Distant Relatives is the reggae/rap super group formed of famed rapper Nas and reggae mainstay Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley. It’s hard to imagine a group with more cred, with Nas as one of our generation’s most influential rappers and Marley as one of the preeminent reggae figures continuing on his father’s tradition. The group was born out of the idea that Nas and Marley share a “distant relative” in their African ancestry. The duo began recording in 2008 with the hopes of producing an album raising awareness of the current plight in Africa. In that vein, all proceeds from album sales are going to building a school in the Congo.
Distant Relatives and their self-titled album defy the stigma of charity albums for several reasons. Unlike many celebrity charity efforts that smack of insincerity (Lindsay Lohan’s quest to personally save India comes to mind), the artists behind Distant Relatives have long been involved in shedding light on injustice. Since Nas’s debut in the mid-90s, the rapper has been a tireless proponent of the realities of living in poverty and the struggles of the African-American identity. As a Rastafari working in the inherently social message-based genre of reggae, Marley is equally concerned with promoting global equality.
The other aspect that sets apart Distant Relatives from most charity musical efforts is that the music doesn’t suck. For every “We Are the World,” there’s another 10 “We Are the World 25” efforts that are well meaning but ultimately snooze filled. Not so with Distant Relatives. The album has been both critically lauded and popularly successful. Plus, songs like “As We Enter” offer a great synthesis of Marley’s steady stream of lilting lyrics and Nas’s interjections of literate swagger.
As is the case with collaborations, the magic is often short lived. Lucky for you, it’s possible to still catch the socially conscious pair at Haven on this Friday, September 16. Besides getting to see Distant Relative, this ACL aftershow also includes a DJ set by Green Lantern. If you’re not familiar with his work, I can guarantee you that it’s more entertaining than the video-game-meets-vomit Ryan Reynolds film.
The only catch is YOU MUST RSVP on the Do512 event page and “like” Proper Entertainment on Facebook and click attending for the event. This will guarantee you a spot for the show. Once you make it past that hurdle, tickets are only $10. That’s way reasonable to see the group’s last show in the US. You have to be 21 get in, but it’s the closing show for Distant Relative’s tour, so you know things will get crazy.