By: Antonio Salgado
So, Nas’ latest album is an enjoyable project. And no this is not an archived post from 1996.
For the 2020 release of his latest record, King’s Disease, the legendary MC worked in tandem with producer Hit-Boy to bring this solid album to life. Judging off of Nas’s talent, it should not be a surprise that the Queens rapper put together a good album. However, his talent has not always translated to creating what can be considered “decent” projects. Seeing a guy turn back the clock is always fun, whether it be in sports or music, especially when you did not witness their prime in real time. It’s also a bit different when the listener/viewer is not necessarily a fan of the performer. For full disclosure, Nas is almost non-existent in my personal music library. That is not to say I dislike his music, rather I just do not actively seek out his music, even though his peaks make him almost impossible to ignore. With that being said, from the perspective of a non-rabid Nas supporter, King’s Disease is more a peak than a valley in his career.
Hit-Boy Makes Hits
As previously mentioned, Southern California native Hit-Boy was tasked with producing this album. To put it mildly, he did an excellent job working with Nas on this project. To be transparent, my first listen of this album came while reading through some lecture slides. Despite this, there was never a point where I felt compelled to skip a song, so that means the instrumentals were all at least solid. ”Replace Me” was definitely the song where the tandem combined to create the best song on the record. With the presence of a solid Big Sean verse and Don Tolliver hook, this is definitely the smoothest song of the bunch. Hit-Boy’s production was soothing, blending Nas with new age elements while allowing him to be unrestrained, dropping his usual backpack bars on a relaxing beat.
The blending of two generations of music is what really makes King’s Disease stand out as a whole. The album is cohesive; it doesn’t feel like Nas tried to shoehorn himself into Hit-Boy’s sound. In the same vein, it sounds like the Fontana Producer molded sounds that would compliment Nas while not straying from his usual enjoyable production style.
“Til the War Is Won” was another high point, showing the duo perfectly playing off one another. The song opens with Nas rapping, but his cadence resembles a sermon rather than a rap verse. The flutes in the background sound faint, but as the verse progresses, they become louder in the mix. Now, while a beat drop is certainly not revolutionary, the faintness to open the song gave Nas a stage to get his message across. The beat drop also coincides with Lil Durk’s feature verse, which again matches the artist at hand. Durk is a high energy rapper and the highpoint of the beat coinciding with him is a great use of instrumentals.
The title track on the album, “King’s Disease,” has a gospel-like sound that fits the song very well for two reasons. First, the song does not have a hook, thus feeling like an actual prayer is being recited instead of a song being performed. Secondly, the song is under two minutes, which furthers the feeling that Nasir Jones is thinking and praying out loud. He is speaking his mind almost as if Hit-Boy handed the instrumental track over and told the Queens native to speak his mind.
Different Can Be Good:
One of the better songs on the project is definitely the outro track, “Spicy,” featuring Fivio Foreign and A$AP Ferg. Nas and Fivio Foreign are definitely not at the top of any list for desired collaborations, but the song is pretty good, which was another great surprise to come out of this album. The reason for the surprise is not because I think either artist is bad; they’re just an odd coupling on paper. Ferg, on the other hand, has quietly (or not quietly) been the best rapper in the A$AP Mob for quite a while. His solid contribution came as no surprise and his long standing presence makes a collaboration with Nas not too surprising.
A quick shoutout to Anderson .Paak must be made, as he once again used his great vocal talents on the chorus for the standout “All Bad.” Reminiscing about lost loves is always a welcome addition to any rap album, and Paak and Nas might bring some tears out of listeners with this song.
The aforementioned “Til the War is Won” is another vulnerable ballad to women in which Nas and Lil Durk delve into platonic and romantic love. The Queens native opens up the song by stating he will protect all the women he loves with his own life. Lil Durk touches on illicit activities he dabbled in while living with his mother.
“The Cure” is another standout introspective track where the legendary MC reflects on his life and career. He speaks about his upbringing and seeing his friends struggle and feeling their struggle even if his mother always put food on the table. Nas’ most poignant line in the song is definitely “Become a byproduct of yourself all for the paper regardless.” Again, it is a common theme for celebrities and for anyone in search of wealth to look back and feel that they’ve lost their identity. Touching on this is not revolutionary, but again points to the Queens rapper speaking on personal subjects. Introspection always adds a certain depth to music, and not because it makes an artist vulnerable. Self reflection just creates an avenue for a more personal connection to music.
To wrap it all up, King’s Disease has a lot of high points which points to a good album. It may not be transcendent, but it is easy to enjoy. Sometimes, music being good is enough. This album is definitely not “All Bad.”
Tracks to Save: “King’s Disease,” “Replace Me,” “Til the War Is Won,” “All Bad,” “The Cure,” “Spicy”
Tracks to Skip: N/A
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