It Was Written

It Was Written

Infobox Album
Name = It Was Written
Type = Album
Artist = Nas

Released = July 2, 1996
Recorded = 1995–1996
Genre = East Coast hip hop, mafioso rap, hardcore rap
Length = 58:35
Label = Columbia
Producer = MC Serch (exec.), Trackmasters, DJ Premier, Havoc, Dr. Dre, L.E.S., Live Squad, Dave Atkinson, Rashad Smith
Reviews = *Allmusic Rating|4|5 [ link]
*"Entertainment Weekly" (A-) [,,293485,00.html link]
*"The New York Times" (favorable) [ link]
*"NME" Rating|6|10 [ link]
*"Q" Rating|4|5 [ link]
*"Rolling Stone" Rating|2|5 [ link]
*"The Source" Rating|4|5 [ link]
*Stylus Magazine (favorable) [ link]
Last album = "Illmatic"
This album = "It Was Written"
Next album = ""
Misc = Singles
Name = It Was Written
Type = studio
single 1 = If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)
single 1 date = May 28 1996
single 2 = Street Dreams
single 2 date = October 22 1996
single 3 = The Message
single 3 date = 1996

"It Was Written" is the second studio album by rapper Nas, released July 2, 1996 in the United States, Canada and Europe on Columbia Records, [ [ - It Was Written (US & Canada)] Discogs. Retrieved on 2008-08-01] [ [ - It Was Written (Europe)] Discogs. Retrieved on 2008-08-01] while featuring special distribution in the United Kingdom on Simple Vinyl Records. [ [ allmusic { It Was Written > Overview }] All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved on 2008-08-01] Primarily produced by Poke and Tone of Trackmasters Entertainment, "It Was Written" was a departure from the underground tone of his debut, "Illmatic", towards a mainstream, mafioso-oriented sound, along with a more polished production. As of September 9, 1996, it has been certified multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. [ [ RIAA - Gold & Platinum - Searchable Database: It Was Written search results] Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved on 2008-06-19.]

"It Was Written" proved to be Nas’ most commercially successful album, selling in excess of three million copies worldwide. The album peaked at #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart, [ [ allmusic { It Was Written > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums }] All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved on 2008-08-01] remaining on the chart for 34 weeks and at #1 for four consecutive weeks. [ [ Got Charts? Nas Lookin' To Grow Legs - News Story] . MTV Networks. Retrieved on 2008-08-01] Following "Illmatic"'s disappointing sales figures, the album heralded Nas’ commercial popularity, making him a common household name among mainstream hip hop fans. However, Nas' increased commercial success, along with his stylistic changes on the album, fostered accusations of selling out. Following initial reaction to the album, it's standing has improved considerably over time, leading to it being viewed as one of Nas' best albums, while remaining to be his best-selling release to date. [Got Charts? News Story: Nas Lands Big — As He Predicted. MTV Networks. Retrieved on 2008-08-01]


"It Was Written" featured Nas experimenting with a theatrical Mafioso concept under the alias of "Nas Escobar" (inspired by the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar). Legendary producer DJ Premier had one production credit on "I Gave You Power", a creative song which depicts a narrative from the perspective of a gun. The album also features the successful singles "If I Ruled the World" (featuring Lauryn Hill of The Fugees) and "Street Dreams". The two aforementioned songs were among two of the biggest hits of 1996, promoted by big-budget videos directed by Hype Williams. "If I Ruled the World" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1997. [ [ Album notes at TowerRecords] Retrieved on 2008-08-01] The album also featured guest appearances from Mobb Deep, Joel "Jo-Jo" Hailey of Jodeci, and The Firm, a supergroup which was initially composed of Nas, AZ, Cormega and Foxy Brown.

The track "Nas Is Coming" is a collaboration between Nas and Compton-based rapper Dr. Dre. They were friends at the time this song was recorded, and the track ended with the line "East Meets West". The opening conversation in the song was a discussion between Nas and Dr. Dre about rap artists and fans talking about the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry so much, and how Nas and Dre are doing a track that doesn't revolve or contribute to the beef.

