Nas has had a consistent career. His formula in creating a solid rap album comes from his adept story telling nature, his quick wit and his willingness to evolve musically. His 13th studio album, “King’s Disease,” released August 21, continues his ability to create a well-rounded album.
Storytelling has always been easy for Nas. His first album,“Illmatic,” took the listener on a wild ride through life in the Queensbridge Houses in New York City, where he experienced crime and poverty. His new album shows how much his life has changed. Now instead of taking the listener through stories of escaping his hometown neighborhood, he has matured into rapping about love, riches and the struggles of being Black in this country.
While Nas has highlighted the struggles of Black men in the past, he now focuses on the issues that strong women in his community must face. “Till the War is Won,” is his song thanking and attempting to empower strong women. Nas comes in hard on a minimalist beat featuring piano, flutes and snares mixed within. Nas no longer wants to put women in a form of submission as he does in “Remember the Times,” of his album Street’s Disciple released in 2004, when he raps, “Daffy Duck-looking bitch burned me, correction / Urinary tract infection, what I got for no protection.” He wants to elevate women and sympathize with the many issues that they have to face alone. “Single mothers, my heart’s bleeding for you / These coward men, that were beating on you.”
This is also not the only track that highlights Blackness on “King’s Disease.” The lead single of the album, “Ultra Black,” is an empowerment song meant to show pride for people with darker skin tones. The song uses major power chords to create a captivating sound. Nas’ voice also adds an emphatic message to not be ashamed of Blackness. The song uses Black role models, pop culture references, as well as iconography such as baseball caps to show how people should be able to represent their culture without fear of repercussion.
The last track that highlights the struggles for Black Americans comes from “The Definition.” The most political of the three songs, this is Nas’ most vehement rejection of people who tell him how he should act as a minority in this country. “The Definition” is much more frantic than the other songs that speak on Blackness. Nas raps at a much faster pace, attempting to show the discomfort he is forced into by the media and the government as they work to define him. Nas uses this track to fight back against the people who work to pigeonhole him as a criminal or a thug. “Here come the people, run my people, they don’t treat us equal / I’m talking the law for me, freedom is illegal / Tape telephone conversations, what kind of nation / Got three hundred million people they investigating?”
While Nas doesn’t use the whole album to speak about the issues that Black people face in America, it is admirable that he has three songs dedicated to them. It’s also impressive that he doesn’t want to focus only on issues he’s faced but also on the issues that affect those around him such as Black women. “King’s Disease,” shows that Nas is no longer the individual trapped in Queensbridge. He wants to be the people's storyteller: the individual who uses his voice as an amplifier for many.