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Nas & Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley

Nas and Damian Marley play the roles of motivational speakers on their collaboration, Distant Relatives, an LP that uplifts without inducing yawns and rolled eyes. The wave of hype the legendary MC and the son of a legend rode into the album's release would've been a kiss of death for lesser artists — expectation being synonymous with disappointment in the music biz. But Nas and Marley stand tall with youth-oriented anthems ("Promised Lands," which mirrors Nas's "I Can" from 2002's God's Son) and continent-centric calls-to-arms ("Africa Must Wake Up"). It's not all motivation and revolution, however: "As We Enter" boogies with rapid rhyme-trading between Nas and Marley, while "Patience" burns slowly with a global influence buoyed by Marley's patiently delivered poetry.

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