Nasir Jones is obviously no longer the observant and thoughtful young rhymer of 1994’s Illmatic; nor is he really still the post-divorce 30-something of 2012’s Life Is Good, his most recent truly great long player. But that's not to the emcee's detriment; maturation is something that is suddenly welcomed in Hip-Hop, as a legion of high-profile rhymers are entering middle age while still maintaining tremendous cache with Millennials who have more firsthand attachment to them than their venerated Golden Age forbears.
On the first King's Disease album, Nas' latest, he relishes his status as an elder statesman. 2018s NASIR was hamstrung by Kanye West's penchant for overblown spectacle -- namely the overhyped G.O.O.D. Music rollout that surrounded it. But this time around, Nas sounds more like Nas, and it's largely thanks to executive producer Hit-Boy, who is a better sonic fit for Mr. Jones than 'Ye's gaudier approach.
The term "King's Disease" is an antiquated reference to gout, and as Nas puts it, "you can get it from just doin' too much." On the title track, the Queensbridge legend announces his return in grand fashion. On the thumping "Blue Benz," Nasir takes listeners back to The Tunnel and ruminates on materialism and violence in the streets, while championing the fact that he's moved up in the world and being honest about all that that means, good and bad.
Everybody's favorite R&B uncle Charlie Wilson shows up on "Car #85." The nostalgic track is probably the weakest here, which is somewhat surprising, considering how reliable Charlie-Last-Name-Wilson can be when he's paired with a rap legend. The already-released track "Ultra Black" features Nas in full embrace of Blackness, while throwing out a sly Doja Cat diss for that rapper's supposed embrace of white supremacist chat rooms (one of the summer's favorite controversies.)
Lil Durk shines on "Til The War Is Won," an anthemic examination that references everything from Black Lives Matter to single motherhood. And it's Anderson.Paak lending the assist on the piano-driven "All Bad," as he and Nas share stories of relationships gone wrong.
Nas does what he does best on "The Definition" with Brucie B, examining the current political climate and social issues. And there's a welcome reunion of The Firm with the laid-back "Full Circle," complete with a Dr. Dre cameo. "10 Points" is the most minimalist track here; another opportunity for the rapper to take a pensive look at the word "King," a recurring theme on the album.
"The Cure" is a continuation of the previous track, this time a salute to the women and family who are partners for Black men. Album closer "Spicy" features Fivio Foreign and A$AP Rocky pushing things to soaring heights, as Nas blacks out over the album's most flossy beat. It closes things on a glasses-high note. After all of the commentary, it's a welcome bit of levity.
The list of collaborators is impressive, but Nas always sounds best when he's not straining to appease outside forces. Unfortunately, that strain is a common theme throughout his career. Nonetheless, King's Disease is mostly successful, a welcome return to form for one of Hip-Hop's most celebrated (if somewhat inconsistent) artists.
Nas being the legend he is, the last few years have seen his prolific return. Recently, he has released several critically-acclaimed albums, further solidifying his place in the pantheon of hip-hop. The most recent was his 2022 King's Disease III, the third and final installment of his "King's Disease" trilogy.
Mass Appeal executive produced the record with features from Jay-Z, Eminem, and even a bonus track with Drake. King's Disease III is a solid addition to Nas's studio album catalog and his tracklist showcases his legit and iconic sound.
The album features Nas's trademark lyrics and vocals, with standout tracks like "Til My Last Breath" and "Recession Proof." Fans are especially excited about "Michael & Quincy," a track where Nas pays homage to two of the greatest music legends of all time.
Despite King's Disease III being the third album in the series, Nas doesn't disappoint his listeners. He delivers a strong follow-up to King's Disease II, the record that earned him his first-ever Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. Even after all these years, Nas has continued to prove that he is a force to be reckoned with in the rap game. The old hip-hop legend continues to collab with some of the biggest younger artists, including Kendrick Lamar.
The album also features the excellent track "WTF SMH," which focuses on the racial injustices that have been prevalent for far too long. Nas touches on hot-button topics like police brutality with his hard-hitting song "Don't Shoot," and encourages people to "Get Light" in the face of darkness.
Nas’ recent output is yet another testament to his genius and a worthy addition to his discography. As he continues to reminisce on his storied past and keep one eye on the future of hip-hop, fans are excited to see what Nasty Nas has in store for us.