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Ancient Egyptian Wisdom ... Daily Practice

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Historian John Henrik Clarke says as an artist, you are supposed to use your art to change the world. Throughout their musical careers Rap artist Nas and Reggae artist Damian Marley have used their craft for that purpose. Being two men concerned with the upliftment of their people and the betterment of the world, it is quite logical for them to unite for their common cause. The duo first worked together on the track “Road to Zion” for Damian’s 2005 album “Welcome to Jamrock.” Because of the success they had with that record they agreed to team up for a full length studio album. After a year and half of recording, they offered the world the phenomenal “Distant Relatives” On May 18th this year.

This monumental work can be viewed as a continuation, synthesis and or amalgamation of their previous albums. The LP is a conceptual recording centered on issues and information pertinent to African people of the Diaspora. The production of the album was primarily handled by Damian who created head-nodding instrumentals that truly captures the sounds of Africa. This album is significant because here we have two high profile artists presenting information to the world that is not really discussed in mainstream media. For instance the second track of the album “Tribes at War” discusses the intra-racial friction amongst black people all over the globe. Fueled by the heavy drum samples of the beat Nas opens up the track with the lines “Man what happened to us?/ Geographically they moved us from Africa/ We was once happiness pursuers/ Now we backstabbing. Combative and abusive.” This track also features Somalian rapper K’naan who offers an impressive verse on his understanding of the root of the problem.

The follow up to “Tribes at War” is the high energy and adrenaline pumping “Only the Strong will Continue.” This track is one of the many high points of the album and one of my personal favorites. Damian and Nas each perform two inspiring and powerful verses that motivate listeners to be their best selves no matter the challenges faced in life. Damian gives such profound advice as “The victory is found in truth/ Like innocence found in youth/ Self defeat is your own dispute/ And when you put yourself in your own shoes/ It’s either you’re winning or losing/ Don’t get it confused/ cause you’re starring inna your own movie.” This track is ideal for fueling the revolutionary spirit in anyone motivated to change the world for the better. The ideal follow up to this song is “Leaders” featuring Stephan Marley. Here Nas discuss the prominence of various types of leaders that exist in the black community. From famous street hustlers, to gangsters such as Bumpy Johnson to revolutionary messiahs Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X, Nas points out their importance while Stephan sings the chorus calling for our leaders to change the world.

To continue the inspiration and positive energy that motivates the album songs such as “Friends” and “Count Your Blessings” respectively discuss the challenges in maintaining trustworthy friendships and keeping a positive world view regardless of one’s unfortunate circumstances. The song “Dispear” (yes that is the actual spelling of the song) which follows is another highlight of the album. The topic at hand is the role of supremacy played by the world’s wealthy elites and the role of servitude or the exploited played by the general masses of the globe. Nas and Damian explain that this arrangement leads to despair among people in the so-called lower classes and that the mind is a modern day spear or weapon to combat these circumstances. Nas drops thought provoking lines such as, “The Masters/ The Wall Street War Chiefs/ The Elitist Groups/ The Masses/ They pray Jesus/ Saying he will see us through/ The masters are the aristocratic/ The masses/ ask if the Most High is on his way here/ I’m trying to stay clear/ My mind is my modern day spear.” This song is then closed out by Damian with a very impressive verse detailing the destructive behavior that is a direct result of life’s despair.

The duo subsequently follows “Dispair” with the imaginative “Land of Promise.” In each of their verses Damian and Nas share their fantasies about a prosperous and developed Africa and comparing this vision to different parts of the United States and the affluence of its people. Damian sings “Imagine Lagos like Las Vegas/ The ballers dem a ball/ Angola like Atlanta/ A pure plane take off/ Bush Gardens inna Mali/ Chicago inna Chad/ Magic Kingdom inna Egypt/ Philadelphia in Sudan.” Nas compliments this vision with lines such as “Promised Land I picture Porches/ Basquiat Portraits/ Pinky Rings/ Realistic princesses/ Heiresses/ Bunch a Kings and Queens/ Plus I picture fortunes for kids out in Port-Au-Prince.” Such imagery is great motivation for Afrocentrics who are working to restore Africa to its position of prominence in ancient times. Nas lets us know that this goal is definitely attainable.

