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It Was Written

by Nas

Released July 2, 1996 via Columbia Records

Reviewed July 8, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
The Message (67%), If I Ruled the World (65%), I Gave You Power (36%)

In ’96, Nas put together a true classic with It Was Written. In a time before artists were carried by production, true emotion came in the lyrics and flow. Intricate rhyme schemes coupled with superior storytelling dominate this project on tracks like “The Message,” “Street Dreams,” and “If I Ruled the World,” the latter of which remains an all-time classic hip-hop track. As one of the leaders of his era, Nas didn’t disappoint, with a hunger on every track. Each word combines to tell the story of his hustle. He escaped adversity and made it out, but not without the scars of his past. Nas is braggadocious, confident, but never arrogant with his sound. It Was Written stands the test of time and still has nuggets for anyone to learn from. – Daniel (8.5/10)

Despite the controversial history of Nas' sophomore album, It Was Written took the Queensbridge rapper from hip-hop legend to commercial hip-hop icon. Out of monetary necessity, Nas tried to maintain the cinematic and conceptual nature of Illmatic, while piecing in bits of radio-ready tracks with potential to be hits. Many at the time saw this mindset as one of a sellout, however, songs like "The Message," "Street Dreams," and "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)" still stand as some of the album's best moments. Several deep cuts add to the album's momentum, and at its best, It Was Written features sharper flows and deeper metaphors than its predecessor. On its downside, the album is a touch bloated, doing less with a longer runtime than Illmatic. But, It Was Written remains one of the better rap albums of the last 25 years, and adds to the all-time great discography of Nasir Jones. – DeVán (8/10)

Nas' second studio album It Was Written celebrates its 25th anniversary. As one of the finest MCs to ever bless the game, Nasir Jones is joined by Dr. Dre, DJ Premier and Havoc on production; while Miss Lauryn Hill makes an appearance on the all-time classic, and career highlight, 'If I Ruled the World'. Nas' synonyms, similes and his control of the English language would convince many to believe that he’s the finest lyricist of all time, with no need for over exaggeration. At the tender age of 23, the rap game was sewn up by Nas' intricate way with words. But like all of his work thereafter Illmatic, it falls into one omnipresent problem: It's not Illmatic. No matter how well-crafted a work Nas can produce, it will forever exist in the shadow of his first masterpiece. This is obviously a preferential point, and it doesn't take anything away from the quality of It Was Written. – Peter (8/10)

Enth: 9/10 | Daniel: 8.5/10 | DeVán: 8/10 | Peter: 8/10

Dominick: 7.2/10 | Jared: 7/10 | Cam: 6.8/10


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