Nas and Damian Marley: Distant Relatives
Very few pairs of musicians worth their salt can craft a collaborative album that excels on the merit of powerful lyrics, A-class instrumentation and amazing chemistry. Only a select handful. Reggae’s golden boy Damian Marley and hip hop stalwart Nas, who joined forces for the brilliant Distant Relatives (Republic Records), a potent, 13-track elixir marked by poignant storytelling, lush beats and a seamless, nearly-perfect blend of reggae, dancehall, and hip hop, with Afro-Caribbean concerns and universal themes. Both artistes are distinguished, Grammy-winning entertainers, with knacks for thought-provoking lyrics and forceful rhymes and rhythms that exalt the essence and soul of the Motherland and her Diaspora. Excellent examples: Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock (2005) and Nas’ Illmatic (1994), which are considered archetypal creations. Together, they crafted a groundbreaking release full of revolutionary African rhetoric and proverbs, and conscious, thought-provoking messages sure to resonate with listeners.
Sade: Soldier of Love
With Soldier of Love (Sony Records), Sade treated the music world to another potent and intoxicating elixir, ten soothing tracks that speak to the largely rewarding journey she’s been making since the mid-1980s. With its pulsating rhythm and beautiful lyrics, the lead single (and title track) is a clear winner from the get-go. “I’ve lost the use of my heart, but I’m still alive,” she sings in the opening line, perfectly summing up how many of us really feel about our existence in these times. Simmering with positive reinforcements about love and sweet ambiguities about life, Soldier of Love offers a reminder that Sade is able to gather elements of jazz, R&B, samba, reggae and pop to craft a powerful statement record that not only showcases the singer’s coy, caressing voice, but serves as a perfect vessel for her exploration of trust, commitment and transition.
Drake: Thank Me Later
In short, Thank Me Later (Cash Money) is a delightfully entertaining and emotionally transparent release, a welcome debut from one of music’s reigning young luminaries. When was the last time in recent history that an album from a music debutante generated this sort of heightened interest among both male and female listeners from such a wide demographic? Can hardly recall. Drake’s music is ridiculously enjoyable, all the while highlighting his skills with the pen and the brain power he consistently pours into his craft. As a hip-hop artiste, the rapper-singer delivers a curious amalgam of Jay Z’s uncanny attention to detail, Kanye West’s affinity for beautiful, unexpected melodies and mentor Lil Wayne’s fluid flow and clever, effortless rhyming.