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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nas talks roots and reggae

It's been 16 years since rapper Nas released his critically acclaimed debut, Illmatic.

If you ask, he'll say a lot has changed in the rap game since then. But the 36-year-old says he doesn't write songs to please the masses. ``To me, rap is about going against the grain,'' he says. ``It was invented by people who were left out.''

On his new album, Distant Relatives (a collaboration with Bob Marley's son Damian), Nas gets in touch with his reggae side.

``Reggae and hip-hop are cousins,'' he says. ``Go back before the '90s and think about the music that was playing on the ghetto blasters and you'll hear it.''

Nas says the name of the album is an ode to humanity. ``The whole world is like family, split up all over the place.''

He's a big believer in the human spirit. Part of the proceeds from Distant Relatives will go to charity projects in Africa.

``It's overdue, and I want to help build whatever we can there.''

Nas, who was featured on Marley's Welcome to Jamrock, is a big fan of Jamaican music.

``I've worked with a lot of reggae artists, like Sizzla and Supercat, but not until Jamrock did I get a chance to work with Damian,'' he says. `` I love his music and I'm a big fan of Bob Marley and the whole family.''

So will any of the Marley sons make an appearance at the rapper's show next week at the Arsht Center?

Nas wouldn't say.

``We haven't worked out any tour dates yet,'' he says. ``But I'm sure Damian and I will do something soon.''

• Nas will perform with Goodie Mob 8 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. $34.75--$84.75. Call 305-949-6722.