The third installment in the KD series and the fourth collaboration with Hitboy on production, Nas has dropped King’s Disease III and it is being met with adulation and adoration. And rightfully so. For one of the illest rhyme slingers to ever grace the mic, Nas hasn’t been immune from criticism, in fact, his other-worldly talent couple with an impeccable and iconic debut album, has probably set the bar higher than any other artist in the history of hip hop. Well, in short, the good news is that Nas has been on a really solid run with his past handful of albums, and KD3 might just be the best of them all.

King’s Disease III is simply Hit Boy on the beats and Nas on the mic. No features, no guests, just these two titans holding it down, exploring the relationship they’ve cultivated musically over the past few years. There is a maturity to the music, a sophistication when he spits, and a polish to the production (more on this later), so it is definitely not 18 year old Nas over Preemo, Pete Rock or Large Pro. What it is, is an emcee who transcends the pigeonholes fan want to place on him and critics want to keep him in. It’s a really great album from start to finish, curated well, capturing a range of social commentary, some introspective and braggadocious bars, and delivering lyrical prowess to make you shake your damn head.

It’s not ALL a home run for me though. There are a couple of beats and / or tracks that I won’t race to revisit. There is a moment or two where as a Nas fan I wonder if it just feels a little ‘forced’ to move into a trap-style beat space, and Hit Boy’s production is pedestrian. But those moments are very few and far between. And to be frank, it’s nitpicking but it’s an honest review of my feelings for the album. With all that said and done though, now we turn our focus to exploring and appreciating the album and giving Nas his props. His well-deserved, justified kudos for displaying his insane talent once again, and sharing it with hip hop heads.

Ghetto Reporter‘ is really well done and it’s a great introductory track to get things moving. It’s got a great vibe and Nas is dancing all over this as he proclaims “KD III goes harder than all of them” in reference to the debate between his collaborations with HB. Hit Boy eases into things on ‘Legit‘ but once that beat hits, this track becomes more interesting and soulful before ‘Thun‘ absolutely crushes it and gives me the Nas moment I was looking for. Queensbridge in full effect on this one and there is an element of sophisticated grime about this joint – a remix with AZ and Cormega would be a guilty pleasure. Or dare I say it….. Jay Z as Nas addresses the “beef” between the two behemoths.

The production on ‘Michael & Quincy‘ is simple yet somewhat dusty, and it’s a really dope track which builds – and has to – as Nas just gets nastier and nastier as the track progresses. When I saw the track title, I immediately thought of The Bad Seed and how his previous two projects have had ‘P & Hav‘ and ‘Bill & Fame‘, and it’s lucky Hit Boy actually brings some fire on the drumkit to match the Murder Megz production that graces Seed’s ‘tales of duality’. Unfortunately it’s a more trappy, generic tune to follow as ‘30‘ doesn’t live up to some of the other tracks on this project. It’s still solid, if not uninspiring as Nas sits in a more simple pocket lyrically with his ’30 summers’ bars and it’s the shortest track on the album – and rightfully so. It does however allude to the DJ Premier collab that heads have been fiending for.

Remember how I mentioned a few tracks that just didn’t fit well for me? ‘Hood2Hood‘ is one of those tracks with it’s uptempo, pop-trap infused soundscape just feeling forced and Nas isn’t doing enough lyrically to make this a regular in the rotation. Luckily, as soon as that joint is done, we get ‘Recession Proof‘ and this track has that VIBE! And not just that boom bap, dustier sounding production, but Nas is spitting on this one, really flowing effortlessly and in his bag – and when the beat changes, it’s over. This boom bap vibe continues on ‘Reminisce‘ as Hit Boy certainly hits the mark here. Nas is less energised is his flow, but his cadence is on point and his introspective street poetry resonates through the headphones in a big way.

Serious Interlude‘ is an interlude by track title only. It’s almost three minutes and HB brings some real authenticity to the production of this one, using the drums to underpin a few delicate vocals and soulful elements that soak through the speakers. It’s boastful, NBA Jam Nas on ‘I’m On Fire‘ where the juxtaposition of the braggadocio bars and the subtle, chilled out vibe that is delivered by the beat sits in a neat pocket. Alas, we then head into pedestrian, ill-fitting and un-Nas-like territory with ‘WTF SMH‘ and regardless of the reasoning behind this joint, I could do without it. Especially when the drums get removed and a soul sample fills the space like that awkward arm you don’t know what to do with while spooning.

Things get back on track with ‘Once a Man, Twice a Child‘ which brings the simple, yet really substantial boom bap production and chilled vibe, which allows the listener to nod their head while enjoying Nas just riding the beat to perfection and delivering his poignant bars into our cerebral. Street party, 90’s club anthem ‘Get Light‘ screams into the speakers with the scintillating sax bringing all kinds of funk and feeling. It’s a really positive, jazz infused energy that brings out the fire in Nas’ delivery too. This continues with ‘First Time‘ which again sees Nas getting introspective and talking about his journey over more solid production from HB and it fades out nicely to allow his bars to resonate.

While certainly not his best story-telling track, ‘Beef‘ channels the ‘I Gave You Power’ Nas vibe and does so pretty well. It’s only when this track is ‘paired’ with ‘Don’t Shoot‘ that the real impact is realised. Nas has an uncanny ability to become his subject as we’ve heard before, but over a couple of tracks back to back, with a range of cadence changes, beat changes etc – the musically journey is as much of an emotional rollercoaster as he raps about. The final ‘bonus’ track ‘Til My Last Breath‘ closes with some upbeat, horn-infused energy. The beat is a little trappy, but Nas is rapping here, so it makes it a little more bearable than a couple of the other joints on the album. This feels triumphant and when you’re Nas and you’ve revived your career with four dope albums over two years, why wouldn’t you be relatively jovial.

Bangers: Thun, Recession Proof, Once a Man Twice a Child, Reminisce, Get Light, Michael & Quincy.

Score: 9 / 10. There are few people who can deliver four quality albums in a run. Nas has teamed up with Hit Boy and the two have developed a chemistry between them that is really starting to become evident in their music. If anything, Hit Boy and his ‘polished’ beats mirror the maturation and growth of Nas as an artist – they WANT to keep that dusty, boom bap vibe, but just as Nas has found a more sophisticated way to spit, Hit Boy has smoothed the production to suit. As mentioned, there are some misses, but they aren’t tossaways, more just ‘tracks that could have been left off’ or ‘joints I don’t dig as much since they don’t resonate with my ear’ kind of thing. All in all, Nas has delivered and hip hop heads should be very, very happy.

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About The Author

By Brutus Maximus

Founder of Raw Side Hip Hop. Been rocking with the hip hop culture for over 30 years. Love the creativity, authenticity of the art and the culture as a whole. Shout out to the real ones making and supporting true hip hip and the artists who make it!

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