15 studio albums later, many are nonetheless questioning if 49-year-old rapper Nas nonetheless has one thing related to say. To critics and followers alike, the reply is a convincing sure. Along with his Nov. 11 launch “King’s Illness III,” Nas closes out his “King’s Illness” trilogy with confidence and a way of resolve. He raps from a spot of knowledge and well-earned respect, not often verging on “preachy” territory. His recommendation and bars are related for previous and new followers alike.
Three a long time into his profession, the rapper remains to be going by a dramatic metamorphosis, and his ongoing evolution would possibly make him one of many best MCs of all time. Whereas many purists will argue that his debut file “Illmatic” (1994) overshadows his different music, this latest string of albums readily dispels that notion. Critically and commercially, Nas’ newest launch is a resurgence.
“King’s Illness III” comes throughout a creative renaissance for the legendary New York rapper. After an in any other case divisive inventive output within the 2000s, Nas has infused new life into his musical profession, grabbing his first Grammy in 2021, hopping on a number of tracks with different notable artists and making 4 studio albums all inside an unprecedented two-year time interval. Nas has persistently labored on these initiatives with the legendary West Coast producer Hit-Boy, and their creative collaboration, which Nas references on the aptly titled fourth observe, “Michael & Quincy,” describes an plain chemistry which resembles Michael Jackson and his producer Quincy Jones. Even in interviews main as much as the album’s launch, government producer Hit-Boy exuded a way of optimism and artistic renewal.
This newest file comes solely a yr after the second installment of this trilogy. Moreover, there have been no options on the whole album, a feat that has not occurred since his 2002 undertaking “The Misplaced Tapes.” The stress was undoubtedly on to tug by on a totally impartial undertaking in such a short while body.
Nas’ “King’s Illness III” covers a large breadth of matters and themes, starting from commentary in regards to the present state of hip-hop, the distinctive expertise of being Black in America, previous and new notorious rap beefs, the fleetingness of adolescence and mindless gang violence. On the tail finish of “Reminisce,” he gracefully raps over silky boom-bap beats earlier than shortly shifting to aggressive drill beats which might be attribute of the New York rap scene at this time.
Among the standout moments on this LP are when Nas steps out of his consolation zone to rap over surprising instrumentals. On “Thun,” Nas raps over a bombastic and strings-filled combine with vivid imagery. “I’m on Fireplace” has him blazing by a laid-back beat with a basic soul pattern. “Get Gentle” finds him rhyming over a fab tune meant for the dance ground. This file covers expansive sonic territory.
Along with Hit-Boy’s tasteful beats, Nas’ commentary is substantive and multilayered, the byproduct of a long time of songwriting. His bars are filled with double entendres, metaphors and area of interest cultural references. His lyrics are recent and pertinent, by no means fairly boxing himself in because the “previous head” of hip-hop. He persistently offers sound recommendation all through the file, starting from spirituality, monetary issues on “Recession Proof,” relationship struggles and methods to keep cool beneath stress. The LP flows easily, not often stalling, and by no means seems like a bloated file regardless of its 17 tracks.
Nas frequently lays out his thesis for why he is without doubt one of the all-time greats. He concurrently appears shocked and humbled all through the file about how far he has come from his time in Queensbridge. On the opening observe, “Ghetto Reporter,” he interpolates an Eminem circulate: “The audacity, masterfully crafted these classics/ So naturally, needed to be Nasty again at it/ They argue ‘KD1,’ ‘KD2’ or ‘Magic,’ what’s tougher when/ ‘KD3’ go tougher than all of them?”
Nas sees himself because the final of a dying technology of rappers. He expresses the same sentiment on the triumphant fifth observe, “30,” whereby he discusses his dominance within the broader hip-hop panorama. The title references what would be the thirtieth anniversary of his debut “Illmatic” in 2024.
He additionally raps about racism all through the file. On the beat swap of “WTF SMH,” Nas opens one bar speaking about how he’s unabashedly, “Professional-Black with a machete, pinky ring, a hog within the again/ This isn’t a rap tune, why you callin’ it that?” to then resign to the truth that if he spontaneously took a visit to Japan, customs won’t “let me in,” referencing airport customs racially profiling individuals of colour.
The widespread utilization of medicine and narcotics that surrounded Nas’ upbringing additionally crops up on “First Time.” The observe is predominantly a back-and-forth between Nas and the listener as he asks them how they found his artwork. He talks about what number of followers found his music by their older siblings, at a seedy liquor retailer or perhaps even at a membership. Whereas his music profession took off, his neighborhood was reeling from a drug epidemic. He relates, “I used to be tryin’ to juggle Columbia Data/ Whereas dealin’ with what the nation Colombia jungles had left us/ First time you heard of Nas, I professional’ly was beneath some stress/ Gun within the dresser when you was baggin’ up within the kitchen playin’ my information.”
On the next tune, “Beef,” Nas’ lyrics embody the battle between two events. He discusses the epidemic of mindless gang violence and the function that envy and jealousy play, referencing the murders of many up to date rappers, saying, “Dad and mom of each slain rapper want I didn’t exist/ However I’m alive and I thrive in your ignorance/ I’m a thousand-foot fence that maintain you from getting wealthy.”
Nas as soon as once more solidifies himself as a robust voice in hip-hop worthy of respect for his bars, wordplay and general message of unity and Black empowerment. He proves confrontational however deeply empathetic, particularly on these deeper cuts.
In attribute Nas vogue, he additionally represents New York proudly — particularly Queensbridge, the place he spent most of his upbringing. He paints an image of life in Queens on a number of tracks, most notably on “Hood2Hood,” “Get Gentle” and “As soon as a Man, Twice a Little one.” He raps with a aptitude of nostalgia on the refrain, “I ducked a razor, ducked some punches, even ducked a gun/ Nintendo ‘Duck Hunt,’ I ducked police, I needed to run.”
He’s even lengthy faraway from notorious East Coast beefs, akin to on “Thun,” when he can lastly make enjoyable of what was as soon as a severe beef with Jay-Z. These traces paint an image of maturity and humility seldom discovered within the braggadocious world of hip-hop, and he weaves in tales to move the listener proper alongside him, from the streets of Queens to gracing the world’s levels. Pay attention and take notes: Nas is as hungry as ever on his trilogy-closing “King’s Illness III.”