Land of Promise - Nas & Damian Marley

Here’s a quick round-up of noteworthy happenings in the rap world during the last week. An homage to Africa, a rapper making the transition to wrestling, the forthcoming album from a Chicago rhyme heavyweight and a new twist on crack music make the list this time.

Nas & Damian Marley Pay Tribute To Africa

The combination of rap and reggae has been happening since the inception of hip-hop culture in the mid-1970s. Last year, Nas & Damian Marley teamed for the Distant Relatives albums, one of the best, highest profile collaborations between the two genres.

The duo just-released the new video for its “Land Of Promise” song, which features dazzling imagery of Africa’s visual splendor (most notably Johannesburg, South Africa’s skyline), as well as Nas and Marley’s razor-sharp lyricism where they each imagine tremendous achievements for the continent moving forward. This is high-powered music.

Gorilla Zoe Hits The Ring, Gets “Twisted”

Gorilla Zoe is stepping into a new ring. The Atlanta rapper’s music is being used in the national advertising campaign of the Urban Wrestling Federation, which will hold its first major television event this spring.

Zoe will be one of the first performers at the Federation’s events. Zoe, of course, was famous for replacing Young Jeezy in Boyz N Da Hood and for his hit “Coffee Shop.” Outside of the wrestling arena, Zoe is prepping for the release of his third album, King Kong, which is slated to arrive in stores June 14 and features the single “Twisted.”

Featuring Lil Jon and produced by DJ Montay, “Twisted” has thus far peaked as the No. 9 single on the iTunes Rap Singles Chart. Given the wrestling-like nature of rap at times, Gorilla Zoe’s entrée into the world of professional wrestling seems to be a natural progression. It’ll be interesting to see where Zoe gains more traction, with his music or with his new wrestling hustle.

Vakill’s Lyrical ‘Armor’ Ready For Battle

It’s often said you can judge a person by the company they keep. If that’s indeed true, then Chicago underground rap heavyweight Vakill stands among his city’s most respected artists.

The Windy City rhymer’s Armor of God album is due in stores June 14 and features such lyrically sharp guests as Crooked I of Slaughterhouse and Rhymefest. Other guests include Chi-Town freestyle legend Juice, as well as Nino Bless, Astonish and Mic Luter.

Vakill’s gruff, vivid rhymes will be accented on the album’s 16 tracks by production from the Molemen’s Panik and Memoriza, Jake One, Joe Blow and Bluntologist. Those who pre-order the album on Molemen.com have the opportunity to cop autographed CDs, an Armor of God T-shirt and instrumental versions of songs on the album.

Vakill may not be a household name, but that’s not because he lacks the talent. Just ask Crooked I and Rhymefest.

Thi’sl Provides A Different Take On Crack Music

Crack has been romanticized in most rap music. Up-and-coming St. Louis rapper Thi’sl takes exception to this depiction and has delivered the powerful song “I Hate You,” which illustrates how crack destroys lives and rips families apart.

For Thi’sl, the song is personal. His cousin was removed from his crack-addicted mother, while another one of his cousins was shot and killed by a friend of Thi’sl’s. “I Hate You” is the rare rap modern rap song that has sonic merit, delivers a powerful message and tells a compelling story, one that directs the listener toward a productive change.

Rap needs more promising rappers like Thi’sl to make such potent, thought-provoking material about important subject matter. For more on Thi’sl, check out his album Chronicles of an X-Hustler, visit iamthisl.com and follow him on Twitter @THISL.

For more from Soren Baker follow him on Twitter: @SorenBaker

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