Nas and Damian Marley Get Relative at the Highline


Slightly past 9 PM on a Monday night in New York, at the moment when Nas and Damian Marley stepped out on the Highline Ballroom’s stage, a young blond boy, who had no more than 20 years on him, bent down and pursed his lips to a thin, rolled up paper. At that same moment, an eager journalist hovered the stage with his black camcorder, his index finger in line to pounce; a thin-framed dancer stood atop a white couch stage right, with only the shadow of her ‘fro noticeable to the audience. Hundreds of people had gathered to hear Distant Relatives, the pair’s first full album on Universal Republic and Def Jam Recordings (to be released the following night), and to experience the musical melding of Africa, the Caribbean, and America. They came to hear the opening, “As We Enter,” which had echoes of Ethiopian jazz supporting the back-and-forth verses made of thoughtful lyrics, and “The Promised Land” recalled Bob Marley’s hard-hitting one-liner preachings. Nas and Damian also each played separate sets, which included “One Mic” and “The Mission.” Finally, attendees were hypnotized by their new joint track “Patience” which, at one point, stunned the crowd into contemplative silence. Hip hop, it seems, is not dead–in fact, it just got a new twist.