Nas Is In The Second Prime Of His Career

For the second time in less than a year, Nas has released an album. King’s Disease II follows 2020’s campaign, which landed Nas his first Grammy award, taking home “Best Rap Album” honors in early ’21. Entirely produced by Hit-Boy, KD1 included reuniting the founding members of The Firm (along with the group’s album producer, Dr. Dre) and collaborations with Anderson .Paak and Big Sean. Nas and Hit-Boy maintain their battery for the second installment but open the space to feature Ms. Lauryn Hill, Eminem, and EPMD, among others, across 15 tracks. The moment finds Nas revisiting some key moments from his past but comfortably embracing his present—personally and artistically.

The Ambrosia For Heads team reviews King’s Disease II, track-by-track (42:30) on the latest episode of the What’s The Headline podcast (embedded below in audio and video). In discussing the album, an agreement is made that Nas has reached the second prime of his career (36:53). Nas was a Hip-Hop teenage prodigy first heard on Main Source’s “Live At The Barbeque.” He made much of Illmatic while in his teens and maintained a legendary stride throughout much of his twenties. However, Nas finding his voice beyond that run has been a process. 2012’s Life Is Good was celebrated for its vulnerability and themes surrounding divorce and family. But many Heads have awaited the kind of growth and evolution that listeners can hear in the pair of King’s Disease albums. Nas addresses health, wealth, valuing oneself, and seeking anonymity on his latest LP—while still talking rap royalty, surviving the times, and calling out evil political forces. Nas has found a new stride, especially after creating his best one-two-punch of albums since 2001’s Stillmatic and 2002’s God’s Son (24:55). After a prime that ran approximately from ’94 to 2001, the creator of “2nd Childhood” is in his second prime—one worthy of celebration. This puts Nas in the company of MCs such as LL Cool J, Royce 5’9, Black Thought, JAY-Z, Evidence, Phonte, Masta Ace, and Lil Wayne.

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In discussing Nas’ second prime, credit is due to Hit-Boy. While the tandem of the MC and producer may not have had the fanfare that surrounded reports of albums made with RZA and Swizz Beatz or a DJ Premier-produced LP, Hit-Boy allowed Nas to turn the page in many ways. KD2 features several songs with multiple beats and major in-track adjustments to the mix. The Los Angeles veteran once known for producing Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye West is earning his greatest recognition for alongside N-A-S.

At 36:45, What’s The Headline examines the chemistry between Nas and Hit in creating this new life. In doing so, we also spotlight other MC/producer tandems that have accomplished this quality in Hip-Hop. Specifically, this looks at artists who create a chemistry mid-career. Run The Jewels’ Killer Mike and El-P, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, LL Cool J and Marley Marl, PRhyme’s Royce 5’9 and DJ Premier, and JAY-Z and No I.D.

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The timestamps for the What’s The Headline Episode #57 are as follows:

0:00 Intro
2:05 The Hip-Hop community is still buzzing about The LOX Verzuz Dipset
5:10 Kanye West’s second listening party for DONDA included new music featuring The LOX, Griselda and Jay Electronica
16:30 Nas owned the weekend in Hip-Hop with the release of his King’s Disease II album
18:00 Overall reactions to Nas King’s Disease II album
21:30 Comparing Nas’ King’s Disease II and Life Is Good albums
24:55 Is the King’s Disease series Nas’ best 1-2 album punch since Stillmatic and God’s Son?
29:30 Nas released King’s Disease II with no hype and let the music speak for itself
30:43 Nas and Hit-Boy have found a special chemistry. What other great MC/producer combos have arisen later in their careers?
36:53 Nas is in the second prime of his career. What other MCs have done this?
40:12 Nas is unafraid to have guest verses from MCs that might outshine his verse
42:30 Reviewing Nas’ King’s Disease II song by song 42:40
“The Pressure” sets the tone for the entire album

49:23 Nas gives a masterful history lesson about his relationship with Tupac on “Death Row East”
57:46 “40 Side” is the weak link on King’s Disease II
1:00:04 Nas, EPMD and Eminem all shine on “EPMD 2”
1:03:20 Is Eminem’s verse on this song getting the respect it deserves?
1:06:40 Eminem names his list of great MCs on “EPMD 2” and includes Drake but not Kendrick Lamar
1:11:46 “Rare” is a sleeper cut on Nas’ King’s Disease II
1:13:35 “YKTV” may be the most polarizing song on King’s Disease II
1:16:46 “Store Run” is the most “traditional” Nas song on King’s Disease II
1:19:30 Nas showcases his incredible wisdom on “Moments”
1:26:00 “Nobody” featuring Lauryn Hill is the best Rap song of the year, so far
1:29:40 Lauryn Hill’s verse reminds that she is one of Hip-Hop’s greatest MCs
1:32:30 Lauryn Hill is the perfect guest for a song about the serenity of anonymity
1:38:20 Nas details a failed relationship on “No Phony Love”
1:40:40 “Brunch On Sundays” and “Count Me In” are two of the least memorable songs on King’s Disease II. Would the album have been better without them?
1:44:15 Hit-Boy shows he is a legitimate producer/MC double threat on “Composure”
1:45:54 “My Bible” is Nas at his finest over production that is reminiscent of another legendary producer
1:48:55 “Nas Is Good” is the “cool down” for King’s Disease II
1:50:38 Which is better, King’s Disease or King’s Disease II?
1:51:24 Where does King’s Disease II rank in Nas’ catalog?
1:53:23 How does King’s Disease II fare in the race for best Rap album of 2021?
1:55:40 Discussing new music by the Black Soprano Family, Tanya Morgan, Flying Lotus, Pink Siifu, and more.

My Poetry’s Deep: Nas Schools Harvard On His Lyrics (Video)

Ambrosia For Heads readers can catch regular discussions about the culture on our What’s The Headline podcast. Additionally, What’s The Headline has recent interviews with Kurupt, Evidence, Skyzoo, Pharoahe Monch, Prince Paul & Don Newkirk, Statik Selektah, Lyric Jones, The LOX, MC Eiht, Havoc, Duckwrth, photographer T. Eric Monroe, and Lord Finesse. All episodes of the show are available wherever you stream your pods.

#BonusBeat: Ambrosia For Heads‘ official playlist, featuring various selections from King’s Disease II, as well as new music from AZ, Evidence, Skyzoo, IDK, Vince Staples, Benny The Butcher, HRSMN, and others: