Nas and Jr. Gong Finish What They Started

In hip-hop these days, it seems like artists great and not-so-great can’t avoid the urge to try a Best Of Both Worlds-type offering. There’s the trend-starting Jay-Z and R. Kelly, lopsided Weezy and Birdman, forever-too-young Bow Wow and Omarion, and then Nas and Damian Marley, an Africa-minded doublet that creates perhaps the most divergent sound styling of all. It’s most evident as this full version of “As We Enter,” an uptempo, mic-sharing number originally leaked to the web as a one-minute snippet in summer ’09, hits the web in its still-unquenching, nearly-three-minute entirety. What’s new, here? Nas handles the spit-fire hook–fortified with cash register pulses and shouted refrains–followed by Jr. Gong trading conversational, cobweb-thin bars with his Queens-bred collaborator. They’re not quite “like two Obamas,” as Esco audaciously boasts, but when Distant Relatives drops in April, these two partners-in-rhyme will surely bring a change we can all believe in. –John Kennedy