First Listen #33: Nas’s ‘King’s Disease’

It’s been a minute!! WOW! And this time it wasn’t because I was having a breakdown lol. My mom took some time off around my birthday, so I spent the last week and a half hanging out with her. But now I’m back, laying in my backyard with my cat, and ready talk about Nas’s King Disease (2020). I’ve never been a big Nas fan – I think the most I listened to him was when there were all those Kanye -produced projects that came out a couple years ago. I didn’t love NASIR (2018), but I thought it was a decent project with some really good production (I did really like “Cop Shot the Kid,” though). Tyler the Creator has a line on “DEATHCAMP” from Cherry Bomb (2015) that says “In Search Of… did more for me than Illmatic,” and that’s definitely me. But I did see a lot of people talking about it when it came out, so I figured for my first write-up back – whilst making a batch of kombucha lol – I would take a little gander.

Photo Credit:

2020: King’s Disease

(via Genius)

The album was fine lol. I could kind of tell from the beginning that it was gonna be a project that I thought was ok, but I wasn’t going to be head over heels about. The intro – and title track – did very little for me. I kind of felt like the second track would have been a much better song to start the project off with. “King’s Disease” just felt super disjointed (though I did really like the production – the production as a whole on King’s Disease is really nice), where “Blue Benz” felt a little more put together and developed. After those two tracks, the rest of the project went fine, with very few songs that really stood out to me, “Ultra Black” being one of the few. It sounded like how I wanted Pharrell and Jay-Z’s “Entrepreneur” to sound; really, it felt like “Ultra Black” could have used a Jay-Z feature. I don’t even really like Jay-Z like that – for a bunch of reasons – but something about this song kept my brain trying to fill in spaces with Jay’s voice. I also thought a Kanye verse would sound really good on it. “Ultra Black (ft. Watch the Throne)” is really how that should have gone. There were some decent features on here. I liked Big Sean on “Replace Me” and Anderson .Paak on “All Bad.” The first time I heard “All Bad” I wasn’t really feeling it, but listening to it again made it make sense. I really appreciated hearing Foxy Brown on “Full Circle.” I wasn’t looking at the tracklist while I was listening to the project because I was kneedeep in tea and lime juice, so I was very shocked to hear a woman’s voice on this project lol. And I’m glad Foxy’s was the one I heard; I haven’t spent a lot of time with her music (read: any), but I’m definitely interested in getting into it soon. Charlie Wilson was another feature I really appreciated on King’s Disease. I wish that we would just get a full Charlie feature instead of adlibs, but his presence is needed and welcomed in any form.

Talk with a mask on, the freshest breath

African black soap caress the flesh

Nas, “Ultra Black”

Some other moments I wanted to point out were on “Till the War is Won,” The Definition,” and “Spicy” the album’s last track. There’s something very….hotep about these three songs. I appreciate what “Till the War is Won” tried to do, but it feels like it fell flat, especially towards the end. The song is a moment of vocal support for the work and strength of Black women, especially Black mothers. Which was nice, but it felt a bit like it was letting Black fathers off the hook. Almost a “these women are so strong, and men, we can be trash sometimes, but thank GOD these women are so strong.” And I get the honor that he and Hit-Boy are trying to offer, but this isn’t a song that feels like it’s trying to hold society at large and the Black community in general for actually working to make things better for Black women. Then the uneasiness continued with “The Definition” where Nas says the following:

And what the fuck is up with Gayle King?
A black male, a female thing, a failed thing
Journalism or internalism
Shirley Chisolm wouldn't play the victim
Eartha Kitt woulda been finished with him

Nas, "The Definition"

Something about these lines really just DID NOT sit right with my spirit. #1, why even bring Gayle King’s name up in the song in the first place?; #2, he’s talking about how the division between genders as being a “failed thing,” but proceeds to talk shit about a Black woman who didn’t ask for his opinion on a situation that had nothing to do with him; #3, he brought up other Black women in order to talk shit about a Black woman, and that’s not it at ALL, #4 journalism or internalism…what? you mean HOLDING PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE HARMS THEY DO??? After hearing those lines, my opinions about the project really started to sour. And this is on top of him allowing Fivio Foreign to basically spend his entire verse on the last track talking bad about women. So it’s just like…why make “Till the War is Won,” if you’re just going to undo all of that work in the subsequent tracks, ESPECIALLY if you’re only gonna have a very scant female presence on your project. And he’s really the last one to say anything about Black women, after the allegations that have been made about him by Kelis.

So, while I felt the project was decent, I was rubbed the wrong way toward the end, and I just…can’t listen to this project again lol. I felt like it was a missed opportunity. I don’t know enough of Nas’s recent discography to really say anything about anything, but the project didn’t sound like how I imagined it to sound. I would have loved to hear less about cars and jewelry and him and his collaborators having their choice of women, and more about the cost of fame. When I hear the phrase “king’s disease,” I think of “mo’ money, mo’ problems.” I expect to hear about the perils of fame, the perils of being an icon. I expected a level of vulnerability and digging into the personal that I don’t think we got on this project. He’s been in the music business for decades; he’s been living this life for a long time; I’m sure he has stories to tell. And I know from how people have described his music – and the one time I listened to a little over half of Illmatic (1994) – that he can do that.

Now I know why this record is still in stock ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Overall Project Rating

Featured Image Credit:

(listen to King’s Disease on spotify by clicking the image below)

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2 thoughts on “First Listen #33: Nas’s ‘King’s Disease’

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