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Review: Nas & Damian Marley collaborate on new CD

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Nas & Damian Marley, “Distant Relatives,” (Universal Republic)

Nas and Damian Marley meet in the middle to create an empowering collaborative album, entitled “Distant Relatives.” The New York street poet and the Jamaican reggae man take turns playing lead role over a mix of hip-hop and reggae beats melded with trumpets, congas and electric organs, among other instruments.

“Man, what happened to us? Geographically, they moved us, from Africa. We was once happiness pursuers. Now we backstabbing, combative and abusive,” raps Nas on the violin-infused “Tribes at War.”

From its title to its lyrics, the album drives home the idea of shared ancestry. Nas and Marley find common ground in their connection to Africa. On each track, they detail the mindsets that divide related people _ both on the continent and in the Diaspora.

“Imagine Ghana like California, with Sunset Boulevard. And Johannesburg would be Miami. Somalia like New York,” sings Marley on “Land of Promise,” which samples reggae artist Dennis Brown’s “Promised Land.”

“Distant Relatives” entices listeners to imagine what could be. Nas, always the storyteller, details his kind of icon _ a “misfit who handles business” _ on “Leaders,” featuring another of Bob Marley’s sons, Stephen Marley.

“Africa Must Wake Up,” featuring K’naan, is a call to awareness, and like the rest of the album, the music is as much an inspirational force as the words.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: Damian Marley keeps the positivity going with “Count Your Blessings.” He trades the steely, warrior music for a something a whole lot lighter, but the message is just as driven.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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