Album Review | Nas – It Was Written

It Was Written is Nas’ second studio album. It was released on July 2nd of 1996. I wasn’t exactly sure whether or not this album is considered a “classic,” but when I looked it up I saw a lot of people calling it that. I’m just gonna assume it is. According to Wikipedia (I know it’s not really a reliable source, but… I guess I don’t really give a shit to be honest), this album is celebrated by critics as one of Nas’ best projects. I haven’t heard a single song from this album. Well, I’ve heard parts of If I Ruled The World like the hook, but other than that I’m going into this completely blind. In an interview with Complex, Nas explained the title of this album: “The things I was seeing happen, these things were written. These things were written in the Bible, in the Qur’an, and on the walls of Egyptian and Roman buildings. These things were written about the kings and queens that have come and gone. These things were written about great men, about poets, and about killers. All these things that happened, have a meaning. Everything that happens segues into each other. These things are all supposed to happen. There’s a meaning to life.” Damn. That’s deep. Hopefully the music is actually as meaningful as that shit.

Track 1: Album Intro (Prod. Nas & Trackmasters)

What the hell… Some cracker is shouting to his friend, Rudy. I think that’s what he said his name was. I say cracker because he’s literally a cracker. You can hear the sound of the whip cracking and he’s saying “hit ’em harder.” I didn’t know people actually said “yee-hah.” I didn’t even think crackers said that shit. What the fuck is that even supposed to mean? I guess it’s the racist version of “yay.” Just kidding. I’m sure people who aren’t racist have said “yee-hah” before. Nas and his buddy are talking about how fucked up their lives are. They’re playing the roles of slaves in this skit. Woah. He’s in the same… uh… What do you call a place where slaves are held? I’m sure there’s a word for it, but it’s slipping my mind right now… Camp? Is it a slave camp? Where do slave ships take you? I don’t think it’s just called a cotton field… Alright, I’m just gonna say camp. Nas is being held in the same camp that Harriet Tubman was in. “Harriett done left the night before. It’s time we go.” Oh fuck. They’re about to hang my favorite MC. Okay the skit just ended and now this track has basically turned into The Genesis, Pt. 2. After the skit at the beginning it becomes very similar to the first track on Illmatic where Nas is just talkin’ about “It’s time, man” with his homies. This is probably one of the first times that I’ve actually been interested in a skit. Maybe it’s because I’m into the black struggle and black pride and all that, but most skits seem completely pointless compared to this shit. I guess the skits on good kid, m.A.A.d. city weren’t bad. This isn’t something that you just listen to; it’s not an actual song. I probably won’t delete it tho. I’ll just uncheck it in iTunes.

Track 2: The Message (Prod. Trackmasters)

The Message

I usually don’t like stringed instruments that much, but the shit that they sampled for this beat sounds great. It sounds like something one of those stereotypical Spanish guys would play when he was singing a song to the girl he loved. Or is it Italian? I don’t know… Anyway, Nas is going the fuck in right now. His flow sounds great over this beat and he even dissed fucking Biggie Smalls. Goddamn. “Yo let me let y’all niggas know one thing / There’s one life, one love, so there can only be one king.” Nas still sounded hungry on this track. You can tell he really wanted to be the King of New York. Shit. If I was from New York that title wouldn’t mean shit to me honestly. You can really tell that Nas cared about this tho. He really wanted to be the best. This is kinda like Kendrick’s Control verse except his delivery & flow are less crazy and he isn’t saying names. Yes. This hook is dope af. It’s just some samples from Illmatic and record scratches from Kid Capri. Yes. This is what every hook should be. Well, not EVERY hook, but you know what I mean. Seriously, why don’t rappers have scratches in their music anymore? Why did that stop? Who decided that record scratches aren’t cool anymore? I’d much rather have some simple scratches then a wack ass rapper screaming about money with autotune on his voice. Okay, in the second verse Nas is telling a story about how he robbed a guy who was being an idiot. His gut was telling him to shoot the guy. It sounds like the guy shot Nas in the leg or something. Okay, Nas just shot back at the guy. Damn. Nas got fucked up haha. Okay, Nas’ homie took his gun so that the cops wouldn’t know that Nas shot the other guy. Nas got stitches from the gun shots. Shit. Should I tell y’all the whole story? I’m kinda spoiling it… Do y’all even give a fuck? I’ll probably only tell half the story. I guess I haven’t really done that many story telling songs yet. Okay, I won’t spoil the whole thing. I definitely fuck with this shit tho. The beat & hook are dope af and as usual Nas actually had something interesting to say. This is dope af. 5/5

