Following their collaboration on Damian Marley’s 2005 record Welcome to Jamrock, God’s Son and Bob’s Son (shouts to the Kid) recently released a full-length album, Distant Relatives.

Nas is one of the greatest rappers of all time. After dropping Illmatic in 1994, he embarked on a series of albums and career choices that at the time seemed questionable. Certainly many of the underground hip hop fans he won on his brilliant debut were confused, but in hindsight he has always stuck to his principles, his rhymes reflecting his personal beliefs, never dropping songs to chase fame or whatever the industry perceived as hot at the time.

On this album, Nas stays consistent with his body of work, his rhymes meshing almost perfectly with Damian Marley’s singing and chanting. The subject matter is largely similar to what you might hear on roots reggae tracks by artists like Sizzla, but where many Jamaican roots artists’ songs feel slapped together and scattergun in terms of topics, the music on this album is conceptually strong and obviously prepared with some forethought as to the overall effect.

Some may cringe or take a cynical view of the strong themes of righteousness on this album, or question the intentions of the performers, but there’s no denying it is consistent. To me, it feels right. While this kind of subject matter enjoyed brief popularity in the 1990s (Nas has touched on many of these ideas before), it’s way out of step with current trends in hip hop, and probably won’t earn either artist any new fans.

Unsurprisingly, there are weak tracks. The lowest point of the album, the attempted anthem “My Generation”, has a real cheesy “We Are The World” feeling about it, and features Lil’ Wayne trying valiantly to drop knowledge. Sadly, he merely proves he’s not in the same league as the emcees he’s trying to emulate here.

However, when the production and performers come together, it’s a real pleasure to listen to. Slow, bass-heavy head nodders “Patience,” “Leaders,” and “Friends,” really hit the spot,  “In His Own Words” is joyous, and the raucous “Nah Mean” brings a hardcore feeling to the record.

Overall, this is definitely worth a listen. I’m just glad an album like this can get made in today’s music industry, even if it does end up being misunderstood by the vast majority of the mainstream.

Advertisements