OK, so hip-hop supertour Rock The Bells won't be making a 2009 stop in Minneapolis. Considering that the Soundset festival already brought a number of rap heavies this year, the absence may not be much to fuss over...but, if you're really disappointed, you could always make the trip to Denver (the show in Chicago was on Saturday). Still, for those that won't be able to come up with the cash or the time to head out of town, some of the tour's brightest stars will be stopping in Minneapolis.
Case in point: Nas and Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley are slated to share the headlining spot on the Bells lineup, and will be performing at First Ave tonight. After Nas guested on Marley's "Road to Zion", the duo decided to collaborate on a full length album (entitled Distant Relatives) which was initially scheduled for release in June. It's since been pushed back, with no firm date set--but that just means Minneapolis will get a live preview of the material before the album drops.
Even if fusing Nas' streetwise lyricism with Damian's toasting style doesn't initially seem like the most obvious blend, each artist has more than proven their worth with individual albums. Marley's received Grammys for Halfway Tree and Welcome to Jamrock, while Nas has certified hip-hop classic Illmatic under his belt. It seems like they've turned their sights away from their local neighborhoods, stating in interviews that Distant Relatives will center around the theme of Africa, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity and education. They're probably not following too closely in Oprah's footsteps (unless she secretly smokes ganja), but helping to build schools is a noble undertaking.
The album seems to feature live instrumentation and sample-based production in equal measure, dipping liberally into each artist's signature style. But, will all the results be as strong as "Road to Zion"? At this point, there might be only one way to tell. Check out Nas and Marley this evening at First Ave, and see if this joint effort will produce more noteworthy returns.
Nas and Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley - First Ave Mainroom - Tuesday, June 30 - 18+ - 8 PM - $36