“Africa must wake up / the sleeping sons of Jacob / for what tomorrow may bring /may a better day come / Yesterday we were Kings / Can you tell me young ones / Who are we today” – Damian Marley from “Africa Must Wake Up”
A sleeping giant, a passionate people crying silent in front of the world’s powers, exploited and overpowered during the past century’s frantic pace to produce. Africa is a mother, a tree from which many people hold a broken branch, and music has long been way to bring people back to those roots. The new album from Nas and Damian Marley, Distant Relatives, is a celebration of the life that has come from the continent and a call for unity in creating a new Africa.
The pain of Africa knows few bounds. The catastrophic AIDS epidemic, a failing system of education, food shortages induced by the greed of financial speculators – the ravaging this land has suffered seems endless. Their resolve is strong, their voices are powerful, but the land has still been relatively absent from the daily consciousness of the international public.
Nas and Marley formed a brotherhood at the height of their remarkable careers, coming together to produce a musical dedication to Africa. Individually, they have both paid intellectual tribute in previous releases to the motherland of a global Diaspora. Distant Relatives takes their interest to a new level, providing the people with an inspirational tribute to the strength of those struggling to survive and fighting to make lasting beneficial change.
Distant Relatives begins with the lead single, “As We Enter”, reminding their listeners that both Nas and Marley are two of the best lyricists in the business. The song is a short but fierce beginning to a project that takes the audience through an array of styles, invoking the languages of the people, from Patois to Rap Star.
The album continues with the song “Tribal War”, which addresses the brutal reality of Africa, a continent at war with itself, committing the most brutal atrocities in people’s misguided efforts to have success in a neo-colonial world. The song features K’Naan, one of the most inspiring artists on the scene today, whose own history of growing up as a child soldier in Somalia lends a personal aspect to the song.
“Leaders “ features Stephen Marley lending his vocals as a tribute to all of those dedicating their lives to leading others out of the struggle, a generation’s opportunity to change the conditions under the oppression. The track is self-reflecting, as these artists are the some of the most honest and revered voices representing the world’s ghettos.
Distant Relatives is a focused effort, matching purposeful lyrics with clean and powerful production. Nas and Damian Marley would be just as comfortable dropping harder lyrics over raw drums and samples, but their intention was to create an accessible masterpiece that could uplift a world audience.
The album is a message to an entire continent of Africa, a call to uplift the spirit of a people who have been set at war against themselves by the wicked powers of the world, both from the outside and within. Also, it is a call to consciousness for the Diaspora, giving inspiring words to help awaken from the poisonous messages of commercial music. With so many social ills to address, this is music for a new generation of leaders.