Magic always happens in nondescript buildings. Such was the case last week, when rapper Nas and rastaman Damian Marley (yes, son of Bob) performed an private show for about 150 people in an anonymous building stranded in a sea of Santa Monica warehouses. But this wasn't just another warehouse. It was the studio of Bob Clearmountain, a well-regarded engineer and producer–mixer of Springsteen, the Stones, and other top names–who volunteered his space for the one-off performance presented by KCRW and hosted by DJ Garth Trinidad.
When Nas and Marley took to the small stage, packed with the six-piece band, and two singers (a pair of ferocious dynamos that were anything but backup), the room went quiet. At first it felt like a session, but when the band hit the first notes of “As We Enter” from their collaboration Distant Relatives, the crowd erupted. The studio was now a dance party* as Nas and Marley traded lyrics over the band's cover of Ethiojazz icon Mulatu Astatke's “Yegelle Tezeta.”
Later, during an onstage interview with Trinidad, Nas and Marley explained Distant Relatives theory: Rap and reggae aren't that different. “We come from the same place, and class,” Marley said of the sonic and cultural connection. But as their set progressed, through a incendiary cover of Ini Kamoze's “World A Reggae (Out In The Street They Call It Murder)” and their call to action with “Land of Promise,” a new truth came into focus. This isn't rap or reggae. It's something new altogether: Global music.
Listen to the session and interview with Garth Trinidad tonight at 8pm on 89.9 KCRW or watch right now at KCRW online and after the jump. Also, enjoy some photos from the night and videos of songs included in Nas and Damian Marley's cultural mix:
*There was one exception to the dance party. Brandon Boyd from Incubus did not seem amused. A bespectacled woman tried numerous times to get the late 90's rap-pop-rocker to move something, anything. But apparently, he just moved to the back of the room.