What happens when you take one of the illest mc’s of all-time and put him on a track with a “toasting” reggae sensation? You get distant relatives. I’m not referring to your typical long lost cousin kind of distant relative, I’m talking about the family member who you never met but instantly click with. Although Nasir Jones and Damian Marley’s respective lineages don’t intersect, their musical collaboration will make any listener think they were fraternal twins who complemented each other with each breath they took on the mic. Today these musical geniuses who combined forces a little over a year ago release their collaborative album entitled, Distant Relatives.
The thirteen track album takes the listener on a journey from the economically depressed areas in Zimbabwe, to Ghana, to the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, to Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. This socially and politically conscious album stems from what Damian Marley says is “ […] talking humanity. Our people. It’s stemming from Africa being the cradle of civilization.” Listening to the album was like listening to two gifted rhetoricians present a rhythmically laced lecture on the African diaspora. Nas’ gruff New York city drawl coupled with Marley’s Jamaican argot harmoniously tell stories of finding salvation in the promise land, youth uplift, and changing the world through leadership.
One song that particularly touched me on the album was “My Generation”. The song starts out with the high-pitched voices of a youth choir led by Joss Stone proclaiming “My generation will make a change/This generation will make a change”. Although Damian Marley and Lil’ Wayne both spit good verses on this track Nas’ verse really spoke to me. In fact, the first time I heard it I rewound it back to his verse about four times.
Can you blame my generation, subjected gentrification,
Depicting their frustrations over ill instrumentation
Cause music is the way to convey to you what I’m facing,
Placing my life in front of your eyes for your observation
Now if you can’t relate then maybe you are too complacent,
Athletes today are scared to make Muhammad Ali statements
Whats up with your motto? Will you lead? Will you follow?
Improve your values Education is real power
I reach em like Bono
So get rid of your self sorrow
Add some bravado
Get wealthy likes Wells Fargo
Its truth, that I am you
And I am proof
We do what we gotta do
Yo we could break the cycle let nobody lie to you
Then maybe put our sons and our daughters in private school
Cause there’s a mission we gotta finish before we leave
This generation is destined to do historic deeds.
Another song that really touched me was “Africa Must Wake Up”, which I heard them perform live this past Saturday (they put on a phenomenal show). In the chorus Damian Marley asks “can you tell me young ones who we are today?” His implication that young folks of color have no sense of their history almost sounded like a cry to parents and communities to better educate their children. Nas goes on to list the plethora of “firsts” Black folks have accomplished. Although my body was at an outdoor concert with rowdy college students when I heard this song, my mind was in the front row of a giant lecture hall with nobody present but Professors Marley and Jones.
If you love good music I encourage you to buy this album. Your ears, mind, and spirit will be pleased with your purchase.