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Magic Kingdom: Nas “Magic 3” Album Review

On August 21, 2020, when Nas and Hit-Boy released King’s Disease 1, we all thought it was a victory lap for somebody considered by many and always in the discourse of the greatest emcee of all time.

What we erroneously forecasted as a victory lap has morphed into a benchmark moment for his illustrious career and arguably the most remarkable stretch of music Nas has ever made.

Capping off this remarkable run with Hit-Boy with the masterpiece that is Magic 3.

One of the more impressive things about this run is from album to album, the styles change, the beats change, and the rhyme schemes, thoughts, and concepts change.

KD1, although it was released only roughly three years ago, feels like it was six or seven years ago. This magical duo has done so much work and grown so much album to album a la Outkast as a duo. Three years’ time is all it took to create the most consistent catalog for any emcee and producer combo.

As it stands today, with Magic 3 in tow, they are the greatest emcee and producer combination of all time, superseding the likes of Gangstarr, Eric B. & Rakim, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and Kool G Rap & DJ Polo.

It is only fitting that this epic run ends with Nas & Hit creating their best piece of work together. Hits production this go-round is soulful, funky, and, per usual with Hit, frighteningly diverse. At this point, you do not know which legendary producer Hit will channel. Shades of Preemo, Kanye, Dilla, and 9th are all found throughout the album. This may be his greatest gift as a producer – he can channel other great producers, replicate what they do well, and fit it into his style of beat-making.

Whereas Magic 1 is the ultimate beat tape that harkens back to a prodigious talent aptly named Nasty Nas, Magic 2 found itself in a more conceptual explorative state.

Magic 3 is the manifestation of the child prodigy that has become, over the course of the last three decades, the greatest emcee of all time unequivocally.

He is the holder of hip-hop’s greatest catalog. He holds two of hip hop’s greatest runs, with this six-album run being one of them. This album is the culmination of an unforeseen run that has separated Nas from all his contemporaries.

Magic 3 starts feverishly with the album starter “Fever.” “Fever” is giving “Speechless” a run for its money as the best starter of the six albums that Nas & Hit have done thus far. The way Nas has updated his formula shows itself with him borrowing his own chant of Represent from the song bearing the same name of his magnum opus.

One of the album’s strongest moments, “I Love This Feeling,” finds Hit taking a Dexter Wensel sample and flipping it in a manner that would make his former mentor, Mr. West, proud. Nas informs the listener that they’re listening to the modern-day It Was Written. This album is not IWW, but not too far behind it as a cohesive body of work. As a lyricist, Nas sounds today like the artist who penned “No Ideas Original” over twenty years ago. And he’s a better songmaker now than he ever was.

“Never Die” with Lil’ Wayne is one of the year’s best features, if not the best feature of the year. Furthermore, it’s one of the best features of any of Nas’ 17 solo projects. It is the best feature of this trilogy and is only behind Lauryn’s otherworldly appearance on “Nobody” off KD2.

Wayne’s flow and delivery of the song are uncanny. You realize when he’s standing next to Nas on this record that Wayne truly is one of the Greatest of All Time. You can hear why people consider him to be the greatest MC of all time from his generation.

On the other hand, one of the intangible things that have made Nas special is his perspective. The perspective(s) on “Never Die” and “No Tears” provide a detailed insight and vulnerability that few this side of Tupac can match.

As impressive as the first half of the project is, it’s the second half of the project where the album truly ascends into the classic territory. The moments are startling and operate on a very high level.

Nas’ talking choppy over chopped samples by Chauncey is at its zenith as this chapter closes.

Hit channels his inner DJ Premier on “Pretty Young Girl.” and the stories on “Based on True Events Pt. 1&2.”
have hip-hop’s greatest storyteller with a brilliant story in part one about deceased rapper Half-A-Mil and a “Blaze A 50” caliber story in part 2.

The most instrumental, impressive, and inspirational part of this run has been the astonishing fact that Nas’s pen game is on par with his pen game Circa 94-01. Never has an artist been this great this late.

The highlights are so plentiful that it is hard to choose a favorite – “Speechless Pt.2” and “Sitting With My Thoughts” are easy picks. These two songs are also two of the records where you find Hit-Boy in his production style.

Magic 3 concludes with the beautiful and bittersweet “1-800 Nas&Hit” which is an appropriate victory lap should this be the last time we hear this pair together. It finds a reflective, joyful Nas closing out this unexpected journey.

These two trilogies at once have revealed that Nas is just having fun with the music, and him just having fun with the music has actually resulted in him having, at least musically speaking, the most consistent and arguably best run of his career.

Never has he made six albums this strong, this consistent. The highlights of the peaks of the first run are what people will mention. This degree of difficulty is so much higher. He has done this from ages 47-50. Let that sink in as this ship sails.

17 solo projects, The Firm, QB’s Finest, Distant Relatives. That is 20 projects. 20 projects in 30 years… I can divide… that’s Stevie and Prince type of output. And almost Stevie and Prince-level quality on some rap shit.

If this is indeed his grand exit, he is leaving it the way he came in, with an instant classic album with one feature. An ending fit for a king.



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