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REVIEWS

Nas Releases A Classic Album With ‘King’s Disease II’ 27 Years Into His Career

A King’s Ransom

Nas takes the game hostage again 25 years after his debut with King’s Disease 2

5 Purple Tapes Out of 5

At this juncture in his storied and emeritus revered rap career, few artists (if any after this release) have the culmination of avant-garde emcee skills, classic albums, songs, features, and memorable moments to lay claim to being the greatest emcee of all time and it be a truly valid case.

This is Nas’ status in the game prior to the recent release of KD2 which is simply put the AOTY thus far and one of the five best releases in his first ballot hall of fame career.

It could be argued that Nas is the first artist not just in rap but in music history with a virtual two-decade gap between his seminal works (God’s Son in 2002).

King’s Disease 2 is a crowning achievement and could be argued that Nas is the first of rap’s titans whose primes and careers you could place in two separate decades entirely with a murky period in between.

Releases like the N album and Street’s Disciple were uneven and left many feeling Nas’ best days as an emcee were behind him; we were left with the late nineties and early 2000’s classics as a moniker of his stature as one of rap’s true greats.

It sucks when the best nostalgic rapper ever makes you nostalgic about his catalog.

Life is Good is not as great as Nas fans claim, it was just really good years of average material from the artist and a shifting climate overstated its presence. If you felt Life Is Good was the second best rap album the year of its release, understand it was a far cry from the masterpiece Good Kid Maad City was. Life Is Good felt like the swan song; the last piece of real quality work by a legend. 

Leave it to Nas to keep us guessing. Life Is Good was the start of Nas recreating, reinvigorating himself to his next chapter of greatness, not the swan song. King’s Disease 2, is the fruit of almost a decade of work that started on Life Is Good.

Gone is the otherworldly stellar emcee with lines like “simply follow me flow/put poetry inside a crackpot and blow”, which has begun to creep up with intensity with every successive release (sans The Lost Tapes 2) is Nas the song and album maker.

King’s Disease 2 is the culmination of two separate storied rap careers from the same damn emcee. This is easily his most lyrical effort since God’s Son and his most consistent album listen song to song since Illmatic.

King’s Disease 2 is not better than Stillmatic or It Was Written, however, it is better than The Lost Tapes and a more consistent listen than the two aforementioned.  There is no “Braveheart Party” or “Black Girl Lost” on KD2 to throw the wrench into the vibe you hear and feel with clarity on here. In fairness to IWW and Stillmatic, there is no “I Gave You Power,” or “Rewind” on KD2. It is those epic moments on IWW and Stillmatic that make it superior and nothing more and not by much. 

If you are riding to this right now and feeling like you have not ridden to a Nas album begin to end like this since Illmatic, you’re not going crazy, you’re well within your rights. The perspective is important and KD2  in a strange way elevates his previous classic material.

You realize listening to KD2 how difficult it is to reach the heights that he has reached and it becomes more clear why it has taken twenty years for him to return to the top of the craft; his top is the top and he is clearly aware of it from the moment it’s magnum opus “The Pressure” comes on and you hear the now not so infamous phrase, “God’s Son across the belly.”

This is Hit-Boy’s best production job and seminal piece of work and is clearly the producer of the year (so far) after this effort. The utilization of the word genius in music has become taboo, oft times missed are the little things. The genius in Hit-Boy’s production job might have been that he was paying attention to Nas and his fans like a fan would.

Nas is the best nostalgic and beat-break rapper of all time and never have those talents been exploited at this level since Illmatic. Legions of fans love Nas for Illmatic and never really realize why they love Illmatic. Illmatic is a nostalgic timepiece of a young man reflecting on his childhood and teenage years circa 86-92. Illmatic is not 1994, Ready To Die and Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik are 1994.

