The time when Nas ruled the world from bridge to bridge may have passed with a new generation and sound in hip-hop coming along, but he has not allowed hip-hop to pass him by. The New York rapper may not be a Tik Tok titan or a SoundCloud spitter, but he doesn’t want that. Having been in the game for 30 years, playing to those types of audiences would be pandering to fans who wouldn’t care. Evolution is always necessary, but completely changing who you are inauthentically is digging your own career grave. Having put out classics and genre-defining albums like Illmatic, Stillmatic and It Was Written, he is back with his 13th album King’s Disease, a reference to gout, otherwise known as “rich man’s disease” as he says, which they got from their opulent lifestyles.
The album finds a very mature Nas looking around at the world, not just from the Queensbridge projects where he grew up, but from his elevated stature as a kingmaker in hip-hop and black culture. He celebrates black excellence for those who he believes are not given the plaudits they deserve like on “10 Points,” using examples like, “King, Michael Jordan gives back and you didn't know it, like LeBron does, but it's just seldomly shown.”
Nas often uses his platform with his album to tackle issues like systemic racism and domestic violence on “Till The World Is Won,” which he has his own history where he has been accused of abusing his ex-wife Kelis, something he denies. "These coward men, that were beating on you (Never me)," he raps.
There are plenty of other issues he covers on tracks like "The Definition," attacking media, the president, science deniers and their inability to accept Global warming and racism.
"Stupid words from the President's mouth, where are his editors, Antarctica is 65 degrees, Global warming, they don't wanna believe, And they're hanging people on trees," he raps.
The album feels very cohesive because he worked with Hit-Boy who produced the entire record. Often there are large teams of producers who do hip-hop albums and it works perfectly fine, but there can be something special about that connection between an artist and a producer when they do a full album. The beats vary between simple drum patterns, slowed, jazzy instrumentals and classic-sounding jams. Nas sounds effortless rapping over these beats – much more than he did working with Kanye West on Nasir.
The project comes loaded with features like Anderson .Paak, Dr. Dre, Big Sean and Charlie Wilson, more than normal, but he still sounds like the king on this project. He never gets out shined on this album. However, that can be an issue given that some features go by without you realizing that great artists were just on the record.
Nas has found his groove again as a man 30 years in hip-hop, living with the king’s disease, whether at the top of rap or as a kingmaker with Mass Appeal and other ventures. With this partnership alongside Hit-Boy, he sounds revived creatively, he is not afraid to take shots and examines the world around critically.
For the past decade, it may have been hard to believe Nas if he said he was still the king of New York, but this project would make you believe that the throne might be his again.
Pick up the album here.