Nas is washed – King’s Disease confirms it.
Nas is, for lack of a better term, washed; this isn’t to clown on the man who’s certainly earned his place within the pantheon of hip-hop GOATs, but to more accurately chronicle just how much of a WOAT his recent behavior has been. Where does one even begin to start with the litany of Ls this man has taken over the years? The anti-vaxxer stuff, the blatant attempts at stirring up controversy in order to push record sales, his IRS issues, his awful 2012 album; really, his only moment of clarity from the past decade seemed to manifest on 2018’s Nasir, a project practically destined to be labeled as a failure by a media who were more than willing to write off Kanye West’s Wyoming project as an artless exercise in vanity.
But the once great is back into his modern ways on King’s Disease, a project built around the idea that a man, who only a few years ago eagerly bragged about eating the finest pasta the world has to offer, still has something relevant to say about our current political moment. And perhaps he does, but he executes it in the easiest ways possible: constantly referring to black men as “kings” and black women as “queens,” calling for unity without any of the who or how of said unification, and attempting emotional gravitas by reuniting with The Firm — only for them to complain about poor life choices. In short, it’s neoliberal Nas thinking he has the authority to criticize others’ choices when he has a few questionable skeletons himself; he even has the gall to close out a track seemingly dedicated to single mothers with some Steve Harvey-level advice — “Women, stop chasing your man away” — when just a few tracks previous, he reveled in mocking Doja Cat’s lightened skin tone — “We goin’ ultra black, unapologetically black/The opposite of Doja Cat, Michael Blackson black” — over one of Hit-Boy’s most nondescript beats. Even when Nas cuts the holier-than-thou act, he still finds a way to stumble: closer “Spicy” attempts to bridge a generational gap between regional talent, by featuring both Fivio Foreign and ASAP Ferg, but the end results are listless and awkward. “Replace Me” features one of Big Sean’s corniest verses in a while, which is saying something — “You talk a little sweet about me, a lot of sour/I know that you believe in stars/ And just like stars, you know your words got a lot of power” — and Nas delves into relationship advice nobody asked for. Really, he has no business at all trying to act half his age, but it’s still slightly more tolerable than when he enters elder statesman mode — which is the paradoxical issue at the center of King’s Disease, an album named after gout as a reference to the idea that even though Nas is hip-hop royalty, he doesn’t get lazy (or he drinks a lot of alkaline water, who knows) with his craft. The ultimate irony here seems to have completely escaped him.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Q3 2020 Issue.