Nas and Damian Marley celebrated today’s release of their ambitious rap-meets-reggae album, Distant Relatives, with a performance last night (May 17) at a sold-out Highline Ballroom in New York City.
DJ Green Lantern set the mood by spinning numerous reggae classics before the duo fittingly walked out around 10:15 p.m. to “As We Enter,” the opener from their LP. Minutes later, Nas was still acquainting himself with the new material as he read the lyrics for “Friends” off of his phone, while the backing band—complete with hand drummers—captivated the audience.
“Nah Mean” proved the perfect segue into the first of the QB rapper’s solo sets. Ending with the line, “So now I do rapping, it pays,” God’s Son then dipped into his first hip-hop classic of the night, “Nas Is Like,” with both Green Lantern scratching and the ensemble on their respective instruments. And during “If I Ruled The World,” he slipped in a quick tribute to the recently departed Guru, singing, “My man Guru… walked right up to the sun” during the song’s refrain.
In between tracks, Nas reminded the crowd, “Hip-hop and reggae been related since the early days,” shouting out DJ Kool Herc and his Jamaican heritage. The legendary DJ later joined him onstage during his second solo set after Marley had worked the crowd up with “Move,” his body-long dreadlocks flying around throughout.
Later, the pair rejoined for “Strong Will Continue,” after which Nas’ revealing third verse was met with the loudest applause of the evening. “Hate Me Now” followed poignantly before Esco once again went solo for “One Mic,” supported only by a djembe.
Marley returned for “Welcome to Jamrock,” and the duo then performed their first collaboration, 2005’s “Road To Zion.” “Africa Must Wake Up,” the last track on Distant Relatives, closed out the nearly 2-hour show.
“Thank you for rocking with us on this music journey, this experience,” Nas signed off, with Damian by his side.
Distant Relatives is in stores now. —Devin Chanda
Photos courtesy of Jonathan Weiner. Click on image to enlarge.