Review Summary: Nas and Marley prove to be a formidable, unsuspecting collaboration on Distant Relatives.
When I first heard that Nas and Damian Marley were collaborating, I was a tad skeptical. After all, Nas is one of today’s best rappers coupled with the fact the man has defined his career from scratch. On the flipside, we have reggae/rap/jam rock artist Damian Marley, who has instant name recognition without even producing an album. I would say that qualifies as an unusual pairing, but that is one of the main reasons they produced Distant Relatives
. In fact, it was worth wondering whether Distant Relatives
would lean more towards Marley’s or Nas’ style and if the two styles would mix like that of oil and water. Well, that answer comes quicker than you would think.
wastes no time as “As We Enter” provides a dynamic synergy in a call-and-response track that essentially sets up each owns personality and background. As Nas spits ‘and I got the guns’ Marley responds ‘I got the ganja’ it shows their goal of creating a “we one, together” vibe through a loose quip of their preconceived notions (and truths). With that, “As We Enter” showcases how effortlessly Nas and Marley make what could have been an awkward pairing. Along with “As We Enter,” more Nas-esque tracks include “Tribes at War,” “Strong Will Continue,” “Dispear,” and “Nah Mean,” but are certainly not limited to a simple big-shot rapper influence as Marley’s vocals flow naturally. These tracks are powerful, driving forces within Distant Relatives
that keep up what is otherwise a rather relaxing album. Marley shows his tenacity vocally specifically in “Nah Mean,” as a thunderous beat reminds us of the finer moments seen in Illmatic
However the album is hardly one-dimensional. The use of a full band to record Distant Relatives
really enhanced the jam-rock/reggae geared tracks. “My Generation” plays as a gospel jam, with a cameo from Lil’ Wayne, whose presence on the album was quizzical, if not downright awkward given his general raunchy style. In fact, the slower paced songs are fitting for any sort of summit for a slew of causes, specifically “Africa Must Wake Up,” which Marley’s hypnotizing chorus leads through Nas’ verses and K’Naan’s bridge that encapsulate a fitting closing track. In summation, the tracks can tend to seem drawn out given their length and the quickness of “As We Enter,” but are true testaments to Marley’s reggae background and their willingness to test uncharted waters.
Nas and Damian Marley are a formidable pairing, seemingly on the same level throughout most of the album in thought and overall presence. Distant Relatives
is an important reminder that we are all one together, no matter how different the background, and thus proving Nas and Marley’s ‘hypothesis’ that even though they are hardly similar, they can join to create fantastic music, even if it's a track or two too many. Granted, they completed this album in a relatively short time, it begs the question how much they could grow if they worked with each other on future albums. At that point, they may not be such distant relatives.