It was announced Tuesday night (April 7) during a press conference that Nas and Marley will be joined on the road by KRS-One, Common, Big Boi, Wu-Tang members RZA and Raekwon, the rap supergroup Slaughterhouse, Brooklyn vets M.O.P., Pete Rock, newcomer Mickey Factz and the Roots. (That was a quick hiatus from trekking for the Philadelphia rap band.)
The North American leg of Rock the Bells starts June 27 and runs through August 9. Rock the Bells has traditionally been a place where legends meet promising newcomers. One of the highlights last year for Nas — a Rock the Bells vet — was when he brought out Jay-Z during the Long Island, New York, stop. This year, he'll have a partner for all his shows.
In a statement released to the press Tuesday, Nas said his new album — which mixes reggae and hip-hop — will offer social commentary on the U.S. and the Motherland.
"As an American, we have so much even in a so-called recession that a neighborhood like Queensbridge or Red Hook is Beverly Hills compared to the way people are living in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ghana," he said. "So obviously if we making records with that theme, there's gonna be things I want to build on. I think Africa has a lot to teach us."
"Africa is the backbone of the world and the foundation of everything, and Africans are in a situation where they need help more than anywhere else," said Marley, who helmed a bulk of the beats on the album. "We know there are dire situations here in America, but when you look at America — with public libraries and free education — these are not opportunities most Africans have. It's a completely different scale of trying to help people. As human beings, we're part of a human family."
Distant Relatives, according to the rep, addresses Nas and Jr. Gong's tight relationship as well as their African lineage.