Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Damian 'Jr. Gong' Marley & Nas Live In Oakland, CA Concert Recap
As reported by By Jim Harrington / Oakland Tribune
Many believed the pairing of controversial rapper Nas and reggae star Damian "Junior Gong" Marley had potential. Yet, only a true Pollyanna, one with little experience in these types of cross-genre collaborations, could've predicted that the results would turn out as satisfying as what was witnessed on Tuesday night at the Fox Theater.
It was especially impressive given that this co-headlining tour, which features both men onstage at the same time, is only the fourth date on the trek, yet the duo has already managed to strike a near seamless blend of hip-hop and reggae. It's probably safe to say that the 36-year-old rapper and the 31-year-old son of Bob Marley put in plenty of rehearsal time.
The Fox (on Tuesday, May 25) show sold out only one day before the event, yet there were dozens of people trying to buy tickets outside the venue. Scalpers were having a field day, demanding (and getting) nearly four times the original ticket price of $39.50.
Late but urgent demand for tickets is standard operating procedure for these two genres. Also credit the recent release of the duo's album, "Distant Relatives," which hit stores last week.
The 2,800 people who managed to score seats — a colorful mix of hip-hop fans in heavy sports gear, wannabe Rastafarians wearing Marley shirts and other music lovers — were sure glad they did.
After a few opening acts — including a DJ that went on so long I nearly got carpal tunnel simply from watching the guy work — Marley and Nas took the stage 45 minutes late and delivered a nearly two-hour set of mostly killer tunes.
Junior Gong, sporting a bundle of dreadlocks that hung below his knees, and Nas, looking sharp in dark sunglasses and a black Oakland A's cap, nicely blended their distinctive voices as they rocked out, accompanied by a nine-piece band, plus (at times) two dancers and (always) a tenacious dude waving a huge Jamaican flag.
Marley, a three-time Grammy winner best known musically for his 2005 smash single "Welcome to Jamrock," provided plenty of sun-splashed moments on the microphone. His sweet delivery found an unlikely complement in Nas' harder-edged, often quite dark raps. Together, they drove home a sense of urgency to "Africa Must Wake Up," "Leaders" and "Dispear."
Nas — who proclaimed that "Hip Hop is Dead" with the title of his 2006 album, then went on to do everything in his power to prove himself wrong — had some deliriously good solo moments. The tongue twisters he delivered in such tracks as "Hate Me Now" and "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)," showed why he's considered such a force in hip-hop.
The duo closed out the main set with a tremendous take on "Welcome to Jamrock," then put an exclamation point on the evening with an uplifting encore of Bob Marley's great "Could You Be Loved."
Nas and Junior Gong might be "Distant Relatives," but this is one family get-together that hip-hop and reggae fans won't want to miss.
(video courtesy of Always Hustle)