Critical reception

Despite its sales success, "It Was Written" was criticized as not being on-par with "Illmatic", Nas' landmark debut (an example of the sophomore jinx). Also, "It Was Written"'s release followed the releases of other Mafiaso-themed rap albums with similar subject matter, including "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...", "Reasonable Doubt" and "Doe or Die". As a result, the album became subject to much public scrutiny, and was given mixed ratings from many columnists who frowned upon his leaving the underground scene. The album's criticism was mostly directed at Nas' mainstream approach, including the enlistment of a top production unit and popular guest artists. Despite this, some critics disliked the album's subject matter, including Mark Coleman of "Rolling Stone" magazine, who criticized the album for its gangsta themes and called it "the latest blatant example of trashy tough-guy talk." Coleman went on to write:

While "Illmatic" was praised for its lyrics, which depicted the reality of street life, "It Was Written"'s themes were poorly received and looked upon as an attempt by Nas to flow with the popularity of gangsta and thug rap.



In spite of being critically maligned upon its release, the album's reputation has recovered considerably with the passage of time and is looked upon with greater affection than its initial reception. The album is now seen by hip hop critics and fans as one of Nas' best albums. contributer Leo Stanley later praised Nas' lyricism and vignettes about life in the ghetto along with the album's detailed production. [ [ 07/13/2005, AMG. Review at Yahoo Music] Yahoo! Inc. Retrieved on 2008-08-01] For Stylus Magazine's "On Second Thought" publication, critic Brett Berliner took another look at the album, examing Nas' first two albums:

While later reviews of the album saw "It Was Written" in a different light than previous reviews had, the subject matter was still seen as a major flaw of the album. Many critics still saw Nas' violent, fantastical mafioso stories as lacking the emotion and truthfulness of his debut album. Writer Joe Katz wrote in a review of the album for

While "Illmatic" is often held as Nas's magnum opus, "It Was Written" was not only perceived by critics as part of a sophomore jinx, but also the first of Nas' future albums to be compared to his debut. However, while "Illmatic" has been viewed as his greatest album, "It Was Written" is noted as his commercial breakthrough by critics, as it boosted the rapper's image in the mainstream and helped attract a much larger fan-base.


"Nas is Coming" began a brief collaboration between Nas and West Coast hip hop producer Dr. Dre. The alliance also resulted in the formation of The Firm, who make their debut on track number eight, "Affirmative Action". The pairing of the East Coast rapper and the West Coast producer, during the period of the East Coast-West Coast rivalry, brought criticism from both sides. More controversy ensued when, during the recording of The Firm's album, Cormega was fired from the group by Nas' manager, Steve Stoute, and replaced with a young rapper named Nature. Cormega recorded an underground single, "Fuck Nas and Nature," began a rivalry with Nas that has persisted--with brief periods of reconciliation--to the present day. In addition, fellow rapper 2Pac took offence to the opening line of the song "The Message" and in retaliation insulted Nas on a song titled "Against All Odds" and "Bomb First" on . It is reported by Tha Outlawz and Snoop Dogg (both close associates of Tupac) that the two rappers ended their brief feud at the MTV Music Awards, two days prior to Tupac’s fatal shooting. As result of his death, Tupac would not have the opportunity to remove the insults to Nas in "Against All Odds" from his album.


Lupe Fiasco cited "It Was Written" as his favorite album and his primary source of inspiration. When asked of his musical influences in an interview with, Fiasco stated the following, "You know I really tried to go back and recreate [Nas’] It Was Written, you know what I'm saying like that? [I would play] "It Was Written" and then I would play my album, and it was like, ‘Do we got [this] record, do we got that record?’" [ [ allhiphop interview - Lupe Fiasco] ] In another interview for, he was asked "Now you’ve said many times that your album is modeled after ‘It Was Written,’ and a lot of people wouldn’t admit that because a lot people would be like He’s biting or whatever. So why do you feel so comfortable admitting that?":

Reggae artist Matisyahu regards "It Was Written" as one of his favorite albums [ [ AVclub Matisyahu note] ] . He cites the introduction of "It Was Written", "where slaves rebel against their owner", as having a major influence on him. He said that after listening to "It Was Written", "I connected with hip-hop, the hardness of it, the driving beat. It’s music with space, that has gaps in every little thing that happens." [ [ Global Rhythm - Matisyahu] ]

Track listing


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