Review Summary: "This goes out to all the wisdom and knowledge seekers of the world."
Here Nas and Damian Marley create a perfect blend of two very genres from two artists who appear as completely different, but turn out to be more similar than you'd think. Now, despite all the critical acclaim Nas has received during his career, I still can't help but feel he is still underrated at times. This album is a perfect example of it. Now, I'm not going to get into why I feel this album is underrated but let me say that you should definitely not look over this one. Whether you're a Reggae fan or a Hip Hop fan, this album manages to not only please both audiences, but go far beyond expectations with some of the most intelligent and insightful lyrics I've heard in a long time.
Now, Nas can't be specifically placed into a certain genre of Hip Hop. He has done everything from street tales (Illmatic) to mafioso rap (It Was Written) to mainstream rap (Nastradamus) to politically and socially conscious rap (Stillmatic) and more personal and emotional rap (God's Son). This album definitely falls into the category of politically and socially conscious. Most of the tracks are about the problems in Africa and America as well.
But enough about Nas, let's talk about Damian. Although he is considered reggae, he mostly attempts to rap on this album and I have to say that he is pretty damn good at it. He has amazingly conscious lyrics that really make you think. Damian's talent is best showcased on "Patience" with so many great lines such as "Pay no mind to the youth
'cause it's not like the future depends on it, but save the animals in the zoo 'cause them chimpanzees make big money" and "Are we born not knowing? Are we born knowing all? Are we growing wiser? Are we just growing tall?"
The album starts out immediately with "As We Enter" which, although the most different track on the album, makes the perfect opener because it destroys any doubts you would have about the two different genres clashing together. It is followed by "Tribes at War" which truly showcases how the rest of the album will sound. It is slightly more upbeat than the rest of the album, excluding "As We Enter". It's a song about the problems in Africa such as violence, child soldiers and blood diamonds. It also touches on the subject of gang violence in America. This track also features a memorable verse from K'naan, who talks through an African's point of view. The next few tracks discuss similar topics with "Strong Will Continue" being another standout track discussing racial tolerance. "Count Your Blessings" is yet another standout track with an extremely moving chorus from Damian Marley and lyrics from Nas talking on his son and how they will be hated for starting a revolution and building a new nation. The best track on the album is "Patience", as I said before, Damian Marley did an impressive job with three stunningly conscious and intelligent verses where he touches on everything from people talking too much but never being able to back up what they say, how only rich people benefit from health care, how people forget that the children are the future and ignore them and how the media (specifically paparazzi) only focus on the negative things in life. Nas closes the song with another great verse where he questions society with lines like "What's hue? What's man? What's human?", "Don't you try to get hold of my soul" and "why we born in the first place if this is the way we gotta go?" "My Generation" talks about the importance of the youth and their education. It features a guest appearance from Lil Wayne whose verse will most likely leave even his biggest hater impressed. The album closer "Africa Must Wake Up" addresses how Africa needs to realize the problems they have and how they need to find cures for the diseases and stop the violence and tribal wars.
In the end, Distant Relatives will leave you stunned no matter how skeptical you were about it. This is one of the most intelligent and conscious albums I've ever heard and It definitely belongs amongst Nas' best albums. However, you can't forget to give Damian Marley props with his amazingly smooth production, great singing and very moving lyrical content. This is one of, if not the best, Hip Hop album of 2010 and deserves a listen no matter what genre of music you listen to and whether or not you like Nas or Damian Marley.