Nas has dropped three incredible albums in the last thirteen months. King’s Disease II was a feature-filled smash, Magic was a more exclusive album with impeccable storytelling throughout, and now we have King’s Disease III which we’ll dissect throughout this article.
On track by track, we breakdown iconic and important albums song by song to get a better understanding of the album. In this article we’re going to take King’s Disease III track by track.
Richard Pryor’s voice welcomes you to the album with his classic “Just Us” riff off his 1975 comedy album, just before Nas fittingly starts the song with “it’s comedy, it’s hilarious.” Immediately Nas makes reference to his recent projects and the volume of work he’s been putting out “droppin' album after album like it's a various artist compilation, but it's just me and HB (Hit-Boy).”
This track establishes a cinematic feel utilizing different sound bites and horns to make the production feel larger than life. This is an impeccable introduction to the album that would draw in any Nas fan to want more. In the second verse Nas announces that this album is better than his last three albums, tempting listeners to continue listening.
The track ends with a soft piano riff and Nas saying “When I'm fifty years old, I wanna have fifty-year old fans, sixty-year old fans, sixteen-year old fans.”
This song starts with a sample from the 1991 film “The Five Heartbeats,” a movie loosely based on The Temptations, James Brown, and a number of legendary musicians. This sample not only continues the cinematic theme, but confirms Nas’s love for 90’s films. On Magic, he named an entire song after the 1998 film Meet Joe Black. The movie references continue as Nas name drops Black Panther 2 and Jordan Peele in this song.
Legit is a story about “going straight” from street life set to a groovy piano beat.
“And the cold shit I done did, all them O's I tried to flip, who'd have thought I'd go legit?”
It feels ludicrous to say this about a Nas song, but this tack is an ode to New York, and Queensbridge specifically. Thun is both reminiscent of New York in the 90’s and a commentary on the present. The most memorable lines of the song are Jay-Z focused “In a Range Rover, dissectin' bars from "Takeover." Sometimes I text Hova like "N****, this ain’t over", laughin,” and “No beef or rivals, they playin’ ‘Ether’ on TIDAL.”
Thun is jam packed with New York references and HOT 97’s DJ Camilo is even name dropped towards the end of the sole verse in this song.
Michael & Quincy
Throughout this song Nas compares himself and producer Hit-Boy to Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones. The song is stuffed with MJ references as Nas mentions Thriller, Bad, Smooth Criminal, and a number of things MJ did in his life.
“Like Quincy on the trumpet, Hit-Boy on a drum kit.”
30 is one of the simpler songs on this album. The beat is simple with a steady organ accompanied by drums placed overtop. Nas calls out Pete Rock and lightly mentions the New York drill scene. This is a transition song in the flow of the album, it’s short, sweet and to the point.
Here the sound of the album pivots. Hood2Hood features an enchanting 80’s synthesizer rhythm adding a much lighter sound six songs into the project. The premise of the song is that all of America’s hoods have things in common and Nas’s music rings off in all of them.
“We know that controversy sells so y'all good. When I drop, they hear me on every block, hood to hood.”
The beat to Recession Proof is reminiscent of the theme song to a 90’s police procedural. On this song, Nas explains the disposability of life in the city - “Ain't nobody recession proof.” This is another track that highlights the difference between life before fame and after fame for Nas. The chorus is largely about Nas’s current situation being famous, whereas the verses focus mainly on the things Nas had to become legendary.
“Cause every other day I'm remindin' myself. I reached every goal that was high on the shelf.” This album is shaping out to be an audio memoir of Nas reflecting on his life in comparison to his current status as one of rap’s GOATs.
The bars “I went for the cash grab, crack cash was my math class. Fresh white tee, two diamond crosses look like a hashtag. News is fake, never knew I'd soon relate to Tom Brady goin' for seven in Tampa Bay,” are a perfect example of Nas showing his growth from his youth to adulthood.
“Those things were great man but today what we doin' is next level and I don't like to reminisce (That was then, this is now).”
This is a classic Nas interlude with a hypnotic soul sample and Mario on back up vocals. On the Serious Interlude, he tells the story of hooking up with an older married woman and the stress involved. “When I crush and she go back home, I hate the silence. Writin' in my notepad, flippin' through soul samples. Not knowin' I could get caught in a whole scandal.”
I’m On Fire
Here Nas flows over a simple boom-bap beat with subtle soul samples. “Still got the same flame behind me from the ‘Hate Me Now’ video” is the opening line and is really indicative of what Nas is trying to say in this song. I’m On Fire is a braggadocious track focusing on Nas’s staying power in the rap game. Saying that he’s “Still got the same flame behind me from the ‘Hate Me Now’ video” is just a very Nas way of saying “I’m as good and as hungry as I was in 1999. He continues this message throughout the track.
