Nas shared a brotherly bond with Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley while recording their Distant Relatives LP, which was part of the reason he has been able to get through his much-publicized personal turmoil over the past year. In April of last year, Kelis filed for divorce from Nas. Since then, the two have been embroiled in a court battle over child support.
Still, despite whatever drama the MC found himself in, it didn't blur his focus on his new project.
"Personal life is what it is," he said Monday (May 17). "Everybody goes through it. Working on this record got me through it. Rockin' with D got me through it. His whole squad, his whole team, the way he rides, his whole culture. He didn't have to push anything on me. He didn't have to say anything particular. Just, I know this is my brother right here. Rockin' with him, I kept my head clear and focused on what we was doing, so it was all good."
Their joint effort hits stores Tuesday. The two started a tour in support of the project, touching the stage in Chicago over the weekend, and they hit New York on Monday night.
"People don't know what to expect still," Nas said of their live shows. "It's a good thing the album is out. You can enjoy it, come through, anticipate certain songs. We're doing an album for the first time, so we're still getting the kinks out, but each show we do, it's just growing."
Nas promised that the duo will get "heavily" into the album at their concerts. The guest stars on Distant Relatives include K'naan, Joss Stone, Lil Wayne and Jr. Gong's brother Stephen Marley.
"He's on two tracks, his vocals, which is on 'Leaders' and 'In His Own Words,' " Damian said. "He also produced those two tracks and a track called 'Patience' on the album. For me, it's a natural thing. All of my albums prior to this was produced by my brother and myself. That's how we do music. It's another natural step for us to do music on this album also."
"It's mind-blowing, man," Nas added about being in the lab with the Marley family. "Anytime you see family, you're always taken aback and see the similarities between people. When you see Stephen, you see Julian — all the brothers. It's an amazing thing. Sometimes I think, 'What if their father was here to see all of them, how well they're doing now?' He's gotta be proud — even now. It's a beautiful thing. [My brother] Jungle definitely came through. We made it a big family affair; the Marleys and Joneses: We chillin'."
The current single from Distant Relatives is "As We Enter."
"Great fun shooting that music video," Jr. Gong said. "It's almost like, in some way, a version of the live show. We get up there, performing for the camera. It reminded me of the 'Road to Zion' video. The look of it."
Would you like to be a fly on the wall in the recording studio with Nas and the Marleys? Let us know in the comments!