For the primary 20 years of his profession, every Nas album was not solely a serious occasion, however a departure from or escalation of what got here earlier than. This modified in 2020, when he locked into a gradual rhythm with Hit-Boy, the producer from Southern California’s Inland Empire who appeared, initially of the 2010s, like he would possibly form the last decade in rap (he produced JAY-Z and Kanye West’s “Niggas in Paris,” A$AP Rocky’s “Goldie,” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle” in somewhat over a calendar yr), solely to retreat into the quasi-anonymity of pricy pop initiatives. Since then, he and Nas have been on an unwavering schedule, arriving every year to drop music that has up to now hovered simply above “competent,” a grasp artist with a workmanlike producer doing earnest work for rent. Their most up-to-date installment, considerably paradoxically, was known as Magic.
King’s Illness III, which is sort of twice so long as Magic, is the primary argument in favor of this deliberate demystification. Nas’ chief considerations (Queensbridge circa 1988, the corrosive results of violence, upward social mobility for Black Individuals, and banal luxurious) are the type that come into sharper focus with every variation on minor variation. And a rush of recent albums frees every from the albatross of his legacy, which he now not feels the necessity to litigate to the lengths he as soon as did. KD3 is steeped in nostalgia however not besotted with it; it’s routine, and all the higher for it, free and knowledgeable and at last nimble once more.
With this newfound looseness comes a extra direct mode of writing and supply. Nas verses have been as soon as like cobwebs, seeming to stretch in each route without delay, phonetically and topically, till isolating the person threads turned unattainable—and irrelevant. Songs like 2001’s “Rewind,” the place a pulp crime vignette, together with its traces of dialogue, is advised in reverse, are literally simpler to digest on first cross than lots of the denser, knottier ones from his first a number of albums. As late as 2012’s “Nasty,” he was staking his albums on ostentatious shows of uncooked method. Right here he appears to stride atop Hit-Boy’s beats the place he as soon as would have scurried forwards and backwards by means of a community of tunnels he’d dug beneath them. On “WTF SMH,” he makes almost each level—about Huge Daddy Kane’s affect and the way worthwhile his publishing has been for MC Serch, about “cowards” who “lower the robust man shit”—land with percussive single-syllable bursts.
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