A Week’s Worth Album Review: Nas’ “King’s Disease 2”

By Daniel Paiz

Back after an unscheduled hiatus, A Week’s Worth Album Review returns tackling the highly anticipated King’s Disease 2 from Nas. Mr. Jones had been hinting at the follow-up to his Grammy-winning original King’s Disease for a little while now; the sequel was undersold, hard. Perhaps I didn’t give the first installation enough of a shot, or I just got distracted by the fact that it felt like an adjustment album for Nas after the Kanye-produced prior project.

Either way, the sequel is so much better than its predecessor. This project feels like Hit-Boy and Nas actually sat down and paved out a trajectory for this tape. The beats highlight this veteran emcee’s penmanship. The verses feel like they fully utilize the production and are blended together naturally. However, a few contentions have arisen.

King’s Disease 2 feels like a novel

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean things are about to get academic. After revisiting the first four tracks of this album and reviewing the lyrics, it feels like there’s a back and forth going on. The Pressure and 40 Side feel like snapshots of life today, reflecting on daily life now. In between those songs, Death Row East is a nostalgia trip, while EPMD 2 merges both nostalgic and contemporary verses. The fluidity here is due to the production guiding the emcees to creating cadences of movement. This might not seem that important, but when the rhymes don’t intertwine with the beat on a relatively fluid level, it can create dissonance and distraction. There are of course artists that thrive off of constant musical disruption, but Nas aligns more than he deflects.

Rare keeps things contemporary, which shows us a bit more of Nas but also removes some of his relatability. Nas’ strength is making moments of the past feel modern, as well as reflecting on social events unfolding today. The slight references towards social issues surrounded with braggadocio of his current lifestyle feels slightly awkward. One instance follows as:

Me and HB is too rare

I’m movin’ all through the snares, sound on billionaire

Ain’t nothin’ changed, I’m flippin’ the page

I’m Prince on the stage, SLAVE on his face

Rare, end of verse 1, Nas

Prince and Nas had slightly different battles with their labels. Prince famously battled any label or entity that he deemed unfairly denying him ownership of his master’s and his choice to release music whenever he wanted. Nas hasn’t gone that same route. The hyperbolic line still achieves its desired effect despite the stretching comparison.

Nas and other incredibly successful rappers that have spanned generations consistently reveal this weakness: their observations at times feel extremely distant, almost hollow bordering on pandering. Of course he has his own experiences, but when he doesn’t dive into those and chooses instead to only hint at societal ills, it feels out of place.

From YKTV on, I’ll let you figure out which song is more a snapshot of today and which is more a throwback. Some songs have both happening depending on the lines. Some are one or the other. Nobody and Composure might be the two stand-out tracks at the time of writing this, but that could change depending on how many more rotations you decide to make. Lauryn Hill’s verse on Nobody requires a couple of listens at minimum.

Can this chemistry between rapper and producer continue on

Where was this chemistry between Hit Boy and Nas on the first installment was my first thought. Perhaps due to the global COVID-19 pandemic these two took their time. There’s plenty of social media snapshots showing that. Maybe this was planned out more thoroughly than the first tape.

The funny thing is, the sequel far outshines the first album, and yet the first one won a Grammy. Kind of seems like those who awarded that should rescind it, and likely give the next Rap album trophy for this tape. To be fair to the other Rap album contenders from both 2021 and 2022, 2022 is going to be a closer race and Nas might not win it again. That’s besides the point.

This project feels like the start of a collaborative effort that could go for at least another album, maybe two. People’s interests and foci can waver and change, so the clock is likely ticking. What would be interesting to see would be a third volume from Hit-Boy and Nas. That’s how palpable it is on this effort.

Final Verdict

This will make every year-end list you can imagine. What will be intriguing is how it ages. The competition for best Hip-Hop album of 2021 just ramped up another notch. Early predictions over here have J Cole, CZARFACE x MF DOOM, Evidence, and now Nas as the front runners. Things can change, however. This project feels like somehow, someway, Nas has reached the top of his game. Just like Vegas and sports sites, however, the evergreening question of what will follow this project will undoubtedly arise sooner than later.

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