Nas and Hit-Boy reunite to deliver some no-nonsense verses and beats, with an interesting mix of nostalgia and more contemporary sounds
There’s a moment on King’s Disease III – near the end of Reminisce, just before the drill switch-up – where Nas pronounces “I don’t like to reminisce / ‘cause what we’re doing right now is really lit”. While the track is enjoyable this line stands out for being so obviously untrue, coming as it does from a deeply nostalgic rapper. His debut appearance on Main Source’s Live At The Barbeque in 1992 is mentioned multiple times on the album, and his current output seems perfectly content to rest in the shadow of Illmatic, as can be gleaned from the N.Y. State Of Mind sample on Beef.
Solid production was frustratingly occasional in Nas’ career for a long time, and like the other albums in this King’s Disease series Hit-Boy performs a vital service by making sure the instrumental palette is varied and fresh. Michael & Quincy is a fine demonstration and a highlight of the records, a gritty boom-bap loop that transforms into bassy trap goodness underneath copious Michael Jackson comparisons and references (“Know some money-getting thugs that could buy The Beatles pub / that’s what I really call copping white, reing up”).
Beat switches are also tastefully deployed elsewhere, as WTF SMH moves from a slightly goofy Pharrell-inspired beat to a muffled soul sample, taking Nas from text-speak flexing to deeper ruminations on inequality and violence. Get Light picks the pace up, mixing hedonism with a smooth horn sample in a manner so much more effective than previous Nas party tracks, and even if the contemporary rhythms of 30 are a little forced, it’s a brief track and passes without any major incident.
One of the more interesting songs lyrically is First Time, which is unapologetically rooted in that aforementioned nostalgia. It’s about the sensation of musical discovery, and while the concept initially feels egotistical (ie. just about discovering the rapper Nas) it broadens out to include legends like Slick Rick, N.W.A and Kendrick Lamar to name a few. The picture painted of how art interacts with everyday life is charmingly idiosyncratic, and Hit-Boy’s beats knock pleasantly in accompaniment.
Nas is not a perfect rapper in 2022 but the chemistry on King’s Disease III works well enough to paper over the shortcomings, leaving a focused, well-executed release.