Nas’ ‘King’s Disease’ album series has proven to be something of a renaissance for the Queensbridge hip-hop great. The titular first part of the trilogy landed him his very first Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2021, while its follow-up served as a love letter to hip-hop culture that positioned itself as the thematic counterpoint to his 2006 effort ‘Hip Hop Is Dead’. The 49-year-old then squeezed in ‘Magic’, a surprise LP released on Christmas Eve 2021 that saw Nas and Hit-Boy further hone their rapper/producer dynamic ahead of the series’ grand finale.
The pair have linked up once again on ‘King’s Disease III’, with Hit-Boy producing and executive producing alongside Nas. Things get off to a strong start with ‘Legit’, which samples audio from the 1991 R&B movie The Five Heartbeats and sees Nas imploring “Black homeowners, take over and throw the lease out / This that movie reel, the Jordan Peele of this thing low-key.”
Follow-up track ‘Thun’ then sees its creator take flight over an orchestral-tinged backdrop, where he playfully reignites his early 00s feud with Jay-Z. “No beef or rivals, they playin’ ‘Ether’ on Tidal / Brothers can do anything when they decide to,” he raps. “In a Range Rover, dissecting bars from ‘Takeover’ / Sometimes I text Hova like, ‘N***a this ain’t over’, laughing.”
The poignant ‘First Time’ is centred around Nas’ reflections on his 30-year music career. He imagines what it was like for his fans to first discover his game-changing music (“Your big brother put you on like, ‘Surprise!’ / Hearing my hood described, so vivid, you could see it by closing your eyes”) before poking fun at some of the criticism he’s faced over the years (“You probably heard somebody say that I pick bad beats / But I pick bad freaks”).
He then recalls some of the early pressures that came with adjusting to his mid-1990s breakthrough – “I was trying to juggle Columbia Records while dealing with what the country Colombia jungles had left us” – before later tipping his hat to one of rap’s modern-day greats, Kendrick Lamar: “Since Kendrick entered the atmosphere, ’09, I was there… I was happy to just witness history.”
The baton may have been passed long ago, but Nas’ story and passion for storytelling clearly endures. With ‘King’s Disease III’, the New York rapper has put the seal on a strong album trilogy that proves that, three decades in, he’s still a force to be reckoned with. And doesn’t Nas just know it: “They argue ‘KD1’, ‘KD2’ or ‘Magic’,” he muses on opener ‘Ghetto Responder’ about his recent impressive track record. “What’s harder when ‘KD3’ go harder than all of them?”
Release date: November 11, 2022
Record label: Mass Appeal