Looking Too Deep at the Covers of Nas’ “King’s Disease”

With the door supposedly closed on Nas’ trilogy for King’s Disease, and a new one open with Nas’ Magic series, its time to step back & look at the covers of King’s Disease. The albums themselves have been praised to the nines, but the covers themselves do well in also sending home the message of the albums.

King’s Disease 1

Probably the most detailed of the three album covers, King’s Disease 1 touches on more than the just the idea of being a king. The cover features what seems to be a plate behind the throne, with words running throughout it. On the outer ring, we get the title of the project, on the second ring we get Nas’ legal name. There is also a third ring that states Oba Alkebulan, with Oba meaning:

Oba means ″ruler″ in the Yoruba and Bini languages. Kings in Yorubaland, a region which is in the modern republics of Benin, Nigeria and Togo, make use of it as a pre-nominal honorific.

The Yoruba chieftaincy system can be divided into four separate ranks: royal chiefs, noble chiefs, religious chiefs and common chiefs. The royals are led by the obas, who sit at the apex of the hierarchy and serve as the fons honorum of the entire system.

And Alkebulan being the supposed earliest name for Africa. Although this point has been contested over the years, in the context of this album cover that is more than likely its meaning.

Nas even says on the title track of the album:

Respected by kings only, address me as chief

Nas – King’s Disease

Yet the plate containing these words has a crack in it, possibly implying the corruption that comes with being a king or person of power. At the bottom of the cover is imagery of food & gold, which brings to another literal term for King’s Disease. That term is also another word for Gout, a word that has been used since the times of the ancient Egyptians. Gout is an inflammatory arthritis, that is usually associated with alcohol, meats & seafood. This could be drawn from the gluttonous lifestyle that coincides with being a king.

On the cover, there’s also imagery of children surrounding the plate & throne. The album’s themes play into how this kingship can affect the homely life, specifically on the track “Til the War is Won”:

Single parent home, came up, now the man is grown
Mom’s gone, pop’s here, wish God reversed the roles

King’s Disease 2

While the cover for the sequel is much more simplistic, the color theme from the previous album carries over. Utilizing reds & golds the colors convey the message of passion & wealth. Red as a color is supposed display:

Red is for passion, love and anger

And gold meaning:

Gold, silver, bronze and other metallics are for wealth, prosperity and success

While King’s Disease 2 doesn’t stay to heavy on the multiple meanings as the first. Instead, establishes its history of the what made him a king. Throughout the album, Nas recounts classic moments in hip hop that inspire him to this day (“EPMD 2”). It also recounts events that would change his view on the career forever (“Death Row East”). This album is less about the things the title could mean, and sticks to the idea that through the passion, love & anger that came for hip hop, it made him the king he is.

King’s Disease 3

This cover is the most blunt of the three. The cover simply uses three gold bars against a red background, signifying the third in the series. The usage of the gold bar is a quite literal representation of Nas’ bars, the gold that brought him to his king status.

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