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About the Artist
Unlike all previous collaborations between Jamaican and American artists, Distant Relatives is neither a remix nor a featured guest spot on a single track. The recording is a fully collaborative effort filling an entire album, opening new avenues of musical expression. Distant Relatives traces the direct line from dancehall reggae's breakthrough moment forty years ago to the rise of hip-hop several years later--from Run D.M.C. and Yellowman's groundbreaking collaboration "Roots Rap Reggae" through Supercat introducing Biggie Smalls to the world on the "Dolly My Baby" remix and Shabba Ranks and KRS-One joining forces on "The Jam." That line continues right up through Damian Marley and Nas' double-Grammy-winning "Road To Zion."
Distant Relatives is an album created by two serious artists to explore and celebrate the correlations and deep-rooted connections between reggae and hip-hop, tracing both sounds back to the African motherland that is both the cradle of humanity and the wellspring of mankind's music.
And who better to fulfill this mission? The youngest son of the legendary Bob Marley, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley garnered his own place in music history when he became the first ever reggae artist to win a Grammy Award outside of the Reggae category, taking home an award for Best Urban/Alternative performance for his smash 2005 single "Welcome To Jamrock." The acclaimed breakthrough album of the same name also won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
A hip-hop icon since his immortal guest verse on Main Source's 1991 "Live At The Barbeque," Nas burst out of the Queensbridge housing projects, a hotbed of rap artistry since the early '80s. The son of jazz trumpeter Olu Dara, Nas has since gone on to sell over 20 million albums worldwide over the span of his legendary career, and has acted as an ambassador for hip-hop culture throughout the globe.
"When we first started working, I was thinking about what direction we should go in," Nas explained during a recent discussion at the Grammy Museum. "Cause it's all kinda like the same--reggae, rap. But it went to its own thing... We had a few concepts. All basically around empowerment in a way, cause if we're talking about Distant Relatives we're talking about the human family."
The sound of Distant Relatives features live musicians as well as studio production by Damian Marley and his elder brother Stephen Marley, a distinguished award-winning artist and producer in his own right. Featured artists on the album connect other diasporic dots-- New Orleans' own Lil Wayne as well as the critically acclaimed Somali-born, Canadian-raised MC K'NAAN.
"I didn't want it to sound like something that would be typical of me, neither typical of Nas," said Damian Marley, who produced much of the album. "But something where you can still see how there's a middle ground in the music... where you can still hear something that is reminiscent of either of us... It's been really fun. Cause we've been going in the booth together. Especially as a lyricist, it's really like iron sharpen iron. You can't slack off right now. It's a great learning experience for me too." And that experience extends to young listeners who will surely be enlightened and educated about the shared cultural legacy of Africa, America, and the Caribbean.
"The whole process is gonna be fun," Nas adds. "I think we can have fun helping people. When I think about things we wanna do with this album, it's just limitless."
Top Customer Reviews
"Tribes at war" has African percussion, Arabic strings and a cameo from K'Naan. "Everyone deserves to earn, every child deserves to learn" sings Marley in his world weary delivery while K'Naan asks "I drink poison then vomit diamonds, I gave you Mandela, Black Dalai Lamas, I gave you music, you enthused in my kindness, so how dare you reduce me to Donny Imus?". Damien had previously appeared on the track "I come prepared" from K'Naan's album "Troubadour".
"Strong will continue" has a marching beat and electric guitars (with some semi-biographical rapping from Nas touching on his ex and alimony payments) while the beautiful and lilting "Leaders" features Damian's brother Stephen. It sounds like a Bob Marley classic.
"Count your blessings" is a gently stomping horn-peppered number finding Marley thankful for love and assurance, new health insurance, strength and endurance, and urging us to do the same, while "Land of promise" is a cover of a song by Dennis Brown featuring the Reggae legend himself. It is a slow burning Dub with lyrics seeing a new Africa with Ethiopia the capital.Read more ›
The bulk of the production is handled by Marley, and it consists of an array of innovative rhythms never before heard on a rap or reggae album. Distant Relatives opens up with one of these unconventional tracks, simply titled, 'As We Enter'. This is a really bouncy track that is meant to solidify the duo's readiness. I loved this song because of how intense it was and Nas did a great job with the hook. This chorus is catchy but it also establishes the duo's dominance in the worlds of hiphop and reggae. "The kings is [are] back, time to return the crown"
The album doesn't continue down the road of intensity however. After the first 3 tracks or so things get fairly mellow. This isn't bad though, because the songs are still good. Just don't expect to be pumping your fists all the way throughout the LP.
Things start to heat up again at 'Dispear' which clearly has more of an African influence to it. The whole song feels very tribal and aggressive. It's as if someone where being chased through a jungle of some sorts. The lyrics are also very impressive and I'm reminded of the brilliance of Nas' last Untitled LP when I hear him speak again.
After Dispear, things only continue to get better. 'Land of Promise' is an amazing song, and more Reggae/Bob Marley esque than anything else presented to us thus far.Read more ›
If this cd does not get album of the year the music industry is seriously flawed. I haven't heard anything this dynamic in years. Not knowing much about Nas, I thought his flow was on point although I felt that a couple of his verses were a bit too self indulgent for the album's theme, especially his last verse on Strong Will Continue. Perhaps his fans get it, but I thought that verse took something away from an otherwise outstanding song.
I've never heard anything good about Lil Wayne, (probably because I'm not in that age group), but his small contribution on one song sounded decent to me. I found something to love about each and every song, including Joss Stone, whose voice is lovely. These are my standout tracks...
As We Enter
The beat is so infectious on this one that I can't sit still and the hair-trigger back and forth exchange between Damian and Nas is so darn flawless, it's unbelieveable. It ain't braggin' when it's true.
Tribes At War
From the African drumming to the thought provoking lyrics, this track is mind blowingly powerful. On the third verse Damian's delivery is absolute fire and K'naan's 5 point breakdown is stunning in both it's lyrical and melodic impact.
Strong Will Continue
The last verse notwithstanding, this is still one of my favorite tracks. The dramatic sweep of the music, the soaring chorus and the overall uplifting message of encouragement makes this song unforgettable.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of my favorite albums, great collaboration and very positive!Published 15 days ago by Amazon Customer
If you're on this page you want it. This ('as we enter' & 'nah mean' specifically) has been on my workout playlist for years. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Josh
I love music and this CD continues that love affair. Thank you Nas & Jr. Gong for this one! But of course, my son loves it too and confiscated the CD from me. Bummer!! :(Published 3 months ago by mcdalie
This is one of my favorite albums - Damian and Nas are amazing - the talent is dripping thick, I can't get over how deep the lyrics are - its on another level, pure genius.... Read morePublished 3 months ago by HS
|Topic||From this Discussion|
I've only seen the digipak version. I didn't think it was available in a jewel case
May 19, 2010 by Terry Myers | See all 5 posts
that song is on her cd, unless there was supposed to be another one
Apr 16, 2010 by Samantha | See all 3 posts
What are digital booklets?
Mar 27, 2013 by Taysha Clay | See all 2 posts