Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Best Thing I heard Today: Nas & some Marleys doing "In His Own Words"

It sure wasn't anything off that Ariel Pink CD, I can tell you that!

Distant Relatives, the recent collaboration between Nas and Damian Marley, deserves its own Babylon analysis. The album's equal parts reggae and rap, so Babylon comes up quite a bit. For now though, here's a pretty tune with Stephen Marley on the hook, Damian on beats and toasting, and Nas doing a couple verses:

Nas barely reveals what he's capable of, but he does have some interesting lines. For instance, he sees God's face in the shapes on his vintage designer clothes. Must be nice. He also sees God in the billboards, which is a little better but further evidence that Nas is often high--a suspicion backed up by this couplet:

"Through my perspective I can see Jah reflection/
In the highest definition getting high with my brethren"

OK, so we don't turn to Nas for dogmatic Christian orthodoxy. Probably not even dogmatic Rasta orthodoxy, if such a thing exists. But Damian! If you ever need beats, turn to Damian. The guy's catchy as all get out, and he comes up with a number of memorable creations on this album. I like how the acoustic guitar in "Words" starts stop-starting during the final refrain, reminiscent of Madonna's "Don't Tell Me" and probably lots of other stuff.

Distant Relatives isn't perfect. Nas, while still sounding better than 75% of other MCs, is fairly humorless and doesn't do anything astounding. There are too many slow, uninteresting reggae songs, but at least they're dispersed throughout the album, and there's enough good tunes to recommend it overall. Definitely stronger than that Ariel Pink CD.

P.S.-- I do take issue with the highly rated Youtube commenter who observed of this song, "Amazing man, to hell with mainstream rap!!!!!" You might not hear anything from Distant Relatives on the radio, but it's on Universal and debuted at #5 on the main Billboard chart, and #1 on the Rap, R&B, and Reggae charts. If that's not mainstream rap, I dunno what is.

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