An inspiring career defying moment. In an already illustrious and storied career. That’s a masterclass in lyricism, storytelling and cohesion. Which has him sounding as fresh, inspired and rejuvenated as he has been in years. To inspire not only his generation, but a new generation as well. As well as emrace his king status, in both Hip-Hop and music as a whole. That is how living legend and Hip-Hop icon, Nas’ most recent album, King’s Disease II. Can best be described in a nutshell.
A rare sequel to an album. That is actually better than its predecessor and shows the undeniably great chemistry between both, Nas and producer, Hit-Boy. While also helping usher in a whole new inspiring and completely confident chapter of his career. The two let us know from the very opening track. Quite aptly titled, The Pressure. Where uncredited background vocalists, Don Tolliver, opens up singing, “Pressure, pressure. I can feel pressure. Just a little bit.” Before Nas comes in over the very soulfully inspiring Hit-Boy and Corbett backdrop. Rhyming, “The pressure weigh a ton, it’s gettin too heavy. Had to inspire them again like I didn’t already.” Has the two showing that despite, the pressure, of trying to exceed the GRAMMYS-Award winning original. They wouldn’t let it fold them. But help inspire them to exceed in many ways the first album. That they released together last year. The very inspiringly soulful and confident sounds. Letting us know the type of greatness that fans and listener’s. Can expect throughout most of the album.
Speaking of greatness. That greatness and lyrical prowess, as well as storytelling. Which has made Nas widely recognized as one of the greatest lyricists and storytelling emcees of all-time. Is on full display on the very next track. The definingly punitive, Death Row East. Where Nas very vividly describes his own raw account and experiences. From one night in trying to help squash the genre defying Eastcoast and Westcoast beef. While also ending his own beef with the late great, Tupac Shakur. Before 2Pac’s untimely passing. Nas penitence for lyrical prowess and giving game as an elder statesman in Hip-Hop/Rap to the younger generation. Is not only shown here on, Death Row East. But also on standout tracks. Such as, the Hip-Hop fantasy collaboration, EPMD 2. That features fellow legendary and iconic Hip-Hop heavyweights EPMD and Eminem. With Erick Sermon and PMD, showing why they’re highly regarded as one of the genre’s best ever duo’s. With an undeniable back-and-forth chemistry. That inspired and birthed so many other great emcees. With Nas and Eminem, being two of them. Nas showing and giving the group their well-deserved flowers for doing so. That many others haven’t. With Em doing so as well. This surprisingly being the first time both Nas and Eminem have both rhymed together on a track. Em, probably feeling the pressure of being on such a track with Hip-Hop royalty. Having a guest verse that shows him trying too hard to please not only his collaborators. But most Hip-Hop purists. Which is probably why unfortunately his guest feature for the most part. Seems somewhat forced and out of place. For an otherwise pretty solid track.
Nas is in rare form too. On the appropriately titled lead single, Rare. That finds Nas over the soulfully jazzy smooth triumphant horns. Making it look way to easy. With the very youthful energy, exuberant timeless bars and overall love for rhyming. That he displays on what’s easily one of not only the best tracks on the album, but quite possibly of Nas’ legendary and iconic nearly 30-year career. The bars, “Ice in my veins, I make it look easy.” The perfect bars/lyrics to really describe how easy he makes it look to be rapping so well for so long.
The more trap-infused sounds of records like, 40 Side and YKTV. That’s more catered to today’s generation of Hip-Hop. Allowing Nas to show that even when Hit-Boy switches up the production. From the regular breakbeats, cinematic soundscapes and soulfully jazzy smooth backdrops we hear throughout the rest of the album. That Nas can still deliver his great storytelling and rhyming, while also switching up his flow. To for the most part still make those tracks work in the whole concept of the album. Though the features from both A Boogie Wit da Hoodie & YG, on the latter. Do sound like they can be done without and that track as a whole. Maybe would make the album better without it.
The three tracks run between Store Run, Moments and Nobody. Is not only the best sequenced one on the album. But also at least three of the top four or five tracks. If not top three, on the whole album. The very stellar storytelling and poetics ushered by Nas. On those tracks. Once again shown. Whether it be Nas over the breezy Hit-Boy and Ezreaux co-produced backdrop. Rapping reflectively about his own experiences growing up in New York. While also schooling the youth. Or Nas over the shimmering smooth jazzy keys of the Hit-Boy and Jansport J co-produced, Moments. Giving very introspective rapping about moments in his own life experiences. That made him the man he is. Including him taking on the role of being an elder statesman in Hip-Hop. As he raps, “My whole career, I steered away from features. But I figured it’s perfect timing to embrace new leaders. Accepted my position as, the master teacher.” That also shows him acknowledging the current generation. With features from the likes of A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, YG and Blxst, on the album.
While we are talking about features. That is the perfect segue to Ms. Lauryn Hill’s very stellar guest feature on, Nobody. A very thought-provoking record that shows the chemistry between the two living legends. Is still as strong as when, Nas and Hill, first collaborated on the genre-defying 1996 anthem, If I Ruled the World (Imagine That). This time, Nas, getting a very rare guest rapping verse from Hill. We haven’t heard in nearly two decades. By far not only the best guest verse on the album, but one of the best verses spit of the whole year. With rhymes such as, “I’m savin’ souls and y’all complainin’ bout my lateness. Now it’s illegal for someone to walk in greatness.” Proving why, Hill, even now decades later. Despite critic’s, is still one of the best emcees ever. When she’s at her pinnacle. Perhaps this hopefully being a spark for, Hill, to get in the booth a little more often too.
The guest features throughout the rest of the album. Are perfectly placed too. Whether it be the legendary and iconic, Charlie Wilson. On the hook for the very soulfully smooth ladies catered, No Phony Love or even newer artist, Blxst, on the just as smooth hook for the very classy smooth standout, Brunch on Sundays. That has Hit-Boy somehow managing to capture the sound of champagne bubbles in flute glasses with a pristine sprinkling of piano keys and jazzy bass bombs. While Nas once again shows off his very stellar storytelling on so effortlessly. On not only that, but the dusty breakbeat from Hit-Boy and B. Carr on, Count Me In, as well. That has made him so highly regarded. As one of the greatest poets, lyricists and overall great emcees ever.
Closing out the album, Nas, delivers some pretty stellar great tracks as well. With the Hit-Boy and Rogét co-produced, Composure. That sees Hit-Boy, himself, opening the track. By giving a surprisingly great guest feature of his own. Which sounds like it may have been ghostwriting by fellow Los Angeles native and longtime Hit-Boy collaborator, Dom Kennedy. That then perfectly segues into the very soulfully smooth and triumphant, My Bible. With a sample of the late great Nipsey Hu$$le, opening the very brilliantly written track by Nas. Where he refers each verse into three chapters. Just as if he was writing verses in, the Bible. Thanking God in the end for being where he is in his life at the moment. Never taken life for granted. Especially in these times. That along with, Nas is Good. Is a victory lap of sorts and the perfect way to close out a near masterpiece album. That is just barely short of being a classic. But is still one of the best album’s of Nas’ illustrious and stellar career. That should be on many year-end lists. As not only one of the best Hip-Hop album’s released in 2021. But also one of the best album’s released across all of music this year.