Track 3: Street Dreams (Prod. Trackmasters)

Oh God. This hook is not good. Nas… Is singing. That’s right. Nas. It sounds just as terrible as you expect it to. This beat is kinda cool I guess. Fuck. That hook tho. He’s horribly off-key. Okay, he’s goin’ in now. He did his thing I guess, but the fucking hook is just hard to listen to. The beat’s alright. This is a far cry from the grimy shit that was on Illmatic. I know it’s fucked up to compare these two things, but that’s what’s gonna happen because it’s fucking natural. When you make two things people are gonna compare them. That’s just how humans work. So yes, obviously compared to Illmatic this is wack, but if we’re being honest most music is wack compared to that album. The verses may not be very bad, but the actual song is bad. As a song, this just doesn’t work. The beat is too soft and the hook… Good God, the hook. Nas may have contracted a form of Eminem Syndrome on this song. Hopefully he saw a doctor before he recorded the next song. I can’t fuck with this shit. This is wack to me. I know R. Kelly hopped on the remix of this song. I’m finna check that out now to see if he does a better job with the hook. Wow. This remix is so much better. The beat still isn’t very hard, but it’s a lot smoother. The verses are completely different. The verses on the original weren’t very bad, but it’s fine I guess. Thank you, R. Kelly. Thank you so much. You’re lyrics are stupid af most of the time, but you did your thing on this hook. Okay, the remix is dope and the original is wack. 2/5

Track 4: I Gave You Power (Prod. DJ Premier)

I Gave You Power

I’m sitting in the library at my school right now and this kid named Billy is standing next to me. I’m not really sure what he’s doing. He’s reading this right now. He isn’t saying anything tho. Why is he doing this. I would really like him to leave. Why is he still here. Go away. Billy for the love of God just leave please. He just accused me of watching porn on this computer at school. I hate him. I hate him so much. Just kidding. I don’t hate him. I’m definitely not friends with him tho. He’s gone now. Thank God. Alright, lemme try this song out. Okay, Nas is talkin’ right now. “Like I’m a f- …I’m a gun. It’s like I’m a motherfucking gun.” I’m kinda confused right now. Is that just a metaphor or is he literally saying that he is a gun? Maybe I should actually listen to the song. Yeah, he’s definitely saying that he really is an actual gun. “I’m seven inches four pounds…” Same. He likes killing people. You heard it here first folks. Guns like to kill people. Not people. Shit. I kinda came off as sarcastic just now. Lemme just make this clear; I think that gun laws should be more strict in America. So there ya go. This is actually a pretty dope idea for a song. He did his thing on the first verse. The beat is alright. It’s really nothing special. The hook is dope. “It’s that shit that moves crowds making every ghetto foul / I might have took your first child / Scarred your life, crippled your style / I gave you power, I made you buckwild.” He also makes the accurate comparison between an uncircumcised Johnson and a gun. “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.” I feel like that line should make me more uncomfortable than it actually does. He makes gun-wielding murderers seem pretty suspect. This is dope af. The beat may not be that incredible, but just like I said in my Illmatic review, Nas actually has interesting shit to say and this is a perfect example. The last verse is fucking incredible too. “My creation was for blacks to kill blacks.” I definitely fuck with this. 5/5

Track 5: Watch Dem Niggas Feat. Foxy Brown (Prod. Trackmasters)

This beat is a lot smoother than the previous track. It’s dope af. Nas’ verse at the beginning was dope. Foxy Brown and Nas are rappin’ the hook at the same time. It’s dope af. Foxy Brown sounds so gangsta. Maybe it’s just the New York accent. Oh shit. I thought she would have a verse… She’s only on the hook tho. Nas is on there too. If she wasn’t a part of this song it wouldn’t really be missing anything. She wasn’t that important to this song. I’m not saying it was a pointless feature, but… Well, it kinda was actually… Huh. Well, I like the song. Nas is just rappin’ about the typical gangsta shit that was popular around that time. Mafioso rap. That’s what it’s called. To be honest, Mafioso rap is kinda boring to me in most cases, but I think Nas did a pretty good job. This isn’t amazing, but I kinda fuck with it. The beat’s dope and Nas did his thing. This is dope. 4/5

Track 6: Take It In Blood (Prod. Live Squad, Lo Ground & Top General Sounds)

