Nas & Damian Marley - Distant Relatives

2010-08-25 12:28
 
 
“I’ve got joy in abundance. I’ve got life full of substance. I’ve got meetings and functions. So I count my blessings,” sings Damian Marley with the kind of simple soulfulness dad Bob would have been proud of.

“So don’t be mad if you ain’t fly y’all. You got the means to reach the level I’m on. You should know that there’s only one Nas y’all,” raps Nas, full of self-importance. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon are the Odd Couple; so Nas and Damian Marley will have to be The Unlikely one. “I got the guns,” says one. “I got da ganja,” says the other.

Nas and Damian Marley (Bob’s youngest son with Miss World 1976 Cindy Breakspeare) first got together in 2005. Nas showed up on "Road to Zion", on Marley’s double Grammy-winning album Welcome to Jamrock. "Our team of managers came up with the idea of us to do an EP kind of based around Africa, you know," explained Marley to Rap-Up TV. "We started working on that and decided to make it an album."   

First single "As We Enter" is the best track on the album. Nas raps over gang vocals, old-fashioned dance hall sounds and a rude, catchy dance beat. It’s light and heavy at the same time. From Jamaica, through New York and Miami (where Marley lives). Most of all, it never takes itself too seriously. But after that, things get pretty heavy, from tribal wars, Shaka Zulu and Obama, to God, dinosaurs and evolution.

"How in the hell am I supposed to stay comfy when I pay child support alimony monthly? Got Maseratis and Ferraris…" raps Nas on "Strong Will Continue", bitter and totally out of place.

"See a nigger disappearin’ with the baddest honeys in the whole spot. Yee-ah!" he spits at the end of the song, which just sounds ridiculous on an album about Africa and the common roots of hip-hop and reggae, featuring Bob Marley’s son.


"Count Your Blessings" is a poolside-sounding summertime hit. Marley’s lines sound so humble and pure. Beautiful. "I count my blessings. That I’m safe when I’m resting, furniture in my nesting," he sings over a sweet, Ziggy Marley-sounding acoustic riff. "I’ve got something to live for. I’ve got surplus to give more," ... until Nas takes over, backed by an electric guitar and a rare glimpse of positivity, rapping earnestly and tenderly about his then-unborn son. It’s another album highlight.  

"My Generation" is a full-blown Michael Jackson, "Heal the World" moment with a cheesy kid’s choir. Lil Wayne even shows up to sing, "I heard change start with the man in the mirror."

Then on "Africa Must Wake Up" Nas raps "Your history is too complex and rigid for some Western critics" and "the first architects, the first philosophers, astronomers, the first prophets and the doctors was us."

The album could do without Nas' us-and-them-ing. Without tallying scores. Some of Distant Relatives doesn’t even make sense: "Africa’s the origin of all the world’s religions."

Overall, some songs do work better than others. But often, Distant Relatives feels weighed down by its own intention. "I go off like a Shiite bomb," raps Nas on "Dispear." What does he mean, his rhymes kill innocent bystanders in the name of God?

Marley and Nas are such contrasting characters. Marley’s likeable the whole way through. Nas isn’t. Marley sings potentially cheesy lines like "Everyone deserves to earn, and every child deserves to learn" with that soulful Marley twang, injecting them with heart and poetry. Nas has got a lot more baggage. A lot more bullshit to sift through. Which is a pity, because he’s a good rapper.          

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The Odd Couple of ragga-rap deliver a strange brew of worldly soulfulness and bewildering anger-rhymes.

VICNESH 2010/08/25 12:57 PM
YUSUF LAHER YOU COME ACROSS AS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE THAT LISTERN TO COMMERCIAL RAP AND HIP HOP AND PROBABILY THINK THAT JAY Z IS THE MAN THAT IS WHY YOU WILL NEVER BE HAPPY WITH THE RAP NAS PUT'S OUT AS FOR THIS ALBUM I THINK IT WAS LONG OVER DUE AND THAT NAS AND DAMIAN ARE AN EXCELLENT COMBINATION I PERSONAL GOT A COPY OF THE CD WHEN IT JUST RELEASED AND I LISTERN TO IT DAILY NUMBER 3 ON THE ALBUM 'STRONG WILL CONTINUE " IS ONE OF THE SONG THAT APPEAR ON THE NEW FIFA WORLD CUP EDITION GAME NEED I SAY MORE
Player hater 2010/08/25 3:19 PM
I totally disagree with you on this one. This is the great collaboration. Maybe you have something on NAS or you are one of those people who don't want to evolve and still stuck in the 80s when life used to be good as they say. I also have an album myself and I play it from first track to the last one without pressing next. Anyway anyone is entitled to his/her own opinion.
Totts 2010/08/26 3:30 PM
Yusuf, i totally disagree with you on this, for me an african living in africa was more a wake up call or maybe a bit of an embarrasment, that international artist can take up issues from Africa and do more justice than people who reside here, Nas has been championing africa from way back, Damian we all know the history, this is the best collabo album i know of and artist are a match made in Heaven, the song patience too awasome for words, this is a must have album if not for the content, then let it be for charity as proceeds from this album will help build a school in Congo
Totts 2010/08/26 3:48 PM
Yusuf, i totally disagree with you on this, for me an african living in africa was more a wake up call or maybe a bit of an embarrasment, that international artist can take up issues from Africa and do more justice than people who reside here, Nas has been championing africa from way back, Damian we all know the history, this is the best collabo album i know of and artist are a match made in Heaven, the song patience too awasome for words, this is a must have album if not for the content, then let it be for charity as proceeds from this album will help build a school in Congo.
the strong 2010/08/30 4:22 PM
This has got to be one of the best cd's of our time.I listen to commercial rap and hip hop but I get pulled in by Nas everytime he addresses issues(maybe because it sounds relative to me). I have never stopped listening to this cd since I put it on a month ago. Track number 2, TribalWars is a stand out but so are almost all the other tracks on the cd. This is definitely a must have.
Elias 2010/10/21 9:03 PM
Saying "I go off like a Shiite bomb" is just another example of the type of ignorance i have gotten used to hearing from Nas. Sure Illmatic is arguably the most influential album in hip-hop, but i think Nas gets too much credit for being "conscious". An educated person would not say something so bigoted and prejudiced.
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