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Distant Relatives was released in 2010 and sees the collaboration of two artists from what may be considered quite different fields. Nas (Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones) is primarily known as a hip hop artist and rapper. Damien Marley is a reggae artist and is also the youngest son of the late Bob Marley. The title of the album is a reflection of the pairs relationship and shared African ancestry as well as the shared ancestry of the human race. This album is a fusion of their two genres and this review will provide a rundown of each track on the album.
Track by track
1.As we Enter- This was the first single of the album and is a great introduction to the album. There is a great beat on this song which is infectious. Nas and Damien announce their arrival in great fashion. 5/5
2.Tribes at War feat K'naan- Another top song but this time with a slower beat and very strong lyrics. Nas starts off with a historical rundown. Marley sings in the chorus "Every man deserve to earn,And every child deserve to learn." There is a very strong performance from another artist I really like (K'naan) in a 5 point verse . 5/5
3.Strong will continue- This is another top song. The first few tracks in my opinion are very strong and get the album off to a great start. This is a song of hope and has an uplifting message. "only the strong will continue, I know you have it in you." 5/5
4. Leaders feat Stephen Marley-Another decent song which is a shout out to all the leaders and their influence. This is a much slower paced song and has more of a reggae feel. 4.5/5
5.Friends- This is a story of friends and especially true friends who won't let you down . "Your real friends will serve you long. Sunshine or rain." 4.5/5
6.Count your blessings- this is a song with a positive message again and about being thankful for what you have. "I've got strength and endurance. So I count my blessings." 4.5/5
7.Dispear-Really good song with some great lyrics which come mainly from Nas. This mainly seems to be about the difference and oprresion suffered by those in the lower classes compared to those higher up. Damien gives a great backdrop with the infusion of a choir and instruments. 4.5/5
8. Land of Promise- This song is about Africa and Damien tries to compare places in Africa to those in America. "Imagine Ghana like California with Sunset Boulevard
Johannesburg would be Miami ,Somalia like New York." Another great song with some top lyrics. 5/5
9. In his own words- a song with a strong and positive message to keep going through tough times. Also features another appearance from Stephen Marley. 4.5/5
10. Nah Mean- decent song with the repetitive Nah Mean lyric-
do you know what i mean/ understand? Good track but not one of the best ones on the album for me. 4/5
11.Patience- This is probably my favourite track on the album although there are quite a few other very decent songs on this album. The lyrics on this song are top notch. The sample from a song called sabali also works great with this song and gives a real African feel to it. Sabali means patience in Bambara which is a language mainly spoken in West Africa and Mali. 5/5
12. My generation featuring Joss Stone and Lil Wayne- This is another top track. It also include the great soulful voice of Joss Stone as backdrop. I am not a big Lil Wayne fan but his lyrics in this song are great and work well with the others in the track. The chorus is also sung by kids and this adds to the appeal of the song. "My generation will make a change
This generation will make a change." 5/5
13. Africa must wake up featuring K'naan-great song to end the album on. Has a slower pace and lyrics which really come out. It is trying to get across the message the continent is in some trouble and people need to wake up and help those in need. A great closing sequence also has the lyrics "We're all distant relatives, no matter where you're from, where you live, how near how far, Africa, China, Japan, Afghanistan, Israel, we're all family." 4.5/5
This is a great album. There are no real weak tracks on it at all. A few are slightly below the very high standards of the others but do not really bring the album down too much. The fusion of the two quite different artists worked really well and this is credit to them both. There are also some great guest appearances from the likes of Stephen Marley, K'naan , Joss Stone and Lil Wayne. The top tracks for me would be : As we enter, Strong will continue, Patience and My Generation but there are others also. I would just about give this album 5/5 stars. One of the top albums of 2010 and you should be able to get it for less than £5 on Amazon which is a bargain.
In 2010 came an exciting collaboration project for a couple of leaders in their own fields. With "Distant Relatives", the New York Hip Hop MC Nas and the Jamaican Reggae and Dancehall star Damian Marley come together in the same way that they did with the single "Road To Zion" to show how well their styles work together with an earthy sound which reunites them through their African roots. The album features production from Bob Marley's sons including Stephen, and Damian and is all overlooked by former EPMD member Erick Sermon. The guests include K'naan, Dennis Brown and Lil' Wayne.
1. "As We Enter"
The album gets off to a great start as we're presented with what was the debut single from the album. I thought it to be a great way to let them get their names out there in a very commercial manner as this one doesn't have all the depth that the others on the release do and so instead throws you right into the mix of the record with a fast-paced track which has a manageable structure for the mainstream world with all the quality that fans of theirs will want.