This beat is dope af. Nas’ flow is pretty dope. This is a very smooth & melodic sounding track. It kinda reminds me of that song Heated Nights from Raekwon’s latest album. Nas just said some shit about “blood money in a pimp’s cum.” It was actually pretty dope. This hook is kinda dope, but I feel like they could’ve been a little more creative with the sample. Maybe they should’ve had some scratches in there so that it wouldn’t sound as empty. His flow on this second verse is great. He’s really goin’ in. “Yo the system wants the coon’s noose, hang ’em high / Courtrooms filled up, it’s off the hook while I / Just wrote a statement, like I’m facing twenty years / In the basement, chilling on the VI with Mumia / For wearing chrome, I told the judge snakes slither / Like Sharon Stone but like Capone I’m thrown.” Goddamn. He’s goin’ the fuck in. I’m not in love with the hook, but it really isn’t bad. I just thought it could’ve been done a little better. I still liked it tho. Nas is really where the spotlight shines on this bitch tho. He killed it. Especially on the last verse. I definitely fuck with this shit. This is dope af. 5/5

Track 7: Nas Is Coming Feat. Dr. Dre (Prod. Dr. Dre)

Wow. I don’t know for sure, but I’m under the assumption that this song is a pretty big deal. This came out during the whole West Coast Vs. East Coast thing. Dr. Dre pretty much IS the West Coast, so for someone like him to be working with one of the best East Coast MCs at the time had to have sent a strong message. Even at the beginning of the song Nas is like “hi” and then Dr. Dre was like “fuck this West Vs. East shit man let’s just make music and get money.” So that’s what this is. I guess they’re just gonna be rappin’ about how people involved in that “war” are “clowns.” The way Nas is talking to Dre in this intro is a little weird. I don’t know if he’s excited to be workin’ with Dre or if he’s just high from the chronic that Dre gave him. Okay, the song is starting now. Goddamn. This beat is dope af. It’s just as dope as anyone could want a Dr. Dre beat for Nas to be. Dre definitely did his part. Nas did his thing on the first verse. The hook is a little annoying, but it really isn’t bad. They coulda did a little bit more than just having some chick say “Nas is coming” like a thousand times. There’s absolutely no variation in her delivery of those three words. It’s just “Nas is coming. Nas is coming. Nas is coming.” She’s singing it tho. She’s not literally just saying it. Nas could’ve rapped some shit in the background. Or Dre. Either one of them coulda did it. It lasts too long for it to be so simple. Nas did his fucking thing on these verses. He definitely went in, especially on the last verse. The beat is dope af too, but something just doesn’t feel right. Maybe it really is the hook. It’s just so repetitive and mundane. That definitely coulda been better, but pretty much everything else about this track is great. I fuck with this shit. This is dope. 4/5

Track 8: Affirmative Action (Performed by The Firm) [Prod. Dave Atkinson & Trackmasters]

Affirmative Action

The Firm was a Hip Hop group that was composed of Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ & Cormega. I don’t really know the history of the whole situation, but I’m pretty sure Cormega was replaced with Nature at some point. I wonder if Nas & Cormega are still beefin’ with each other… Anyway, The Firm was actually signed to Aftermath at one point. That’s pretty crazy. Nas’ group, The Firm, was signed to Dr. Dre’s label, Aftermath. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time an East Coast artist[s] was signed to Aftermath. I’m also pretty sure that the West Coast Vs. East Coast thing was still in progress when this happened. Alright lemme go ahead and try this song out. This beat is fucking crazy. AZ is going in right now. Goddamn. Good lord. When AZ starts off the beat hasn’t dropped yet, but he still somehow sounds perfect over it. He had no trouble flowing over the drumless portion of the beat. When those drums come in tho…


AZ fucking killed this shit. His flow sounds fucking incredible over this shit. Damn. Cormega came in right behind him too. No hook. Fuck yes. This is more like it. Nothing but an incredible beat with four dope MCs. “They found his head on the couch with his dick in his mouth / I put the hit out.” I’m not that big of a fan of Mafioso Rap, but that line is fucking great to me. Nas went the fuck in, but Foxy Brown actually murdered this shit. She absolutely destroyed this shit. I can’t believe how dope this verse is. Fucking crazy. She stole the show to be honest. The other MCs went in too, but she was gettin’ fuckin’ busy on this shit. I mean, her math was mad wrong, but she still went in. This is dope af. I fuck with this shit. 5/5

Track 9: The Set Up Feat. Havoc (Prod. Havoc)

