“We knew from the beginning that we wanted to have Afrika as a theme in the music. So that played a part in terms of making a conscious effort to bring that out when we chose the topics of the songs. Otherwise than that, the whole process was real natural. We just let the vibrations carry us.” – Jr. Gong

The much anticipated collabo-effort from pioneering Queensbridge lyricist Nas and the Jamaican reggae musician Jr. Gong was recently introduced to an invitation-only listening session at the Harlem offices of Digiwaxx.

The off-springs of the legendary cultural-icon – Robert Nesta Marley – and  the renowned jazz musician – Olu Dara – both spoke about the influences their fathers have made upon their lives, as well as on their music careers, before a sneak peak at their new album.  The artists also touched on their intentions for uniting their creative forces to produce their opus collage – scheduled for release this May 18th.

[More On This Insightful Album After The Jump] More

Junior Gong, who partially derives his attribute from his father’s label – Tuff Gong Records – established:

“We knew from the beginning that we wanted to have Afrika as a theme in the music.  So that played a part in terms of making a conscious effort to bring that out when we chose the topics of the songs.  Otherwise than that, the whole process was real natural.  We just let the vibrations carry us.”

Nas explained the influence reggae had on him as a youth after being exposed to Musical Youth’s 1982 classic – “Pass The Dutchie” [On The Left Hand Side], and the revolutionary sounds of Peter Tosh and  Bob Marley.   He also mentioned Super Cat and  Shine Head as inspirations before delving into the Caribbean roots of the Bronx-bred Hip-Hop culture, stemming from its Jamaican-birthed Founding Father – DJ Kool Herc.

“Jamaican music has also been a heavy influence.  I would say…probably as much as James Brown,” assessed the MC formerly known as Nasty Nas.

Kool Herc used to bring his ‘sound system’ out on the Bronx block of Sedgwick & Cedar Ave. as he spun the classic vinyl cuts of that time,  meshing Reggae recordings with Funk & Soul sounds  as to provide entertainment for those living within the confines of the concrete jungle during the late ‘60s & early ‘70s.

The first track shared was “As We Enter”  as Nas opens with his precise lyricism, while Jr. Gong adlibs over the up-tempo track.  At the initial recordings’ conclusion, audience members displayed their approval with thunderous applause.

“This one is real, real Jamaican! [sounding],” Nas commented, as the listening audience laughed, prior to the playing of the following track,  “Promised Land” produced by Damian Marley.  Tha Rasta Man opens with the lead vocals while Nas added-on his lyrical dexterity as they  painted a picture about liberating themselves as a people.

“This one has a double meaning because we talk about ‘Despair’ as a physical weapon, and also as desperation,” Jr. Gong stated before the DJ spun it.  “It has a dancehall flavor ‘bout it, yet it’s different because it’s all life.”

The audience members were in full support of the other tracks which were shared with them.  Most of which reminded some of a time when many artists felt that there was a responsibility to incorporate viable messages within their art as they paid homage and respect to their culture & social living conditions.

Supporters of true art are sure to appreciate Distant Relatives.  This effort is reminiscent of a time, not that long ago, when the roots culture from ‘Y’ard’ inspired the initial stages of the Hip-Hop culture.  It is a return to responsible creativity, where thought-provoking conceptual ideas and  thumping beats are what drive the music, and not the simple-minded, compromising, materialistic nursery rhymes of the current generation of artists.

After ingesting the content contained within, one is left with the optimistic impression that the talking drum is once again alive and  well, after being co-opted by the powers-that-(don’t) B for so long.

This album, if supported and promoted properly, has the potential to regenerate ambitions amongst artists to create and deliver powerful messages over their talking drums, and reverse the current trend of – ‘Money, bi*ches & ho*s!’

It’ll take you back to a time before the lyrics got away from the positive messages, which in Hip-Hop peaked during its Golden Era of the late ‘80s into the early ‘90s, to the self-promoting materialistic aspects of the current generation.

“Where do I see myself?  I’m waiting for the rap game to catch up!  That’s a generational thing,” emphasized Nas.

Musical Youth – Pass The Dutchie

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