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By Kalamu ya Salaam of Kalamu.com

Friday, August 20, 2010.

I’m going to be brief about this one mainly because the music speaks so eloquently for itself. I and a number of other music lovers were almost convinced that Nas has given up on being a serious artist. Nas — super-talented, the boy who has griot in his blood, passed on to him from his daddy – the jazz and blues musician Oludara  Jones.

My assessment was this: Nas hits his peak with his debut album and never again reaches so deeply for a full recording. But, my man is back with a concept and a whole mouthful of wonderfulness to make you think, make you stop, peep the scene, and check oneself to ask “am I doing what all I want to be doing, should be doing?”

Damian we already knew is fierce and his rasta orientation squares easily with the pan-Africanism ideal that the name Distant Relatives forthrightly pushes, just by uttering the syllables. Yes, we are distant but we are also relatives. And who is this ‘we’?

Well, listen: it’s everybody, we are all related. At the same time we’ve got a lot of Africa work to do, a lot of Africa to relate to. It’s been a long, long time since an African American rapper as popular as Nas has openly proclaimed allegiance to Africa.

Plus, the shit is funky!

The hip hop and the reggae fusing; different elements pushing to the forefront from song to song.  But there is both consistent seriousness and joy flowing from this collaboration. And it’s a collaboration that really works together and these are not just two men alternating or doing their separate things.

They trade verses on some songs, one starts a line, the other finishes. Sure they have numbers that feature one or the other, but in the main, they are working together and the fact that they are truly working together is an important statement.

These tracks are taken from two different sessions. The first five selections are from a live in-studio BBC 1xtra radio program recorded in London. The remaining selections are from a May 17, 2010, performance at the Highline Ballroom in New York City.

I am very impressed that the live performances are on point. If you get a chance to see this show, you might want to reserve tickets at the earliest possible moment. Unfortunately, these recordings are not commercially available. Fortunately, however, sharing music is the raison d’etre of BoL.

So, whether you get to see Damian and Nas, here is close to an hour of live versions of music from their new and aptly titled album, Distant Relatives.

New Orleans writer, filmmaker and educator, Kalamu ya Salaam is co-director of Students at the Center, a writing program in the New Orleans public schools. Kalamu is the moderator of neo•griot, an information blog for black writers and supporters of Black literature worldwide http://kalamu.posterous.com/

Kalamu is also the moderator of Breath of Life, a Black music website http://kalamu.com/bol/ . He  can be reached at kalamu@aol.com

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