Damian and Nas take their creativity further with the spiritual “In His Own Words.” Here they tackle the way the creator works in our lives from an African-centered perspective. Throughout the song they present African philosophy which teaches that the essence and power of the Creator resides in all things in existence and the importance of living in harmony and balance with all of creation. Damian drives these points home with the lines, “Help who help themselves/ Jah no raffle dream/ That’s why me chubby with Jah Jah like a Cherubim/ Keep me strong through the winter like an evergreen/ And all of us are more connected than it ever seemed/ All things are related/ And creation is a package/ Generate together/ And we increase the wattage.” Such lessons are important for all people to know because this understanding is essential to putting a stop to the self-destructive course the world is currently on.

The album progresses to its climax where Nas and Damian present more insightful lessons with the skills of master teachers on the powerful “Patience.” Infused with emotional and soulful production the song’s lyrics deliver the most thought provoking and beautiful poetry of the LP. Here they cover a lot of ground as they discuss hypocrisy in the world, pointing out the misuse and abuse of funds by world governments, the raping and exploitation of Africa, media bias and the miseducation of the masses. Damian stands out on this track with his best performance sharing pungent lines such as “Some of the smartest dummies/ can’t read the language of Egyptian mummies/ An a fly go a Moon. And can’t find food for the starving tummies/ Pay no mind to the youths/ Cause it’s not like the future depends on it / But save the animals in the zoo/ Cause the chimpanzee dem a make big money/ This is how the media pillages/ on TV the picture is/ Savages in villages.” The words of this song can be viewed as controversial or radical however it addresses topics that are being ignored on the world; and these are issues that need to be discussed and acted on to improve life for everyone on the planet.

After such a profound performance the album concludes with “My Generation” and “Africa Must Wake Up.” “My Generation” serves as a message to the current generation that they will be the ones to change the world. This track features singer Joss Stone and LiL Wayne who is leader of the new generation of rappers and a favorite of the current generation. In his performance Wayne exhibits a level of worldly consciousness and positivity never before seen in his music. On “Africa Must Wake Up” Nas performs both verses of the song calling for a reawakening of African consciousness. He gives an abbreviated history lesson of African people and even mentions Kemet by her proper name while pointing out great accomplishments of black people throughout time. Asking the younger generation to define African people today, Damian sings “Africa must wake up/ The Sleeping sons of Jacob/ For what tomorrow may bring/ May a better day come/ Yesterday we were kings/ Can you tell me young ones/ Who are we today?”

This album in its totality is five stars. The quality of the production and lyrics gives it tremendous replay value. The more I listened to it the more I liked it and each time you hear it, your favorite song may change. It is a perfect addition to anyone’s music collection and people from all walks of life can listen to it. While it is centered on things concerning Africa, it is important for all people regardless of race, ethnicity or social status to know the information Damian and Nas presents. For African people to achieve equality in the world they need to change the way they look at themselves and the world must also change the way it views them. Damian and Nas are doing their part to further this effort by proclaiming our true history to the world. It cannot be stressed enough how important history is. Scholar Howard Zinn accurately explains this fact by stating, “History is important because if you don’t know history it is as if you were born yesterday.” When you know history your have greater intellect, you have a better understanding of the world, where you came from and how you got to your present position. This is a principle important for the restoration of Ma’at. To live in a world that is fair and balanced all of humanity must live in truth. The Khamites accurately stated thousands of years ago, “The key to all problems is the problem of consciousness.” It is therefore essential that we elevate our consciousness to solve our problems. Thank you for reading.

1 comment:

JP said...

I nominate this album for best of the year! They truly do teach and set a great example for us all with this one...and all the songs are entertaining plus have a great message. Xavier, Thanks for the breakdown of the significance of each song. I just found out that these Brothers are performing at the 9:30 Club in DC this Monday and I will be in attendance!

I just read Brainwashed by Tom Burrell, and in it his conclusion to eradicating the Black inferiority complex which has such a strong hold on American Africans, must be done with a propaganda campaign pushing positive images of people of African descent and therefore counteracts the negative portrayal of African people pervading most media. Most importantly this campaign must be pushed by US. This album is a great example of this concept in action. If only more people had the ears to really get the message when they hear songs on the album.