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Nas and Damian Marley to unveil new songs from 'Distant Relative' on Friday at L.A. Live

March 26, 2009 |  2:43 pm

Few rappers have had a more divisive career than Nas. Other than his instantly canonized 1994 debut, “Illmatic,” each of his ensuing eight efforts has either been regarded as a startling return to form, or yet another failure to reach his precocious zenith.* But even those who haven’t cared since Clinton’s first term must have been intrigued by the news of "Distant Relative," his collaboration with Damian “Junior Gong" Marley, slated for an early June release. Recorded at an undisclosed Los Angeles studio over the last several months, the duo will finally unveil stripped-down versions of the new songs Friday at 8 p.m. at L.A. Live’s Grammy Museum.

The performance will be accompanied by a Q&A, where the pair will answer questions about their new album and discuss their humanitarian work. Earlier this year, Nas told MTV News, “We tryin' to build some schools in Africa… and trying to build empowerment. The record's all about the 'hood and Africa.” While an official label announcement has yet to be made, most media speculation has pointed toward the release of "Distant Relative" coming from Island Def Jam, the label for which Nas currently records (Marley is signed to Universal).

Nas and Marley have worked together before, on Road to Zion,” the second single from Marley’s breakthrough third album, the Grammy Award-winning “Welcome to Jamrock.” Though the pairing of the metaphysical Queensbridge rapper and the offspring of Jamaican music royalty seems odd on paper, the pair share an avowed ardor for both illicit herbal substances and progressive politics. Last year, Nas’ “Untitled” featured searing sermons aimed at the U.S. government and the nation’s racial inequalities. Like his father, Bob, Marley’s oeuvre has drawn heavily upon the bleak poverty of the Trenchtown ghettos.

While his father made his name in the more traditional roots reggae, the youngest singing Marley (elder siblings Ziggy, Julian, Stephen and Ky-Mani also sing professionally), has carved out a niche with his “toasting” style, a strain of reggae that borrows heavily from both dancehall and hip-hop. Accordingly, some of Marley’s finest work has come in collaboration with rappers, including guest appearances on albums from B-Real, Redman and Method Man, and Snoop Dogg.

Tickets are available at $19.95 via Ticketmaster, but only 200 are available. Considering that Nas’ last album debuted at No. 1, and Marley’s previous effort went gold, the wise money says: Start scouring Stub Hub and Craigslist now.

-- Jeff Weiss

*Except for “Street’s Disciple” and “Nastradamus” — only the most staunch Nas apologists refuse to repudiate those disappointing albums.

Damian Marley and Nas Q&A and performance at the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 200, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Friday. $19.95. Buy tickets here.

Photo courtesy Press Here Publicity