Today in Hip Hop History: May 18, 2010
Hip Hop and Reggae are two genres that represent the diaspora of Africans across the Americas and have always been connected. Six years ago, Nas and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley fused rap and reggae in their first collaboration album, Distant Relatives to highlight their shared lineage. The two artists focused on the common theme of Africa and pledged to donate proceeds from the album to charities focused on urban and economic development.
The album succeeds the duo’s first collaboration “Road To Zion,” off of Damian Marley’s classic 2005 album Welcome to Jamrock. Distant Relatives’ production credits include Nas and Damian in addition to Damian’s half-brother Stephen Marley. Nas and Damian incorporated bits and pieces of their individual sounds with a goal of creating a perfect musical compromise. Additionally, they included features from the likes of K’naan, Dennis Brown, Joss Stone and Lil Wayne.
Distant Relatives was largely a social commentary speaking on ancestry and poverty, all surrounding the larger theme of Africa. Nas, Damian, and Steven Marley even participated in a panel discussion on Africa and its relation to music sponsored by National Geographic. In addition to promoting their album, the duo sought to spark a dialogue about how the continent’s undeniable influence on the world contrasts with its underdeveloped state.
The album peaked at #5 on the US Billboard 200 and topped the US Billboard Rap, Reggae and R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. Critics praised the seamless union between the two styles, citing their valiant stance and fusion capabilities within the project. The charity album Distant Relatives represented a return to the traditionally united genres of hip hop and reggae.