The renaissance of Nas’ career is something to marvel at. He’s in his career’s 30th year and on a three-album run which would rival most rapper’s best works. With the third entry into his King’s Disease trilogy, Nas once again ups the bar.
Nas spends a large portion of King’s Disease III taking us through his career, a tall task for a man who’s discography spans three decades. The introspective ‘First Time’ is a follow-up to KD2’s ‘Moments’, as Nas reminisces when he first heard his favourite artists, comparing himself to his fans when they first heard his music, whilst simultaneously shouting out Kendrick Lamar.
‘Thun’ sees Nas recounting his early street life behind an incredible rhyme scheme and excellent storytelling; “No beef or rivals, they playing Ether on TIDAL,” he says, before reflecting on how far he’s come with the bar “sometimes I text Hova like “N**** this ain’t over,” laughin’,” in one of the funniest moments on the project.
Nas is just as braggadocious as he is introspective. Just look at the tracklist, with songs like ‘Recession Proof’ and ‘I’m On Fire’ demonstrating the pedestal he places himself on. And he’s earned it. Nas is the student of hip-hop, the ultimate technical rapper. References to Eminem’s ‘The Way I Am’ and Boogie Down Productions, and Black Star at the end of ‘Thun’ prove his knowledge and proficiency, as Nas raps throughout the project like he still has something to prove, albeit not to the extent of Magic.
Hit-Boy’s beats twist and contort throughout the record, growing throughout each track. Lucious soul samples are found on tracks such as ‘Serious Interlude’ and ‘Reminisce’, whilst seamless beat switches accompany Nas’ change of flow on ‘Legit’.
The instrumental for ‘Get Light’ may be the most experimental on any Nas and Hit-Boy project, and it’s brought together here by a gorgeous trumpet line. It has long been said that it’s Hit-Boy that has revitalised Nas’ career, and much is the same on KD3.
The only thing that falls consistently short are Nas’ choruses, which are often neither catchy nor complex. For someone who is able to create such perfect rhyme schemes time after time, to see him resorting to repeating “Goin’ on 30 summers” or “New makes, new models,” is underwhelming. It’s also amusing, if nothing else, to hear Nas uses terms such as “WTF,” “SMH” and “LMFAO” in ‘WTF SMH.’
Whilst KD3 may not see Nas rapping with the hunger he did in Magic, and may not have the heights of KD2, it is a more consistent, higher quality album than both. Hit-Boy is yet to let Nas down with beats, and the fact that Nas is 30 years into his career and rapping at this level speaks volumes.
He basks in his success, reminisces on his past, and is able to put his thoughts into words better than almost anyone. King’s Disease III is yet another stellar edition to perhaps the greatest catalogue of releases in hip-hop history.