Illmatic is littered with beat breaks and timeless nostalgic themes. Hit-Boy is the first producer since the production team on Illmatic to get Nas back in this pocket of greatness (he got a lot of pockets) and keep his ass there. The results are stunning and sometimes breathtaking on KD2.

On the instant classic “Store Run,” all versions of Nas appear and metamor into the man we now see before us. 

The philosopher Nas, “What happens when dealers reduced to addicts?”

Nasty Nas, “The altitude I’m at so cold it will make your nose run,” 

Tech Mogul Nas, “It’s One IPO to the next one,” 

Nas Escobar with “Pyrotechnics and leather pants” even appears. 

A brilliant moment on an album with many. 

You are going to be hard-pressed for any song even in all the rebirth to make a Nas greatest hits list that would cap out at about fifteen songs but “Store Run,” “Moments,” and “Nobody” feat. Ms. Lauryn Hill is so stand-out that it is at least an argument. It has been quite some time since we had a Nas album with potential greatest hits type of material on it.   

Speaking of “Nobody,” Lauryn Hill delivers an epic verse of the year contender filled with quotables and explanations on a multitude of topics. She comes off as a champion, “balanced and with clarity.” Ms. Hill’s feature, not Eminem’s feature on “EPMD2” is the scene-stealing guest appearance, on arguably the best song, on a tour de force of a project.

“EPMD2” is the weakest song on KD2, and the only thing keeping this album from being a clear cut 5 is the mixed reviews about the Eminem verse. After many listens, I still stand somewhere in the middle-not as great as some say, not as bad as others say. L Boogie on the mic with Nas is where it is at any day all day every day with this rap shit or at least that is how it is supposed to be.

Nas sounds alarmingly fresh and comfortable on records like “YKTV” and “Brunch On Sunday”-records like these on past projects have served as potential and sometimes actual missteps due to what the listener would deem lack of comfort by the artist or just feeling like the record was forced. There is none of that on KD2, Nas’ calling card lyricism is not replaced per say, but co-anchored by a frighteningly great delivery and cadence. Quite simply, the prodigy who made Illmatic, couldn’t ride “40 Side” and “YKTV” the way this version of Nas can.

All inferior rappers (that is 98-99%), take notes. Nas has gotten better as an overall emcee the last ten years. He has worked at his craft and rounded himself into modern-day form. That is quite the feat for an emcee who came in the game as a nostalgically inspired emcee. He is current, and it feels weird even saying that about Nas. Rappers approaching 50 have a tendency to sound the way they sound when you hear them at 30… and 40… 

Hell, most have sounded the same since they were 20.

Nas apparently has no plans on doing any sort of legends tour anytime soon. Nas and Hit-Boy hit a couple of home runs and triples on KD1, but mostly singles and doubles.  KD2 is reversed, it is more like a lot of home runs and triples and only a couple of singles and doubles.

Songs like “Count Me In,” “My Bible,” and “Composure” would easily be placed on KD1, and “The Pressure” is a superior intro to “King’s Disease.”

Makes you excited for a potential KD series a la RTJ although Hit-Boy and Nas have passed the RTJ heights with this effort. Once again, saying Nas, and excitement, at this stage, is saying a whole lot about what he just accomplished with this effort.

KD2 also makes you feel like, what in the hell have these producers been doing with Nas the last twenty, some would say, twenty-five years??? 

The album is so well rounded, the songs so good, and this is the first time this has happened with a Nas album that was noteworthy; he is lyrically sharp as he has been in twenty years and it is actually taking a back seat to his delivery, beat selection, and wait… charisma.

On KD2 you realize Nas is living the life you are not so certain your favorite rapper not named Nas is living like that. He really is a rap legend, he really is worth hundreds of millions, he really is a well-known bachelor.

He really is after all the rap wars (see track two “Death Row East”) against the very best, the classic albums, the sub-par albums, the failed public marriage, the criticized beat selections, the lyrical heights few have gone, “the flyest nigga in this rap shit.”

Indeed.

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