Nas and Damian Marley: Distant Relatives (Universal Republic)

Fans of hip-hop can rejoice in Distant Relatives, a well-done mixture of rap and reggae from musical heavyweights Nasir Jones (Nas) and Damian "Junior Gong" Marley.

Some music-lovers may shake their heads at the rap/hip-hop world, where many artists display more of an interest in their bank accounts and egos than their music. But here, Nas and Marley—who previously worked together on the song "Road to Zion," on Marley's 2005 album Welcome to Jamrock—set aside egos and return to hip-hop's foundations: telling realistic stories via powerful lyricism.

The collaboration is especially strong on songs such as "As We Enter," "Patience" and "Friends." "As We Enter" opens the album with a booming reggae beat as Nas and Marley exchange lines, as if in a friendly competition.

Throughout Distant Relatives, Nas shows that he's lyrically superior to most MCs working today. He preaches about youth on "My Generation," and rants about alimony payments on "Strong Will Continue"; the Queensbridge thug poet's delivery is consistently impressive. Consider this passage from "Friends": "May laughter / From backstabbers / Turn to tears faster / I wish for you no snake shall slither past ya."

However, this is not just Nas' show; Marley's creative stamp—natural reggae elements—can be found throughout. In fact, he produced most of the album.

The bottom line: On Distant Relatives, Nas and Marley came together, crafted a powerful work of sheer genius and showed that creativity can still overpower ego-driven hip-hop mediocrity.