Album Review: Nas - King's Disease

Nas really had the nerve to sit down in 2020, with Hit Boy, and together, they decided to name an album King's Disease. An album, named after gout, that thing your uncle gets. The nerve of them, to have this entire album be fire, flames, fuego, lume, feu, however you want to put it, this is good. So good.

The album starts with a beautiful intro "King's Disease," where Nas looks at the retrospective of wealth and how it can kill just as fast as poverty. There's a section of the intro that isn't loved, because people assumed that it is aimed at his ex-wife Kellis. He states:

Invested in things only a vet would, only lames front on kings, that's expected from creeps, you mad at my niggas and any woman with any interest in me, you could've made it (You was good), look at all the time wasted, now you gotta retract statements, shoulda stuck to the basics, all you had to do was tell the truth, like, fuck all the fake shit, you should want every brother to make it out

It's easy to assume that this is aimed at Kelis if you take it on base grounds, specifically the retracted statements, but I see it differently. A long time ago, Nas had a protege of sorts, a rapper named Quan. Quan has been dissing Nas for years, and he kind of calmed down. For a while he was saying Nas wasn't as good as he thought, and Quan was a better rapper. They fell out because Quan didn't want Nas to executive produce his album, the album flopped and he blamed Nas. This is where the part of the verse immediately following comes in:

Rap is weird, weird flex, but okay, you ain't as ill as you think, you just okay, you got pressed in the hood, fix your jibs up, I'm on top, stop fighting it, yo, stop with the over-righteousness, it's so lame, this media circus greedy and worthless

This is why I think it's aimed at Quan, because in recent years Quan has started up with the Nas disses again. This time he's claiming Nas is a bad business man, which is why the album flopped. As for the media circus Quan has been doing his rounds lately. I can see why people would think this is aimed at Kelis, but Nas has been pretty direct when speaking on Kelis in his music. I could be wrong and I'm okay with it, but Quan is an alternative way to look with this one that a lot of people aren't considering especially because he does have an aura of arrogance when he speaks on Nas. There's also a part where he states that if you were truly a king, you wouldn't need the help to make it, which Quan clearly needs and Kelis does not.

"Blue Benz," has Nas reminiscing on how it was in the 90s, sneaking weapons into night clubs with Chris Lightly, a veteran hip hop manager, Louie Rankin a dancehall legend, and unnamed woman. All of which are no longer living and where considered by people for various reasons in some groups. The second verse contrasts this with Nas looking at his recent experiences in the world of business where he views certain loved companies as the true evil. He's glad he made it out, but he still misses those times, the duality.

Charlie Wilson is the first feature, and appears on "Car 85," there's no real analysis on this one. Nas and Charlie just make some beautiful music as they look back on old times. It's just two legends doing legendary things. "Ultra Black," was the lead single in which Nas declares he is all the way black. Some people were upset with this track because Nas "dissed," Doja Cat for being anti-black despite being biracial. Well, I'll just remind you, she was in racist chat rooms showing feet and has constantly come under fire for anti-black things such as prior songs. Nas is the opposite of that, also he is not Lil Nas X, so I don't know why people went after him for this track, just shows Doja Cat fans don't actually listen to hip hop.

"27 Summers," is another track people aren't catching on the first listen. It isn't about Nas when he was 27 nor the 27 Club that is said to exist. It's been 27 years since the summer of 1993, when Illmatic dropped. Nas has been a household name for 27 years. The beat on this one is incredible, and Nas just rides it with ease. The biggest downfall of this track is that it's under two minutes, if anything it serves as interlude before the second half of the album.

When the track list was revealed, people were upset by the second half, without hearing it. Nas and Hit Boy enlisted a slew of younger acts to appear on the album. But, sometimes the OGs aren't pandering to younger crowd, but bringing younger artists into their world, and that's what happened here.

"Replace Me," features Don Toliver on the hook, and Big Sean delivers a guest verse. The track centers on past relationships and how they can't be replaced. I won't lie, it might be my least favorite track on the album. It isn't bad, but we've been through this with Life is Good and I can't take any more of the Big Sean and Jhene Aiko on and off again saga. We're just retreading old ground here.

Lil Durk shows up for "Til The War is Won," an unofficial Black Lives Matter song, with some additional love shown to single mothers. It's a surprisingly good combination. I have to applaud Lil Durk, because he's come a long way in subject matter and ability from singing "Dis Ain't What You Want," off key. It's honestly the most surprising feature on the album.

Nas once again reminisces on lost love, this time a younger woman, on "All Bad." He makes reference to her being the same age as the women Drake chases after. It reminds me of an old Sinbad joke where he mentions a young girlfriend looks good, but at a certain point you're too old. The Nas and Nicki Minaj stans are going to go wild. Lil Nas X must have asked too many questions when they did the "Rodeo," remix. In all seriousness, the reason this track stands out is Anderson Paak. He's been good for a long time, but lately, he just can't miss.

