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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 28, 2010

Nas, Marley partner on CD to unite cultures

By Mesfin Fekadu
Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Nas, left, says it was "a whole new experience" to work outside of hip-hop with Damian Marley, right. They tackle social issues in their first collaborative album.

PETER MORGAN | Associated Press

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Nas and Damian Marley had one goal in mind when they announced their collaborative album two years ago finishing it.

So they stopped work on their solo projects and built a chart to assess the progress of their work while discussing topics such as poverty, ancestry and leadership.

"It just meant so much to me," Nas said of the CD.

The result is "Distant Relatives," released last week. It's a socially conscious, African-themed record that was produced entirely by Damian and Stephen Marley. Nas, 36, said working on an album without his usual suspects got him out of his comfort zone.

"To change it up so kind of drastically from when you talk about hip-hop producers who only do hip-hop, and then go to work with D, it's like a whole new experience and I was just excited for the challenge."

Marley, 31, said the process taught him "how to do production for an artist other than myself."

Nas, who's released nine of his own CDs, said he trusted Marley's vision for the project.

"I'd be done with my work for the day and then come back the next day and then hear something else added and be like, 'Wow, that's perfect right there,' " he recalled.

The performers hope the disc which features Lil Wayne, Joss Stone and Somali-born rapper K'naan will unite cultures and inform listeners of their African roots.

"We're dealing with a family issue with this album ... and nobody's excluded when we say 'Distant Relatives.' We're talking about everybody white, black, Asian, Indian, whatever you are, you're our family with this one," Nas said.

"If you can accept the truth, once and for all, that can help to kind of cure you of your sickness, you know, with your racism and your corrupt politics, and your greed. You think about people for a change, and you think of those people as your family. And it's a good time right now to talk about that," he continued.

Marley and Nas, who will begin an international tour this month to support "Distant Relatives," are also interested in creating a sophomore album as a duo.

Nas, who debuted in 1994 and is known as one of hip-hop's top lyricists, says he's sometimes unsure about his future in music.

"When we think that we're just starting to get a name in the game, they're artists that have been around a lot longer than us who are in their 60s and 70s, who have huge tours and do great humanitarian work. I look at them and (ask), 'What will I do?' " he wondered.

"I remember thinking, 'Oh, man, I won't be rapping forever.' But the reality of it is ... "

Marley said with a laugh: "You just might be."

Added Nas: "There's a good chance."