February 27th, 2011
Photos by FL Morris / firstname.lastname@example.org
Nas, left, and Damian Marley were in Honolulu on Saturday for the second of three Hawaii stops on their "Distant Relatives" tour. The two performed earlier this month on the Big Island; they will also perform on Maui on Sunday.
REVIEW BY JASON GENEGABUS / email@example.com
"This feel good. This look good. This is the most beautiful thing!"
Thousands of hip-hop and reggae fans at Kakaako Waterfront Park couldn't have agreed more with hip-hop heavyweight Nas, who performed with reggae superstar Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley on Saturday in support of their 2010 collaboration album, "Distant Relatives."
While both have played here as solo artists in recent years, Saturday was the first time they shared an Oahu stage. Nearly a year after first going on tour in support of "Distant Relatives," the pair turned in a nearly perfectly executed set that clocked in at almost two hours in length. And even though it's only February, I'm pretty confident this show will continue to be talked about as one of the best concerts of 2011.
One of the nice things promoter BAMP Project does at its shows is to hire local talent as much as possible. This time around, DJ Westafa was enlisted to spin tunes before local openers The Green (pictured at right) played, and then again before the main event got underway. He did a fantastic job — especially during the full hour the crowd had to wait before Marley and Nas made their appearance.
The Green didn't disappoint either, as the owners of 2010's iTunes Best Reggae Album played one of their final gigs before embarking on a national tour of their own. With a mix of new songs, hits off their debut album and a sprinkling of covers, they kept the handful of early arrivals at Kakaako Waterfront Park entertained for nearly an hour.
Maybe it was the sizable beer garden set up atop the hill overlooking the park's amphitheatre, or maybe it was the constant cloud of pakalolo smoke that wafted over the crowd, but nobody seemed to mind they had been waiting for more than 60 minutes in a slight drizzle by the time DJ Green Lantern started hyping them up with snippets of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, DMX and Notorious B.I.G. songs.
Then, as the iconic Luniz jam "I Got 5 On It" played over the speakers, a giant reproduction of the "Distant Relatives" album cover arose behind the stage. A few minutes later, it fell to reveal the artists themselves, with Nas charging full-speed into "As We Enter" to start the night.
Even though it was kind of strange to hear the two perform such socially conscious music amidst a bunch of drunk stoners, the opportunity to see songs like "Tribal War" and "Nah Mean" performed live under the stars just a few feet from the Pacific Ocean was a lot more fun than watching the same performances on YouTube. Both Marley and Nas seemed genuinely excited to be back in front of their Honolulu fans — neither stopped running from one end of the stage to the other until Marley departed to make way for a Nas solo spotlight.
The willingness to yield the stage was nice touch for fans of both artists who may not be as familiar with the "Distant Relatives" material. After a quick hit with their new stuff, Nas went to the vault to perform hits like "Hip-Hop is Dead," "Street Dreams," "If I Ruled the World" and "Nas is Like." Marley then returned to help with a few more songs before making his fans freak out with renditions of "Me Name Junior Gong" and "One Cup of Coffee."
Some casual fans had enjoyed enough of the night and were starting to make their way out of the park around 10 p.m., but the vast majority hadn't gone anywhere when Nas took control of the vibe once again with "Hate Me Now," "Made You Look" and "Who Shot Ya?"
And of course, a Damian Marley show wouldn't be complete without "Welcome to Jamrock," and the son of the late, great Bob Marley gladly obliged before asking the Kakaako Waterfront Park crowd to raise their lighters into the sky for his performance of "Road to Zion."
It may have been slightly predictable, but Hawaii hip-hop and reggae fans had to be incredibly satisfied with Saturday's show. With so many artists making the stop in Hawaii while on their way to Asia and/or Australia and New Zealand, it's nice to see such popular acts not write off this market as someplace they can "mail it in," so to speak.
From the incredible energy levels of Marley and Nas the entire night to the sweet sounds coming from the duo's backing Empire Band, this concert had the feeling of a stadium show, just in a much more cozy space. It was a nearly perfect example of how shows at Kakaako Waterfront Park should be.