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Throwback Thursday: Nas – It Was Written

Fourteen years ago (July 2, 1996) Nasir Jones dropped his much hyped and at that time highly scrutinized sophomore album, It Was Written.  Many fans and critics cried foul at the direction of the album.  The lyrics went from gritty street narratives to mafioso/fantasy type rhymes.  In addition, the exclusion of Q-Tip, Large Professor, DJ Premier, and Pete Rock in favor of the Trackmasters (and company) was sacrilegious to many.  It seems whenever Nasir is brought up he elictits a strong response from people.  I have my own thoughts on Nas and this particular album, but want to hear from you all.

Hit the cut for a stream of the album and drop your thoughts on It Was Written.

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About Thomas

From Maryland
  • NJSouf

    Album is a classic.
    It gets better over the years.
    Nas during 1996-97, his Escobar phase dropped some of the illest rhymes ever.

  • eunum

    Every track is pretty much a banger i guess it only me but i never really liked that Dr Dre Track on this i always skip it

  • KevWest

    To be totally honest I prefer this album over illmatic. If I Ruled The World, Street Dreams, I Gave You Power, Black Girl Lost. Its a crazy album and in my own opinion its Nas’ best work.

  • Pulse1972

    Oh this is a tough one, didn’t like it too much when it dropped but as time goes on it’s not so bad. I’m just think I like it more now because everything after just got even worse. Amazing MC but to drop those producers from Illmatic for me was too much to pull it off….

  • Boomerang Slang

    This album felt like a movie, like the Godfather or somethin, it was very cinematic and flowed better then Illmatic, not better then Illmatic but different

  • Jon Garcia

    Classic. Much more diverse than Illmatic. It’s not better though, but it’s a great album

  • MalMoe

    I always liked this album. I did miss the line up he had on the previous album, but he still had preemo and I always thought that dr.dre joint was dope. I liked track masters too, but I was never into that mafioso rap not matter who did it. Thought that took away from anyone’s album. Gotta agree with Pulse1972. Everything after this album just got worse with the exception of lost tapes and stillmatic. But this album was dope to me and got a lot of burn.

  • Jamie

    My favourite Nas album tbh

  • Tommylux

    What’s funny about this album is that when it came out, everybody said it was alright, had some real bangers, but paled in comparison to Illmatic and left most people disappointed, most likely as suggested because of the different producers. Also, many people didn’t really dig “If I Ruled The World” and demeaned it as a single which he used to gun for commercial success and was thus kind of selling out.

    Later. though, people appreciated the album more and more, maybe because the following ones were definitely disappointing. If you take an album like “I am”, you’ll say there’s maybe 3 or so really dope songs, whereas on this there’s only about 3 so-so ones. And these days, you see people on blogs all the time saying this is one of their favourite albums of that time and the one that marked them most

  • Misery

    This album DEFINITELY aged wonderfully. when it first dropped i was a bit disappointed. i wasn’t really feelin “if i ruled the world”, and the general change of direction. However, from the time da album came out, the classic tracks were obvious and recognized: I Gave You Power, Shootouts, Suspect, Live Nigga Rap, Silent Murder (was PISSED when this wasnt on my vinyl copy). This album got a lot better with age because of the straight GARBAGE he would put out after this. But this is definitely his 2nd best album.

  • dre j

    People fronted on this album SO HARD when it came out but I always like it. You can’t even compare it to Illmatic. It definitely stands on it’s own. This was the album that Nas HAD to make in order to stay in the game. No matter how classic Illmatic was there was no commercial success behind it. It Was Written took Nas from being just a “rapper” to being a household name. He created an album that could be consumed by the masses without compromising who he was TOO much. Think about that shit. “If I Ruled The World” may have been a single that was made for radio but it was SO hip-hop. The sample of Whodini’s “Friends”. The Kurtis Blow interpolation of ‘If I Ruled The World”. Plus Lauryn Hill on the hook who at that time was fresh off the success of “The Score” and was a dope emcee in her own right. Man this was probably the best executed sophomore album ever. As great as Nas is, without It Was Written Nas would be somewhere right now being mentioned in the same sentence as Mic Geronimo and Ras Kass…dope emcees who never quite had the success that they should have.

  • Thomas

    I”ve never subscribed to the notion this album was wack. It was total opposite of Illmatic. Songs like “I Gave You Power,” “Black Girl Lost,” “Silent Murder,” “Take It In Blood,” “The Message,” “Watch Dem Niggas,” etc.

    I beg to differ that this album is better than Illmatic. Illmatic was lighting in a bottle. Almost perfect lyrics with perfect beats. Not too many times that has happened (PE has arguably two of said albums…maybe).

  • samu

    Just a little correction Thomas, we all know Premo was on this album…and one of the most craziest tracks on the album for sure….also, Affirmative Action is a classic….Not Illmatic, but this album does come packed with some crazy tracks..

  • Thomas


    No correction needed….I know Premo produced one track compared 3 tracks on Illmatic). The point I was making was the overall sound from Illmatic to It Was Written shifted with the Trackmaster’s (and others) handling the bulk of the production. “I Gave You Power” was probably one of the best tracks on the album, but it did stick out (soundscape wise) from the rest of the tracks.

  • junMaf*ckn

    Nas was ahead of his time.

    LOVED how he had the cassette have an extra song (Silent Murder) as opposed to the cd… he saw the future wit that wordup…

    My shit on this album was “Take It In Blood” all day….

  • Toomanypuppies3396

    I think Nas simply wanted IWR to do better than Illmatic. While his 1st album is now widely considered only his personal best as well as one of the greatest of all time in Hip-Hop, it didn’t go gold for a few years. I think just was tryin’ to breakout a little more at that particular time. I mean, he “dropped” Pete, Premier, Xtra-P etc. for Trackmasters & Dre. All in all, I think it’s a good album w/ some great tracks.

  • Pan21897

    IWW is polar opposite of IM.  I think Nas went the direction of a cleaner or more accessible production because IM didn’t do well commercially.  Yeah…IM was a critical success, but lets be real…..people want to have critical props along with the financial success.  He was probably sold on “keep your lyrics just change the beats up.”

    Another thing…people ish on the Trackmaster’s involvement with the album….but their production is on point (check “Shootouts” and “Watch Dem Ni**as”).

  • @BluntedMaster81

    “I never brag how real I keep it/ ‘cuz it’s the best secret..” Man I fuckin love this shit (‘Scuse ma French, I’m jus sayin’). One word for this album, nostalgia.

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