2. "Tribes At War"
With this track we're taken into a tune which turns things much more over to the Reggae end of the music as we move into a sort of cover of the classic hit "Tribal War" (a George Nooks song originally). I felt that it was done well with a nice hook delivered by Damian before things are handed over to Nas and then from that point the biggest Somali-Canadian export in K'naan is able to show what he can give over the African percussion with his interesting approach up over the beats on this tune as African Diaspora is explored.
3. "Strong Will Continue"
I thought that the chorus on this track was extremely engaging and brought you in from the very start of the track. It's a great place to set things off from and made it a nice choice in another single on the release. I thought that this one was quite a dense on a features rather in-your-face beats and so it may not appeal to all, but the way it's put together with the straight-forward rhyming and harsh beats means that the messages are expressed clearly.
I thought that this one was amongst the best tracks on the release. There was little faulting it as its a very laid-back piece and gets very smooth production laid-down on it in order to make you feel at ease when you hear it. From this point the vocalists (who in this case also include Stephen Marley) make for a solemn track which has them appealing towards those in control to ease up on those who have it hard.
Although I was into this track, I felt that the direction taken on this recording woudln't appeal to as wide an audience as those which led up to it. Here Nas gets no say on the track at all, and see that Damian Marley takes things in a contemporary Dancehall direction (one which has come to embrace Reggae much more than it seemed to in the nineties) and so it seems to still fit in with the mix of this record.
6. "Count Your Blessings"
I saw this to be amongst the best that this album had to offer. Its one that I really can't see a single person having any issues with whatsoever as its an ultimate uplifting, feel-good record. It has lots of funky production given on it and from there Damian Marley comes up with a solid and catchy hook which guides you in to allow Nas to do his thing with his typical socially-conscious rhyming to top the tune off.
It seems that by juxtaposing the last one with what's given here it makes the effect of the tune much more impactful upon the listener as this time around things are turned around towards much darker themes and a much richer, soulful Reggae sound. I thought that this one was pulled off extremely well to make it stand out as one that must be taken notice of due to the political messages carried along with it.
8. "Land of Promise"
I personally felt this to be their single best collaboration since they first came together in 2005 for a track off Damian Marley's breakthrough "Welcome To Jamrock" (to which this album is only his second). This track features the single-heaviest bass drop I can remember hearing and ensures that it bridges the gap for those who don't see the roots in Dub Reggae which effectively made the sounds of Dubstep.
9. "In His Own Words"
Stephen Marley has a vocal role on the hook to this one and I felt that it set up the course of the track nicely. From that point, we're offered a nice mix of the typical flows out of Nas as he comes to hit listeners with line after line of thought-provoking lyricism that you'll have to go back and listen again to get everything out of, and form there Damian attempts to reflect this in his toasts - in some cases forcing you on single thoughts for a good few lines whilst he's still going off.
10. "Nah Mean"
I thought that this was a heavy track and one which stuck out a track which has Damian Marley showing why exactly he's the only one of the Marley's to step into Dancehall - because he does it so well. When the beats are in perfect order as they are here, it makes it easy for him to go off in a style which reflects the late nineties Dancehall style when there was another rush towards Hip Hop beats as backing and it stands as a banger of a tune from the two of them.
The pace to the music is shifted once more as with this one we're given a track which has them moving towards some slow and winding material. I thought that it was done well as the tempo reflects the 'patience' explored by the two musicians as they come to explain why it's so hard on those who aren't able to get all the privileges that those from economically-stable places do.
12. "My Generation"
What's given with this track sounds to be a very typical example of what you'd expect from an album of this sort when world's are brought together. Here it's set off by children singing the hook (with a little help from Joss Stone) and so suggests the generational themes running through the tune, and then has the two main artist, with help from Lil' Wayne flowing about how this specific generation must make changes to save the world in the future.
13. "African Must Wake Up"
Although "My Generation" sounded to be a good place to leave things off, I thought that it was nice that this one closed the record off. Here we're given a lengthy, slow-moving tune here and one that seemed to bring suitable closure to the record. K'naan gets another appearance here and it seemed to suit the direction of the music as this is a long one which uses the African-edged percussion to its advantage in allowing it to roll on endlessly without it tiring.
I was impressed by what results came off this album as it could have gone quite wrong, but the two ensured that it came out in a way which made good compromises to ensure for the best results. I felt that there was something for everyone here, and although Nas fans may have trouble finding his intense lyrics as they're found spread out in strange places through the record, it seems to work nicely as an overall project.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 As We Enter
2 Tribes At War - Nas, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, K'NAAN
3 Strong Will Continue
4 Leaders - Nas, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, Stephen Marley
6 Count Your Blessings
8 Land Of Promise - Nas, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, Dennis Brown
9 In His Own Words - Nas, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, Stephen Marley
10 Nah Mean
12 My Generation - Nas, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, Lil Wayne, Joss Stone
13 Africa Must Wake Up - Nas, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, K'NAAN