Behind the Cover: NAS—King’s Disease, A conversation with Harmonia Rosales

Heaviest of Art presents an interview with Harmonia Rosales, the Cuban-American artist who created the cover art for King’s Disease, the new album by NAS. [Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.]

With centuries passed and cultures lost along the way, the average individual is experiencing an adapted world where our perceptions and preconceived notions of what we believe things should be are subconsciously affected, such as with specific ways of living, art forms, music choice, and so much more. One could analyze this deeper through globalization, structural racism, and several other conduits of injustice, but one thing is certain, there’s an ideological hegemony in contemporary art and society as a whole. In the case of art, Afro-Cuban artist Harmonia Rosales looks to challenge this white-dominant narrative by incorporating her own culture and heritage, a daring act that has garnered widespread acclaim with a mix of criticism by those who deem the skin color change of religious icons as blasphemous (see ‘The Creation of God’ (2017) by Harmonia Rosales below). Her work has caught the eyes of thousands, including the legendary Nasir Jones, who enlisted her artistic prowess for his thirteenth full-length, King’s Disease.

Released on August 21st via Mass Appeal Records, King’s Disease stands as an audiovisual achievement that bridges profound illustrative storytelling with soul laden lyricism. Like anything else throughout Nasir’s renowned discography, the tracks on King’s Disease are socioculturally sound, coming from a place of wisdom that was built by the rapper’s lifelong observations as he evolved into the musical magnate of today. Rosales does the same on the artistic end, seeing herself as one with the cover painting through a seamless use of cultural symbols like the Orishas, the deities of the Yoruba. From color palette to imagery, there was plenty of emphasis on significant detail and not all is immediately apparent, which is why we bring you this conversation today.

We go Behind the Cover of King’s Disease with artist Harmonia Rosales to dissect the cultural significance of one of the best rap album covers of recent years:

Upon the announcement of ‘King’s Disease’, audiences were taken aback by the symbolic brilliance of your cover painting. Visually, what did you look to achieve with respect to the themes and concepts that Nasir presented?

Rosales: Whenever somebody hires me for a commission piece, I want to take full creative control. He knew my background and how I incorporated symbolism and my African heritage. He went with it. All he said was that he had a vision of king’s disease, in the form of gluttony and that sort of thing. The rest was up to whatever else I could envision.

I wanted to incorporate the entire lifecycle just like a king would a leader. It goes from birth to innocence and the pearls, and then it’s to the knowledge, which is the snake, and then death, which is why you have the skull at the bottom. I included all of this and included the color red, which means sacrifice, not in the devil way that American society has adopted, but sacrifice metaphorically in all aspects of life, sacrifices to get to where you’re at. Whether it is sacrificing your fun time or luxury time in order to get what you want, or ‘putting in the work’ as they say, it’s all up to interpretation.

While incorporating these symbols that are very powerful in our culture, the Latin and African culture, American society thinks of it as more satanic in a way. That goes all the way back to colonization, where everything that was our culture was seen as evil or associated with the devil, like the color red or snakes for example, which were so powerful to us. American society has been brainwashed into thinking these symbols are evil, but they’re not. [. . .]

King’s Disease is available now via Mass Appeal Records. Stream/order your copy HERE. For full article, see https://www.heaviestofart.com/post/behind-the-cover-nas-king-s-disease

[Shown above, Rosales’ NAS album cover; below: “The Creation of God” (2017).]

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