z & R. Kelly.

Nas has long been rumored to make a collaborative album. Die-hard fans have dreamt of the day he’d release an LP with AZ and since signing with Def Jam in 2006, people figured him and Jay-Z would release an album together.

So when Nas announced in early 2009 that he was making an album with Bob Marley’s son, reggae artist Damian, aka Jr. Gong, I almost fell out of my chair.

That really came out of left field.

Not that the two haven’t collaborated together before. The two hooked up in 2005 for the Grammy-award winning Road to Zion track, which was released on Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock.

The song was great, but I didn’t think the two would have it in them to make a whole album together.

Flash forward five years to the release of Distant Relatives, which was released on Tuesday (May 18).

The two have released close to a flawless album that touches on subjects from Africa, poverty and various social issues that surround us all today.

Nas has always been a socially and politically conscious rapper. I haven’t listened enough to Damian Marley’s past work to really know that much about him, but his work on Distant Relatives will certainly earn him plenty of new fans as it is clear he has a similar mind to Nas.

In fact, the album, which samples a lot of African music, sounds more like a reggae album with guest appearances from Nas, meaning, Nas pretty much let Marley do his thing and Nas chipped in where it seemed suitable.

Dare I go as far as saying that Marley actually carries this album while Nas follows?

Nas, who has always been a creative writer, rarely steps out of his comfort zone when it comes to beats, style or genre but here it is refreshing to hear him 16 years into the music industry make a complete jump into the reggae genre without it seeming too forced.

Proceeds of the album are going towards schools in Africa and while the album was made for a good cause, it rarely comes across as too preachy.

Obviously, if you aren’t a reggae fan, or a rap fan — in particular — a fan of Nas. Then this album isn’t for you.

But if you are a fan of either one of these artists, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good it actually is.

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Nah Mean


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