Album: Distant Relatives
Artist: Nas and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Produced By: Nasir Jones, Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Erick Sermon
Release Date: 5/18/10
1. As We Enter
2. Tribal War (featuring K’NAAN)
3. Strong Will Continue
4. Leaders (featuring Stephen Marley)
6. Count Your Blessings
8. Land of Promise (featuring Dennis Brown)
9. In His Own Words (featuring Stephen Marley)
10. Nah Mean
12. My Generation (featuring Lil Wayne)
13. Africa Must Wake Up (featuring K’NAAN)
The youngest son of the legendary Bob Marley teams up with God’s son on this instant classic. Right out of the gate Nas goes hard with his rhymes, hitting the dance-heavy intro track “As We Enter” with such lyrical prowess as, “Must be dementia/That you ever thought you could touch our credentials/ Whats the initials?” and, “Word is out/ hysteria you heard about/ Came to turn it out/ Body them verses til they scream murder out.” This is an upbeat, up-tempo song that quickly sets the tone for the rest of the album and encourages listeners to make sure their systems are all the way turned up. Both artists give a lot of energy right from the start, and go back and forth on the mic with the same enthusiasm we’ve come to expect from a Jadakiss/Styles P cut. Nas and Jr. Gong blend together like old friends who have been performing together for years and years.
Marley proves he is no lyrical slouch either, hitting the albums second track with quotable gems like, “Each and every one deserve to earn/ And every child deserves to learn/ Cause every man deserve a turn/ Like Babylon deserve to burn.”
While Marley’s dancehall influences are highly noticeable on most of the album’s cuts, several tracks stand out musically. “Count Your Blessings,” “In His Own Words,” and “Patience” really slow down the album’s tempo and seem most mellow. These aren’t tracks to be skipped over, however. Nas spits, arguably, one of his best verses on “Patience,” and Marley puts together on of the album’s best choruses on “In His Own Words.” In fact, “In His Own Words” is probably the album’s catchiest song; it will get stuck in your head.
“Land of Promise” is one of the album’s best sounding songs. The beat is slower in tempo, but it still knocks. Nas really shows us the stuff his lyrics are made of on this heavy banger: “Can’t stop apocalypse/ My synopsis is catastrophic.” “Nah Mean” is another standout song, perfectly blending Marley’s dancehall roots with a hip-hop beat and Nas’ sharp flow and delivery. However, the best quote from the song must be awarded to Marley with his simple yet profound, “The world is a big crime scene” line. Both “Land of Promise” and “Nah Mean” can play on an almost infinite loop at a party or on your street.
This album has a few guest spots, but none of them feel forced and all of them perform admirably. The legendary K’NAAN makes his presence felt with a verse on “Tribal War” and reappears on the album’s final cut, “Africa Must Wake Up.” Reminding us on the former song, “I gave you music, you enthused in my kindness/ So how dare you reduce me to Donny Imus,” and continues to really shine with, “Mindless violence well let me try to paint it/ Here’s the 5 steps In hopes to explain it:/ One! Its me and my Nation against the World/ Two! Then me and my Clan against the Nation/ Three! Then me and my Fam’ against the Clan/ Four! Then me and my brother we no hesitation go against the Fam’ until they cave in/ Five! Now who’s left in this deadly equation? That’s right, it’s me against my brother/ Then we point a Kalashnikov and kill one another.”
Even Weezy goes in with some of his best work on “My Generation.” Another banging instrumental with an anthem-like chorus, Lil Wayne seems to be inspired by the Distant Relatives: “This generation I’m a represent/ A generation led by a black president/ Now how’s that for change? Who knew that could change?/ I don’t even look at the flag the same.”
Although there are only thirteen tracks listed, this is not a short album; the total playtime is an hour and two minutes. This is truly a disc you can just throw into your car and go with, or put on at home and just vibe to. “These two collaborated to make an album for people to sit down, press ‘play’ and listen to the whole way through,” said Dan Dalton, Marley’s manager, to HipHopDX (read that article here).
From start to finish, from the upbeat dance tracks, to the slower, hood bangers, to the inspiring ballads and the smooth jam cuts, “Distant Relatives” is an instant classic. What else do you call an album that can easily be played from start to finish over and over again?
Album Score: 44/50
All album lyrics can be read here.