Several decades into his music career, Nas has still got it. Born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones and fathered by a jazz musician out of Queensbridge, Brooklyn, Nasty Nas has always had music in his blood. His career began in the underground Brooklyn hip hop scene when he was taken under the wings of dominant artists Large Professor and Rakim, and he eventually got to show his skills on “Live at the Barbeque” by Main Source, which was also produced by the iconic Large Professor.
From that point on, Nas never missed a beat. His career soared and he eventually was able to propel himself to his current position of rap royalty.
Indeed, it’s difficult to debate the best rappers of all time without Nas’s name entering the conversation. From the time he released his first album Illmatic to his latest release King’s Disease II, Nas has been laying down bangers that resonate with old heads and new jacks alike.
At the start of his career, he was hailed as the second coming of Rakim; but now over 30 years later, Nas has made his own way and cemented himself on rap’s Mount Rushmore. While he’s pushing 50, Nas is not only keeping up with the new generation of rappers, he’s setting the bar for hip hop artists across the industry.
If you’re a fan of rap, you’ve probably already listened to King’s Disease II all the way through (and probably listened to it two or three times to fully digest the lyrical depth that this album offers). However, if you haven’t given Nas’s latest release a listen yet, get out your phone, open up Spotify, Tidal, or Apple Music, and plug in your headphones.
King’s Disease II is a wild ride through the mind of one of the greatest musical artists of all time. Get ready to be transported to 1990s Queensbridge and enjoy reminiscing vicariously through Nas’s long and fruitful career.
Journey to the Throne
Similar to his last album King’s Disease, King’s Disease II thematically centers on Nas’s journey from the streets of Queensbridge to his current vaulted position of rap legend. He speaks on his experiences that shaped his work ethic and business sense in gripping detail, never letting his audience forget the humble beginnings that he had to claw his way out of.
Of course, Nas’s greatest superpower has always been his storytelling ability, and his narratives are no less gripping on King’s Disease II than they were on Illmatic (which is quite possibly the greatest rap album in history).
Nas’s King’s Disease II is a mix of anecdotes from his grimy and gritty past and self-praise for his current position of rap royalty. For instance, you have “Death Row East” delivering a new perspective on the East-West rivalry of the ‘90s.
The song reflects on the savage nature of the conflict and the unbridled aggression that fueled it, but also sympathizes with the youths on both sides. Then you have “Brunch on Sundays” as a testament to the fruits of hard work and determination. Yes, Nas spends his Sundays sipping mimosas and enjoying expensive menu items, but he had to climb out of the dirt to get there, so he deserves it.
More than just stories from the projects of Brooklyn, King’s Disease II features Nas speaking about his past investment opportunities and successes. He talks about his investments in tech and in the stock market, showing that Nas has matured from the young ruffian he once was into a grown man with business acumen and a nose for success. The topics have changed from those of Nas’s younger years, but his stories (and, of course, his impeccable flow) are just as captivating as ever.
The Young and the Old
The features on Nas’s album include fellow rap legends as well as selected members of the new school. Nas has always spread love to real ones around the industry, respecting dedicated students of the art form.
On King’s Disease II, we get an appearance from master rapper Eminem on “EPMD 2” that comes across as laid-back and stress-free. As we all know, Eminem can rap in his sleep, and him lazily serenading us over a modern Hit-Boy beat is just Eminem’s way of showing that he and Nas still have the game on lock.
The song also features the legendary New York duo of EPMD. This collection of iconic old school rappers tearing apart a new school beat takes their past greatness and translates it into the musical language of the modern era.
The ninth track, “Nobody,” brings a feature from Ms. Lauryn Hill and also gives the sense that ‘90s New York is being brought into the modern day. Ms. Hill’s gritty style hasn’t slipped a bit and her prophetic tone is just as powerful on this song as it ever was.
Hearing Nas and Lauryn Hill spit over this chilled-out track feels like nothing short of a gift. To hear these two rap legends give up their wisdom on this song is truly something to be thankful for.
Not only does King’s Disease II feature fellow rap icons, Nas lets some members of the freshman class come to the party as well. A Boogie Wit da Hoodie makes an appearance on “YKTV” in which he rises to the challenge of not being completely overshadowed by Nas’s greatness. While Nas’s verse is still definitely the highlight of the song, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie’s verse doesn’t drop the ball whatsoever.
After that, we’re treated to a dope verse from YG that’s every bit as effortless and thuggish as we’ve come to expect from the West Coast rapper. Nas clearly has no problem passing the torch to the new generation while making it very clear that he’s still running the game.
Hit-Boy Pushing the Pace
Hit-Boy returned for the vast majority of the production on King’s Disease II, and it would seem that he really knows how to bring the best out of Nas. Of course, Nas never sounds like he’s trying too hard. He was born a master of lyrics and flow.
However, certain beats across the 15 tracks on the album seem to challenge Nas and coax him into inventing new styles. For instance, the clean snares and delightful organ loop on “Rare” push Nas’s pace and he seems to go Super Saiyan the more the beat builds. It’s still the same Nas, but Hit-Boy helps him adapt to new kinds of beats and inspires him to play around with new flows.
In contrast to some of the more classic sounds on the album, tracks like “EPMD 2” and “YKTV” allow us to hear the rap legend spinning lines over some more contemporary beats, and it works perfectly.
Nas is sort of a chameleon when it comes to what kind of beats he can rap over. His effortless flows seem to blend perfectly into almost anything. And that deft versatility of his is certainly on display across King’s Disease II.
Is King’s Disease II the best album Nas has ever released? No. However, this showing from the rap legend outshines both King’s Disease and Nasir, his previous two albums. At the very least, King’s Disease II shows that Nas is still capable of putting out a solid album. Plus, listening to King’s Disease II will probably inspire you to revisit his other iconic albums like Illmatic and It Was Written.