Nas & Damian Marley/ Erykah Badu, Wembley Arena, London
Wednesday 06 April 2011
There's always been a natural synergy between hip-hop and reggae: the rebellious sentiment, the headstrong figureheads, all respectively communicating a struggle that seems to transcend their own tribes of followers and find its place on a bigger stage. So it wasn't a complete shock that when Nas and Damian Marley released their collaborative album, Distant Relatives, last year, it resonated with music lovers and critics alike – even though it unashamedly preached about social injustice, poverty and Africa. On stage, it's explosive.
They put on an effortlessly energetic and riotous display, which unfortunately for Erykah Badu, puts a shade on what was a creative and retrospective opening slot from the soulful stalwart. A genuine camaraderie is evident when the pair open with "As We Enter", respectfully sharing the stage as they exchange verses. When it's Nas's turn to shine – he does his own set of hits – Marley slips into the background, rooting for his "brother". There's a lot of back-patting, half-hugs and smiles.
When Marley takes centre stage he carries the air of a fiery evangelical, determined to inspire everyone to think about injustice that little bit more. "I want you to sing from your GUTS!" he commands, when he takes on his father's "War/No More Trouble" melody. Even when the show dips in places, there's other things going on that keep the show lively – like the two backing-vocalists-cum-Zumba-masters and the tireless flag waver, whose sole job is just that for the entire show.
"Africa Must Wake Up" is the pre-encore finale, and then there's a few more Nas songs before the pair wrap up with a tribute to Bob Marley, reminding this gleeful crowd of hip-hop, dancehall and reggae fans that his message for hope is still relevant, and further empowered by this very dynamic duo.
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