“It Was Written” is officially 20 years old and without question this is my favorite Nas album. The reason is the replay value and how the album as a whole has aged like Angela Basset and we all know how well Angela Basset has aged.
As a young teen, I just copped the album cause it was Nas, but hopped around the disc. My cousin Corey, who’s a few years older than me, is the one who really made me want to listen and buy this album. He loved this album and we used to roll around in the CRONG 78 Banging this joint. Once I got my copy, I basically played this album everywhere I went.
To be real “If I Ruled The World” and “Street Dreams” played so much on Rap City that I hated those songs and would skip over them every time I heard the first beat drop or when I heard Lauryn’s first “Doo”. I’m now in a place where I can hear those songs and have true nostalgia and now, I truly see why they played so much.”The Message” and “I Gave You Power” were the first songs that immediately stuck out to me. “The Message” because that kicked off the video for “If I Ruled The World”. When I heard that piece of the first verse of “The Message” in that video, then heard the full song riding with Corey; I knew I was buying the album.
“I Gave You Power” was easy to love. Nas rapping about being a gun on a DJ Premier beat. If you love hip-hop, you don’t need much more reason than that. Also, I loved “Affirmative Action” with the soon to be revamped “Firm” [Before Nature replaces Cormega] and Foxy Brown’s infamous “Crack Math Verse” assisted from Shawn Carter.
As I matured and revisited this album, the lyrics and storytelling became phenomenal! “Black Girl Lost” became something I understood all to well. “The Set Up”, “Suspect” and “Shootouts” became visual masterpieces of New York’s Queens borough. “Watch Dem N***as” became a mantra and a way to navigate through my 20’s and even today. This all coming from a kid that was only 22 years old at the time he dropped it.
This album got 4 mics in 1996 from The Source. A very fair and justified ranking considering everything dropping around it and with “Illmatic” gaining so much praise and being deemed Classic, the 180 of “It Was Written” couldn’t get “more praise” even if song making wise, it’s a better album. By today’s standards, this would be an “8 hour Instant Classic” verdict. Even though we had Biggie, Slick Rick and Raekwon, you never heard storytelling like this before. Even though Pac took every opportunity to ish on Nas and had bars for him about “stealing his life” you couldn’t deny “The Message” was a dope record.
It’s loaded with Iconic Quotables
A Thug Changes
And Love Changes
And Best Friends Become Strangers…
Fat A$$ dissolving, like cotton candy in a mouth that’s starving
Fiends get skinny as if Queens was a Craig, Jenny [Even saying it backwards was dope]
You can have all the chips
Be Poor or Rich
Don’t nobody want a brother having ish
Nas evolved from young hungry emcee, to hit-making street poet with “It Was Written”. The “Nas Escobar” theme throughout this album started more in hip-hop than people may want to give credit for. The Pink Suit in the Street Dreams video was way before Cam’ron’s first single and more masculine than a lot of the socially acceptable male fashion today. Only bringing that up because Nas was deemed “funny” by some for wearing it.
The same kid that dropped Illmatic became older, wiser, a trendsetter, hit-maker and still didn’t still didn’t miss a step lyrically. “It Was Written” is an album that showed an album to album progression that we would see maybe 3 more times in hip-hop; Part of me thinks we really haven’t; Not even from Nas himself.
Salute to Nas and my favorite album from Nas and of 1996, It Was Written.
Remix not on the original album.