Alright, alright, I know you probably read the title and thought "That album's old, man. Why you reviewing this?" Well, I know we are in the digital age where yesterday's news is literally yesterday's news, BUT this album, to me, is... well let me tell you why I've waited so long to share my opinion on it. Apart from not having time to write it, I wanted to make sure my review wasn't knee jerk. Let me tell you why I could have got gassed:
Nas was one of the first rappers I would say I was a fan of (bar Will Smith and MC Hammer) along with DMX and LOX. I used to rinse I Am on cassette tape back in the day. I was too young to know/have acquired the first two albums at time of their release. I have since listened and become a fan of both.
Damian Marley won a Grammy for Half Way Tree, but I like most became a fan after Welcome To Jamrock. Who didn't like that song? To this day, the album remains classic to me. In fact, I listened to it 3 times in the week before the release of Distant Relatives.
It's fair to say I had extremely high expectations for this album. To put two of my favourite artists on one album together is like a blessing from the most high. And it was natural, not one born out of a possibility to make money like the Best of Both Worlds project by R. Kelly and Jay-Z. At several points I questioned whether this album would ever see the light of day; how many projects haven't happened? Birdman & Rick Ross, T-Pain & Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Pharrell and Lupe Fiaso aka CRS (was never gonna happen), Tank, Ginuwine and Tyreese aka TGT (shame on all those that believed that one), even Jaheim & Cam'Ron (remember Lord You Know?). Record labels don't take risks these days; an album like this (sold as being about Africa) doesn't fit the criteria of a major label release. I'm sure the bigger heads at labels sit there wondering "Where the bit*hes and ni**as at? We need some more bling and fat asses." The fact it was repeatedly delayed didn't quash these thoughts.
However, as time drew nearer to the May 10th (?) release date, tunes were leaking like crazy over the blogs. So yeah, it seemed like this one was a reality.
You still with me? Good. Regulars know I give chapter and verse. Have to set the scene, "Yah nah mean?"
So boom, bought it from HMV (done know the plug. Set me some goodies! Vouchers will suffice), cracked it open once I got home, dashed it in the laptop, ripped that, injected onto my iPod (done know the plug. I like the iPad still. What you saying, Steve Jobs and fam?).
"Ok, ok Marvin, I have been reading for time and still don't know what you think of the album..." Don't you hate reading about in circles for time, thinking "Any minute now he'll tell me what I came here for." So yeah, wanna know what you think of this album? CLASSIC!!!
It's so deep the only thing I think could have been improved is the placing of my initial favourite song Nah Mean. It's placement next to Patience slightly makes Patience a silent creeper of a track. Nah Mean is sample driven and drums, straight braggadocio hip hop; whereas Patience is slow, heavy bass, and very deep, insightful lyrically ("Some of the smartest dummies can't read the writing of Egyptian mummies" - Damian Marley). I've just realised you can say the versatility of both artists is evidenced in those two tracks side-by-side. Hmm... maybe it was a genius idea
I was asked to name my top 3 songs the other day. It's fair to say I can't. I can narrow it down to Africa Must Wake Up, My Generation, Land of Promise, Strong Will Continue, Count Your Blessings (hope this is second single, festival tune), Patience, Nah Mean, Dispear, In His Own Words as my ultimate favourites that to this day will get repeated. The others all get listened to.
I like the way the two styles compliment each other, the way Junior Gong only does choruses (which, by the way, are as infectious as Athlete's Foot in your local grimey leisure centre on a hot summers day). Damian Marley also crafted some MONSTER beats (no Dr. Dre (notice the double entendre?)). As he said in the video "Nas trusted me with his career", which to me shows the integrity of the man that Nas is, and the state of mind he is in musically in regards to pushing boundaries or what he wants to use his voice for.
Nas' two albums prior to this were Hip Hop Is Dead and Untitled (meant to be Ni**er 'til he backed out). Despite the interesting concepts from the outset, to me, both failed to deliver the message (yes Royal Mail).
My interest in hip-hop as dwindled in recent years, apart from J. Cole's mixtape The Warm Up, I couldn't tell you a hip hop piece of work I've enjoyed since possibly Clipse 'Hell Hath No Fury' in 07. Rick Ross' beats have been awesome though. Nas says "To top it off rappers have become all weird/ As if they are superior and fans are inferior" on In His Own Words, I believe this to be true.
If you don't this album, Nas sums this up in one line on My Generation; "If you can't relate then maybe you are to complacent" followed by "Athlete's are too scared to make Muhammad Ali statements." I would say rappers are too. Oh yeah, Lil Wayne kills his verse on that track.
So yeah, to sum it up, front-to-back classic. I waited this so long, so that I didn't have a knee-jerk reaction. Damian Marley did exactly what I hoped he would do in that he supplied Nas with some great inspiration both conceptually and beats to finally do what Nas should have done in the past 2 efforts. To me, the success of this album can NOT be measured by album sales. An album like this is not likely to be plaque worthy. Touring of this should see them take this to territories Nas dreamt of. They should have been at the opening ceremony for the World Cup.
If you haven't got it, get it, yeah?