Nas and Marley mix rap and reggae inspired by Africa

Fri May 21, 2010 4:47pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rapper Nas has teamed up with Jamaican reggae artist Damian Marley to release a new studio album and kick off a worldwide tour on Friday that bows to their African ancestry and the roots of reggae and hip hop music.

"Distant Relatives," is the New York emcee's first collaboration with any artist for an entire album. It combines some of his trademark tight lyrics and fluid rapping with Marley's Jamaican grooves and simpler phrases, with guest appearances from other top rappers including Lil' Wayne.

"It was something that I needed to do to help me push forward lyrically," the 36-year-old rapper, whose full name is Nasir Jones, said in a joint interview with Marley in New York this week. "And to be doing a whole album with me and D (Damian), we had a lot to say. Every song was shared."

A tour begins Friday in California before taking in the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee and then traveling to European cities including Paris, Cologne, Rotterdam, Manchester and Dublin.

The album is an unusual collaboration that was written by both artists and recorded over nine months. Hip hop and reggae has mostly been limited to singles before, but devoting an entire album from scratch heralded something new in the mixing of the genres, both artists said.

"A lot of the (past) collaborations were more in the nature of a remix as opposed to two artists really coming together," said Grammy Award winner Marley, 31, who is the youngest son of reggae master Bob Marley and produced all the songs.

"We did the whole album together and that definitely comes across in the music."

Featuring guest appearances from Lil' Wayne, up-and-coming Somali rapper K'naan and British soul and R&B singer Joss Stone, it mixes rock guitar, world music percussion, hip hop beats and traditional African instruments. It was co-produced by Marley's older brother Stephen.   Continued...

<p>Rapper Nas and Jamaican reggae artist Damian Marley (L) pose for a portrait while promoting their new collaborative studio album "Distant Relatives" in New York May 18, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>