Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Nas & Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley

  • Distant Relatives [Def Jam, 2010] A-

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Distant Relatives [Def Jam, 2010]
The most political mainstream rapper and the most talented Tuff Gong scion make this a true collaboration except for one thing--beyond two Stephen Marley tracks, it's all produced or co-produced by Damian. One reason JR. Gong gets hip-hop better than his brothers is that he has the sense to subsume it in what he knows. The result is an exceptionally melodic reggae album that's intensified by rapping devoid of dancehall patois and a hard edge unknown to roots revivalism. The result is also an exceptionally political hip-hop album that's most convincing when it doesn't multiply Afrocentric distortion by Rastafarian reasoning. Go after bankers and raise the poor up, fellas. But simmer down with the ancient wisdom. The First Amendment you consider so lame or self-evident or whatever is a product of the European Enlightenment, and you are very much its beneficiaries. Back in ancient times you might be chiefs. But more likely you'd repeating some other chief's every word. A-