"The Definition," is one of my favorite tracks, just old school Nas spazzing out over the beat. It's introduced by the legendary, World Famous DJ Brucie B. It's classic Nas, he doesn't have the answers but he wants to know what is wrong:

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, and what the fuck is up with Gayle King? A black male, a female thing, a failed thing, journalism or internalism?

Everyone knows the president might have some mental deficiencies, but nobody is going to edit his speeches, or tweets? How are people still not believing in global warming despite all the signs? If Doja Cat caught a stray, Gail Kim caught a well placed sniper shot. Gail King and Oprah have received a lot of well deserved criticism. Immediately following Kobe Bryant's death, Gail King asked Lisa Leslie if she knew he was a rapist. Putting Lisa in a tough spot, and also leaving people wondering why ask the question? Her response was that she was doing the right thing by drawing attention to women's issues. Still Oprah and Gail caught a lot of grief because how can you take down R. Kelly and Bill Cosby in the name of journalism, while posing for pictures with Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Rose and keeping quiet. Bill Cosby and R. Kelly need to be in jail, but so Harvey and Charlie so why is it that Oprah and Gail only show up for black predators? Oprah has long been questioned about other anti-black tendencies but never seems to provide an answer. As long as you know all these people are guilty, there's nothing wrong with asking why Oprah and Gail are so snugly with white predators while ignoring black issues in favor of leading crusades against people we already know are guilty? It's entirely fair to ask what the fuck is up with Gail King, and anybody else showing their anti blackness.

"Full Circle," is the reunion nobody knew they wanted. Nas, AZ, Foxy Brown, Cornmega and even Dr. Dre showed up for this one. The Firm album didn't sell great, and internal beef broke the group up with everyone hating everyone. Still, the album became well loved by fans of all of them. They performed together once in 2006 and then went back to beefing. But, here they stand united and it was the worth the wait. It's a beautiful track about how everything comes back around and makes sense. Nas realizes he isn't the pimp he thought he was after multiple public love triangles, and his heart isn't a cold as he thought it was. AZ realizes that the one woman who wasn't dealing with his crap was the one who loved him. Cornmega realizes material possessions aren't what define true success. Foxy reflects on going from jail to receiving the key to the city. Foxy has gotten some heat for her verse because she repeated a single bar back to back, but y'all like Mike Jones do it three times on every verse for 20 years so I don't want to hear it. This track just gives off a classic vibe, the culmination to a mafia film where the protagonists actually win. It's great to hear AZ again, it's been almost a decade since he dropped a solo project, it's time. 

PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (and Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome) are things Nas has toyed with before. "10 Points," does it again, suggesting we need to find ways to let go of our hurt to truly rise up, and be kings. He also touches on how he finally found comfort outside the hood, how Black celebrities like Michael Jordan actually do give back even if it isn't covered by the media. He makes this point, because there are people who say Black people shouldn't leave the hood, and in contrast he feels that sometimes you need to leave the hood to help the hood, a contrast from some of his past music.

The album finishes up with "The Cure," where Nas looks back on his career to discover the cure to King's Disease. He reflects on attempting a more main stream style, what it really means to be an older artist. How the way to cure King's Disease is to stop "doing too much," but focusing on your craft. You don't need to be in every lane, you just need to dominate your lane. Mainstream didn't work for Nas, he went back to what he knows and found that success again. It's a great finish for the album, and comes "Full Circle," with "King's Disease," making sense in the end.

The album is beautiful, and Nas has been known to pick some bad beats in his career. But, Hit Boy just wouldn't let that happen and brought amazing production through the entire thing. It didn't sound like Hit Boy, but it also didn't sound like any of Nas' previous work. It was a completely new sound for this album. I can't say Nas handled the features, but I have to think it was Hit Boy who reached out to these artist. Big Sean, Don Toliver, Lil Durk and Anderson Paak are people Nas has never worked with and until the album dropped it seemed like he never would. But, each of them were featured exactly where they should be, in their own lane.

Nas has been doing this for 27 years, a career, and life full of ups and downs. What he's saying makes sense, because we've seen it. King's Disease isn't gout in this case, but losing your way because you're doing too much. You can try to be too many things at once, we've heard it from Nas in his past. His song "Reach Out," from Life is Good covers how he wanted to be in the hood while running businesses but couldn't find that balance. He was doing too much. In our own personal lives, we can do too much, that's the King's Disease. The cure, we find one thing to focus on, the cure just happens to be different for each of us. What's your cure?

You can check out some of my fiction at 12 AM Fiction or follow my web serial Exsanguinate and of course hear me on the Powerbomb Jutsu podcast.

Album Review: Nas - King's Disease Album Review: Nas - King's Disease Reviewed by Darrell S. on Saturday, August 22, 2020 Rating: 5

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.