“As We Enter” kicks off the joint effort, laying out the distinct theme for the rest of the album with the Nas line “And my man’ll speak Patois, And I can speak rap star,” referring to the dissimilar Jamaican dialect Bob Marley’s son will contrast to the accompanying NY flow throughout the album. The up-tempo hip hop beat is one of two main styles of sound throughout the album, with the other being the rhythmic sounds of traditional reggae, evidenced by Jamaican drums beating in faultless harmony.
“Strong Will Continue” very well may be the flagship track of the album, combining Marley’s accomplished brilliance in creating lyrical inspiration and Nas’ known abilities to turn his raw emotions into remarkable wordplay. Marley treasures about having faith in one’s self no matter what, with the powerful line “No man live forever, but never say never, Every good he want better, must be a go getter, And always be clever in every endeavor.” Nas adds more power to the moving track by commenting on his own personal struggles, namely his current high-profile divorce with singer Kelis, who he suspects of infidelity, and with a deep message to their newborn son “Twisted and mangled sorta like Bruce Lee’s life, cursed with his son Brandon, If that’s you and me Knight, I pray our fate’s greater.”
The album is filled out with other moving tracks, including the catchy and uplifting, self-explanatory track “Count Your Blessings.” The heavy, traditional reggae sound you’d expect to hear from a classic Bob Marley track makes “Land of Promise” the epitome of the album’s uniqueness; the infusion of reggae sounds with intense lyrical hip hop. Commercial hip hop star Lil Wayne gives an unforeseen cameo in “My Generation,” where he ditches his radio music style to drop perhaps his most influential lines ever to complement Nas proclamation “’Cause there’s a mission we gotta finish before we leave, this generation is destined to do historic deed.”
Distant Relatives is closed out with the track “Africa Must Wake Up,” which reinforces the purpose of the album; for the embattled continent to begin to see the change that it desperately needs. You may never hear another album with such type of uniqueness again. How many artists of such distinct styles have ever come together to create a project so unforeseen? Rarely. How many artists of such legendary backgrounds have created a charity effort so lyrically powerful? Same answer. Listening to Distant Relatives may empower one to truly know what Nas truly means when he closes out the album with the spoken lyric:
We’re all fam
We’re all distant relatives
So that’s why we came together”