It Was Written



by The Jungler USER (183 Reviews)
June 26th, 2006 | 253 replies

Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

By the time It Was Written was released Nas was being heralded as the best MC in modern rap music after only one album. Illmatic was Nas"s masterpiece, thoughtful, heartbreaking and powerful as well as raw and scary. It Was Written was a turn in the wrong direction, but the right way in the wrong direction (if this makes any sense). Nas was beginning his transition from the underground"s story teller to the mainstream"s urban link. The album is full of classic cuts, but the grime lacing every beat on his first album was gone. The lyrics were there, but some of the emotion was gone. Maybe it was the world around Nas changing, or maybe it was changing in himself, but no one can listen to this after Illmatic and not see a change. The lyrics to "Nas is Coming" are the first sign of the major change, the song begins with a skit (something absent from Ill) about two men, one Nas and the other Doctor Dre, making/smoking drugs. They talk about Nas"s place in the growing east/west battle and decide it"s all dumb. They talk about how Nas is the only sane rapper out there, the only original guy, when ironically enough the song is more of a gangsta, mainstream tune than anything Nas has ever recorded. The song peaks it"s cheesiness with the chorus, a woman singing a faux sample "Nas is coming/ Nas is coming/ Nasty Nas is coming". Nas is Coming does feature some incredible wordplay, but trips on its own squeaky clean Dre production.

On the other side of things Nas has some of his best work with I Gave You Power. It"s a brilliant tale from the mind of gun,
I might have took your first child
Scarred your life, crippled your style
I gave you power
I made you buck wild"
The song is as true as anything, not only for the urban culture, but for the country and the suburbs.
Always I'm in some ***, my abdomen is the clip
The barrel is my dick, uncircumcised
Pull my skin back and cock me, I bust off when they unlock me
Results of what happens to niggaz shock me
I see niggaz bleedin runnin from me in fear, stunningly tears
fall down the eyes of these so-called tough guys, for years
The song is set to a soulful boom-bap beat, the kind we miss from Ill. The song is very reminiscent of older Nas, a very depressing journey through the life of the ghetto, every day, every night, Nas was there. Songs like this show a frustrated young man, seeing his culture around him die. For some, Nas"s brand of smart, hardcore rap is the most potent of any music. Anything this deep, dark and dreary that can still inspire hope is a truly great piece of art.

As with Illmatic, this album has a main theme. With Ill it was urban life, but in It Was Written, Nas takes a more fantastical Mafioso theme. And the more fantastical Nas gets the more detached his music becomes. Affirmative Action is the perfect example of this, a tale of three characters, all with mob connections, and Nas dealing with a robberery. The lyrics are there, the delivery is there, but the power and heartbreak is not. For Nas It Was Written is the beginning of the end, he takes one step forward and 4 steps back. Luckily, for a mainstream rap album, the singles are great. The first, Street Dreams, rewrites the Eurhythmics hit "Sweet Dreams" into a gritty tale from Queensbridge, NY. Though it pales in comparison to the gigantic tracks before and after it, Street Dreams is a great single, with a spot on beat and intelligent gangsta lyrics. The second single is an instant Nas classic, If I Ruled the World (Imagine That), an uplifting duet with Lauren Hill and Jay-Z (before the beef). Neither songs are amazing, but they are refreshing breaks from songs like Black Girl Lost (a horribly over-produced cheese-fest). Overall the album is far from Ill, but better than most rap at the time. I guess when DJ Shadow said Hip Hop sucks in "96 he knew what he was talking about. If Illmatic was the kind of nightmare you can"t wake up from and don"t really want too, then IWW is a regular dream, not quite "real" but enjoyable all the same. 3.5/5


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user ratings (1037)
other reviews of this album
michaelbchnn (4)
An excellent follow up to one of the best Hip Hop albums of all time....

2ndChildhood (4.5)
The golden child's sophomore effort remains an underrated testament to his unsurpassed lyrical abili...

thecreative0ne (5)
"It Was Written" by many, that Nas is one of the best emcees ever....

Comments:Add a Comment 
Zesty Mordant
June 26th 2006


I haven't heard this entire album, but "If I ruled the World" is immensely awesome.
Great review, reminded me to finish re-writing my old review of Illmatic

June 26th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, but I think you could've done better, it seems a bit rushed...

This album is very good. If Nas had cut 4 or 5 tracks from it, it'd be classic for me. The Message was worth mentioning though, that's one of Nas' best songs of all time.

June 26th 2006


Nice review Dan. Although I most likely won't look into this.

June 28th 2006


Good review. I've been meaning to give this album a listen for a while now.

June 28th 2006


Nice review Dan.

??? T'was Joes' review. Anyway, it is great. I shall indeed vote.

December 14th 2006


surprised with the reviews, i remember listening to this album growing up, its kinda a classic to me.

Apocalyptic Raids
June 27th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

underrated album this one. Affirmative Action and The Message are some of Nas' best work.

June 30th 2007


Album Rating: 3.5

There are moments on here where you could imagine Nas making an album nearly as good as Illmatic, making it all the more disappointing it isn't.

November 26th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

"Nas is Coming", "Black Girl Lost" stink. But there are a lot of good songs here that are slept on like "Live Nigga Rap" and "Take It In Blood". But, personally "If I Ruled the World" comes off preachy and a liitle awkward.

September 13th 2008


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

very underated by the mainstream. Most Hip-Hop fans have come around to the album though.

December 8th 2008


i thought this was Nas's big mainstram hit?
but yea, its a great album! =)

April 8th 2009


Album Rating: 4.5

I like It Was Written pretty much, Street Dreams is one of the best Nas tracks for sure.

April 8th 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

Street Dreams and If I Ruled The World are love.

June 18th 2009


Album Rating: 4.5

It's user rating should be higher though

February 9th 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

this is very, very good.

August 31st 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

i rated this low at first and re-listened. love it. not been able to change my rating for fucking ages, now i am proud to say: it was written is superb.

August 31st 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

Love this album.

August 31st 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

i think this is better than illmatic actually - controversial as that may sound. i have rated illmatic 5 and this 4.5, but the sole reason for that is down to luck..illmatic came out first, revolutionised hip hop, and set the benchmark. it was written is technically better, more fun, more well produced, better lyrics. in fact everything about it is better - except for the fact it wasn't his first album. if that makes sense, i hope that doesn't make me sound a twat, i do love both these albums. even got a bit of love for i am...

August 31st 2010


i hate how he made like the same album cover for 8 years.

August 31st 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

I actually love that

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