It should come as no surprise that this track titled “WTF SMH” is all about Nas’s gripes with the rap industry, racism, and policing. “W-T-F, S-M-H, O-M-G (Uh) How could you put these pussy ass rappers over me? When all they do is cap, all they do is L-I-E.”
Nas makes a point to say that “This is not a rap song why you callin' it that? This is a audiobook, I'm an author on tracks.” He is simply venting facts on this song.
Once a Man, Twice a Child
Twelve tracks into the album and it’s obvious that the primary theme of this project is to out Nas’s life into perspective. “From mama's boy to preschool to college to now employed. Now you on, got your first crib, she's having your firstborn.”
Once a Man, Twice a Child is a song about the quick passage of time. Puff, 50 Cent, Mike Tyson, and Steve Stoute all get shoutouts over another boom bap beat sampling a smooth jazz line.
The chorus on this song is a masterclass in word play “I ducked a razor, ducked some punches, even ducked a gun Nintendo Duck Hunt, I ducked police, I had to run. Meanwhile, when you get old, you might become futile. My old style is a rough of my new style.”
This song is true to the title, the sound of the album lightens up and the tempo picks up. This is definitely the grooviest song on the album thus far, while staying true to the concept of the album. “I was just the tender age of eighteen on the charts. Wasn't even dreamin' this far, believe who you are.” Nas continues to hammer home the point of this album, which is his longevity as an artist and the changes he’s gone through.
After getting light and picking up the tempo, Nas immediately slows things back down with First Time. Unlike the other songs on King’s Disease III, the perspective of First Time is from the point of view of the fans. The chorus asks the listener about the “First Time They Heard Nas.”
On the second verse Lil Wayne, Biggie, Kendrick, Lebron’s kids, Slick Rick, Tupac, and many others get shoutouts as Nas compares his own legacy to their greatness.
The standout line of this track is “you probably heard somebody say that I pick bad beats” where Nas addresses criticism of his beat selection.
Fifteen songs in and Beef has the hardest and strongest beat on the album. Throughout this track, Nas speaks from the point of view of “beef” personified.
“I'm what happens on mad blocks, I'm the jabs taken in talks, the arguments between the women in the crab leg spots, that behind the back shit, complex and multifaceted.”
The first verse focuses on the nature of beef, the second verse focuses on the history of beef, and the outro is “beef” claiming innocence. This is without a doubt the most conceptually interesting song on the album, Nas is the only rapper who would think of rapping from the point of view of “beef.”
Nas names his songs in a very straightforward manner, Don’t Shoot is a song where Nas pleads to the listener to put the gun down. “Don't shoot gangster, you are him and he is you. Don't kill thе messenger.”
On this track, Nas floats back and forth between his current status as a millionaire attempting to change the community and spreading a message of peace. The opening line to the first verse is particularly thought provoking “Am I snitching when the police commissioner my friend? Am I a player when me and the mayor hang and tap in? Just a grown man tryna see how to change the community.” On an album where Nas is continuously comparing his come up in the 90’s to the present, he wrestles with his reality in comparison to what a younger version of him would’ve thought.
The song ends poignantly with him saying “No I do not really know the police commissioner. But shit, I'll talk to anybody about saving lives.”
Til My Last Breath
Although “Til My Last Breath'' is on theme with the rest of the album, I see why Nas placed it as a “bonus track” at the end of the album. Like the majority of the project, Nas speaks on where he came from versus where he is in the current moment - however this track is a little more basic and commercial.
Til My Last Breath is filled with sports and pop culture references, it honestly would’ve been more appropriate on a Madden or 2k soundtrack or to release this as a single. The song is not bad, but ending the album with Don’t Shoot would’ve been a stronger ending.
Nas and Hit-Boy have done it again! They’ve made yet another classic, this time with no features and little to no extra bells and whistles. The beats throughout Kings Disease III can be described as efficient and innocuous, very rarely does a beat differentiate mid song or have more than a sample, some drums, and maybe a horn or two.
The message of King’s Disease III or the central concept of the album is that Nas is managing the repercussions of his legacy. Much of the project compares Nas’s come up to his present. Songs like Beef and Don’t Shoot address the beef culture that Nas was a part of early in his career and how it has escalated through the years. I’m On Fire and Reminisce are both affirmations that Nas still has it.
King’s Disease III is another notch in Nas’s belt. Another classic album, this time with no features. Like most Nas albums, the best way to listen to these songs is in one sitting all the way through. Throw it on for a long car ride, a work out, or while riding on the subway. Nas is telling his story and anyone who claims to love hip-hop should listen.