Nas – The King’s Disease III

A super return from the rap legend...

The late-career up-swing from Nas has produced some of hip-hop’s most satisfying recent projects. The Queens rapper’s partnership with studio boffin Hit-Boy brought the emphatic LP ‘The King’s Disease’, an act that essentially excised his hit ‘n’ miss post-Millennial work to place Nas in a neo-classic context. It worked, too – rewarded with some of the best reviews for 25 years, a Grammy nominated follow-up album saw the production grow a little darker, absorbing trap elements in the process.

‘The King’s Disease III’ finds Nas returning to some of the boom-bap elements that drove his early work, while still accepting fresh influences. Technically dazzling, it feels lighter than its predecessor, a bold and often surprising return.

If ‘The King’s Disease II’ was marked by a flurry of high-profile collaborations, then this third instalment once more allows focus to fall on Nas himself, and the input of Hit-Boy. ‘Ghetto Reporter’ is an emphatic opener, a head-snapper from the off that indulges the neo-classic feel while overlaying those 90s elements with some neat twists. ‘Legit’ punches hard, while the dexterity on ‘Michael & Quincy’ illustrates Nas’ desire to challenge himself.

The twinkling synths on ‘Hood2Hood’ have a West Coast feel, before Nas shakes it up once more on ‘Reminisce’, those distorted soul samples recalling Ye’s production catalogue. ‘I’m On Fire’ speaks from the heart, while ‘Once A Man, Twice A Child’ finds the rapper at his most open, the wisdom of an older voice becoming apparent.

‘First Time’ contains a Dilla-esque warm to its production, yet more sign of Hit-Boy’s ingenuity. Latter album highlight ‘Don’t Shoot’ is all watery effects and slumped drums, affording Nas to use some of his most melodic flows. 

A record that closes by finding the answer within, ‘The King’s Disease III’ seems to sit in-between its predecessors. Absorbing the neo-classic feel of the first instalment, while making room for the experimentation that anointed the sequel, this third record merges the two instincts. It’s more than the sum of its parts, however; a fantastically consistent, perpetually illuminating full-length, it shows Nas to retain a hunger, and sheer fire that so many of his peers have lost. Recalling former glories while remaining fixed on the future, ‘The King’s Disease III’ underlines the rapper’s current creative streak.


Words: Robin Murray

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