Updated: Jan 2
Legendary New York rapper Nas is back, 20+ years into his career with his new release 'King's Disease'. He teamed up with Hit-Boy to produce this album, and after a string of pretty lackluster releases - was it time for one of the all time greats to step back into the limelight?
Firstly, Hit-Boy does a great job with the production on this. He gives us a mix of soulful, older style beats such as on the title track 'King's Disease'. This track is all about being the king of rap and jealous people wanting to see you fail, he gets his point across with great bars and such a way of wording things, "Amazing Grace, I'm gracefully aging // Without masonry I made more paper to play with". It's a nice introduction to the project, it sets the theme too with good rapping and good production. He also gives us more modern beats throughout as well, such as on the track '27 Summers' which has this electronic synth line with catchy trap drums - it really bangs. The track references how it's been 27 summers since his classic debut 'Illmatic' began production - and reflects on all his success since then with great, braggadocios bars. It's a gritty banger, and Nas does very well over this beat with his flow and delivery to create a menacing atmosphere and very good song. The change in tempos between tracks, the prevalent piano's and catchy drum patterns all make for an enjoyable listening experience. '10 Points' has these jumpy drums and catchy trumpets as Nas gives us a great commentary focusing on black criticisms, fighting back, being yourself and not wanting to live the street life. There's some great bars on this track, "They hardly happy for you, keep doing what you do // You can't please everybody, and not everybody is you // Don't try to force a square peg in a round circle, that shit'll hurt you // Don't try to fit in either, you're better off with neither", and with a solid hook it's yet another smooth sounding and great track on this extremely good album. The bonus track 'Spicy' has the best instrumental of the project with it's deep drum kicks and hard piano which is catchy as hell as Nas reflects on his current success. The track features Fivio Foreign who gives us a mean verse with some hard bars as he talks on fucking bitches, as well as A$AP Ferg who glides over the beat with some great bars as he talks on the streets of New York and flexes his riches, "Model bitches that's precise, fuck attendants off the flights // Keep the vision through the lights, never blinded by the hype". This track is a banger, and it serves its job as a banger perfectly - the features did a great job, the production was immaculate and it's easy to turn up too.
Nas definitely still has it, and he fills this project with great bars and thought provoking bars all the way though, an example of his hard bars coming on 'Car #85', "My mere presence got other guys terrified (Woah, ooh) // Slap oxygen out your esophagus (Ooh-ooh)". This track has vivid storytelling from Nas as per usual as he recalls many different events which happened back when he was in the hood. The catchy beat with the bouncy drum pattern, piano and outstanding synth line sounds great and Charlie Wilson's backing vocals as usual sound amazing and create the perfect atmosphere. It's a great song, it has a really nice vibe to it and Nas is so smooth sounding all throughout. The way he lays his lyrics paint an image in your head as he wants, such as on 'Blue Benz' as he talks on many different topics such as recalling a girl with a coke habit and her story, flexing, reflecting on a time when people wouldn't mess with him and even the corruption of the government. The aggressive piano and soulful feel again is great and with a smooth flow and mean delivery this all comes together for yet another very good song. Nas has some great bars and reflective lyrics on 'The Cure', "The markets see you as a old-ass artist // The McCartneys live past the Lennons, but Lennon's the hardest // Stay on your path, stay on your craft // They just want you to switch your lanes up so they can hate on your ass", over this victorious beat with brass instruments and quick boom bap drums which come into play during the 2nd verse. The theme of the song is behind every strong man is a strong woman as well as being true to yourself and not selling yourself out by staying a king. It's definitely a good song again, but while enjoyable it doesn't stand out much amongst other tracks. His smooth flow overall is back and on show for this project too as he glides over these beats so effortlessly.
There's a lot of new generation features on here who do great, as Nas kind of switches his style to match theirs and it works out. Don Toliver provides a really nice hook on 'Replace Me' and Big Sean lays a good verse as the track talks on a breakup where the rappers gave everything they could for their girl which wasn't appreciated. Nas has some thought provoking lines over this soulful beat with a trap kick to it, and as much as I wouldn't expect to see Nas on a track like this - it works as a banger and fits into the modern landscape perfectly. The most surprising feature on here has to be Lil Durk, who actually kills it with his melodic flow which glided over this beat perfectly as he talks on making it from the mud on the track 'Til the War Is Won'. The track talks on how women are important for men including single mothers, as Nas provides some thought provoking bars with great verses. The hook was alright but it didn't stand out too much, but other than that a heart-warming and great track. There's a reunion on the song 'Full Circle' as we get great lyricism, a smooth flow and a solid rhyme scheme from AZ, an old school flow, delivery and great one liners from Cormega, "Whatever brings you down won't elevate you (Uh)", "Understand exotic sands come after the dirt", and despite some weird mixing, a menacing delivery and nice flow from Foxy Brown - but despite that she doesn't stick to the topic but still sounds good. The pretty stripped back trap beat sounds good and leaves room for the rappers to maneuver over as Nas also lays a solid verse. The head bobbing beat, great feature verses and solid Nas performance makes the wait for this reunion worth it.
Nas talks on many different things during this album, with the main themes being past relationships, black injustice, being the king of rap and people wanting to see you fall. Nas talks on being proud of his skin colour on 'Ultra Black' over this more modernised upbeat instrumental with a nice piano with some great bars - including firing shots at Doja Cat, "The opposite of Doja Cat, Michael Blackson black". This is a bit of a banger with a message - there's not much else you can ask for. 'All Bad' is a breakup trap most likely with Nicki Minaj and being disappointed it didn't work out, which has this lively and upbeat hard piano and a great Anderson .Paak feature. It's a really good and smooth sounding track once again. On 'The Definition' we get this quick tempo'd beat as Nas talks on the perception of black people from the media and the government. Nas' verse is great and he makes great points as this small track packed with powerful lines is good but gets kind of lost in the tracklist.
To conclude, Nas is still an elite MC and he proves it here. The production choices on this project are much better and he branches out into the new generation of rap and it really paid off. Nas, in 2020, has an album of the year contender after a few lackluster years - who would've thought. It's just an enjoyable project with great rapping, great production from Hit-Boy and important topics touched on.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Blue Benz, Ultra Black, 27 Summers, Replace Me, All Bad, Spicy
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: The Definition
OVERALL RATING: Light 9/10
*REVISED SCORE: Review may not match favourite tracks and overall rating because I've since re-listened and changed my score.*