Nas, Nasty Nas, Esco, God’s Son, Nasir… The legend is back with his (count em!) 12th studio album, King’s Disease. Only a select few in hip-hop history have known the rarefied air Nas orbits, so he always gets extra scrutiny. Call it the curse of Illmatic.
So let’s get right to it: this album is good. Hit-Boy, the producer who lived up to his name with “N****s in Paris,” “Sicko Mode” and “Backseat Freestyle” handles the entirety of King’s Disease, and this partnership is the album’s main strength. The beats sound current, but Hit-Boy still manages to capture the essence of that glamorous, mid-to-late ’90s sound of The Firm.
In fact, the whole gang gets back together on “Full Circle,” and Cormega, AZ and Foxy Brown all sound right at home. Featured vocalists Anderson .Paak and Don Toliver provide great hooks on their songs, and Charlie Wilson’s background vocals on “Car 85” are a highpoint of the whole album. Big Sean’s verse on “Replace Me” is the only feature that really misses the mark.
Thematically, King’s Disease is about the challenges of being at the top of your game, and Nas offers perspective on leadership, business, romance and black excellence in general. His message often focuses on staying true to his street code while building wealth and lifting others up. It’s an optimistic and motivating message that all of us could use right now.
While the overall message is clear, at times the lyrics can feel more like a collection of related thoughts instead of one coherent presentation, and I’m left thinking of Kendrick Lamar’s ability to create a unified artistic statement with each album. I wish that Nas had taken King’s Disease just one step closer to that.
The bottom line, though, is that this is the best Nas record in recent memory and I enjoy it more with every listen.
Score: 💎💎💎💎 / 5