Nas and Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley, Hammersmith Apollo, London
Friday 23 July 2010
There is a point well into this two-hour concert when Nas and Damian "Jr Gong" Marley, arms crossed, stand back-to-back and take in the applause. It is a triumphant moment and one that shows the chemistry that has developed between these two stars of their respective genres.
By no means perfect, Distant Relatives – their album released in May – is still a fascinating collision between hip-hop and reggae. Often collaborations such as these result in rather disposable records, produced and discarded quickly, but this much-delayed project is something that both Nas and Marley clearly believe in.
Certainly Nas looks more motivated than he has in a long time, not only when onstage with Marley but also during two solo sections during the set. If the first of these (which sees the New York MC bring out favourites including "Represent", "Nas Is Like" and "Hip Hop Is Dead") is impressive, it is the second that is breathtaking, with a dizzying three-song run of "Hate Me Now", "Got Ur Self a Gun" and "Made You Look".
He may not be as polished a live performer as, say, his former rival Jay-Z, but his raw charisma is unquestionable and he thrives in front of a live band. Marley's segment is also impressive, with Nas alongside him for a storming "Welcome to Jamrock".
Still, we already knew they were good on their own – the revelation is how comfortable they look playing together, and they breathe life into tracks that on the record seem a touch lifeless, most notably "Dispear" and "Strong Will Continue". For the encore, after an urgent "As We Enter", they pull out their respective party pieces. First, Nas plays his classic "One Mic" with a solo drummer before Marley upstages him by reaching into his dad's back-catalogue for "Could You Be Loved". Not that there is any rivalry here between the two – merely a meeting of two minds that, hopefully, will continue for some time yet.
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