For those of you who don’t know, Havoc is one half of the legendary Hip Hop duo known as Mobb Deep. Havoc is a great stage name in my opinion. This sounds like one of them grimy Mobb Deep beats. You hopefully know exactly what that means. It’s dope. Nas’ first verse was dope. This hook is great. It’s a little long, but I fuck with it. Havoc’s only on the hook, but it’s so goddamn long that it feels like he has a verse. It’s three times longer than hooks usually are. It’s dope tho. This song is pretty good. Nas did his thing on both of the verses and Havoc’s hook & beat were great. I fuck with this. This is dope. 4/5

Track 10: Black Girl Lost Feat. JoJo (Prod. L.E.S. & Trackmasters)

JoJo (the guy from Jodeci) was singin’ a little bit on the intro and now Nas is goin’ in. He’s rappin’ about this chick who fucks too much. I know what you’re thinking, but he’s not really berating her or anything. He’s not slut-shaming. Well, maybe he is, but not in a really extreme way. He seems like he actually cares about this chick. “Wishin’ I could be the one man, but you juggle way too many Willies all in one hand.” How is it in ONE hand? Maybe he didn’t mean at the same time… Anyway, this is one of those rare occasions where a man is talkin’ shit about the guys that bang her and leave instead of the actual girl. “Niggas thirst you, you just let em hurt you and leave.” Well… Huh. Maybe he actually is slut shaming… JoJo is doin’ his thing on the hook. That’s probably what Nas would sound like if he didn’t suck ass at singing. This song is definitely dope af. The hook was dope. Not amazing, but the actual verses from Nas were great. Again, Nas actually has shit to talk about. The beat sorta just fades into the background. You really just pay more attention to the lyrics than anything else. I fuck with this tho. This is dope af. 5/5

Track 11: Suspect (Prod. L.E.S.)

Nas is talkin’ to some random guy right now. Not sure who. I don’t really give a fuck. Okay, he’s about to go in. Oh nevermind. Okay, now he’s goin’ in. Damn. This beat is dope af. Nas’ flow is dope. The hook is real simple, but I actually fuck with it. All of the verses are pretty goddamn dope. Especially the last one. It’s short as hell, but it’s fucking incredible. “It justifies, Nas Escobar’s leavin shit mesmerized / Mega live, like the third world / Decipher my deceiver make him a believer / Spitting gem stars, words in my mic type receiver.” I definitely fuck with this song. Everything about this is dope. The verses are great, the beat is dope af and the hook is pretty catchy too. This is dope af. 5/5

Track 12: Shootouts (Prod. Trackmasters)

This beat is dope. Nas is goin’ in about some bad ass bitch who became a crackhead and is fuckin’ with a police officer. Nas & his homies ended up murdering the shit outta the cop and the crack head chick. The hook is nothing special. It gets the job done tho. Both of the verses were pretty dope. I fuck with the first one a little more tho. This song is dope. Nothing about it is really incredible, but the hook, beat and verses are all good. It’s just a good ass song. I fuck with this. This is dope. 4/5

Track 13: Live Nigga Rap Feat. Mobb Deep (Prod. Havoc)

Okay this should be good. I fuck with Mobb Deep. They’re gangsta as fuck. That shit that Prodigy did with Boogz Boogetz was pretty wack tho. I wasn’t really fuckin’ with it like that. Havoc’s last album was boring as fuck too. I liked a few songs on it, but nothing was dope af. Just a few dope songs and a lot of alright ones. This should be good tho. They were better in the 90s. Prodigy’s on the first verse. His verse was dope. His flow was nice. Okay, Havoc’s rappin’ now. Goddamn. He killed it. “Represent your click, go ahead, get that ass whipped / Floatin in the river with your body wrapped in plastic.” Fuck. Nas fucking killed it. He fuckin’ stole the show. He easily had the best verse. Fuck. I can’t quote that shit… It’s too much. I can’t decide which part to quote. When he starts rhymin’ the shit with… Man, it’s just a dope ass verse. He fuckin’ killed it. The beat honestly isn’t that great, but it’s not bad. It just fades into the background. You pay more attention to the actual MCs than anything else. This is just bars. There really isn’t a hook. Well, Prodigy kinda has one at the end, but I like how the verses are all together. The hook feels like more of an outro. I definitely fuck with this song. This song is dope af. 5/5

Track 14: If I Ruled The World (Imagine That) Feat. Lauryn Hill [Prod. Trackmasters & Rashad Smith]

If I Ruled The World

This is one of Nas’ most famous songs. I’ve never heard the whole song. I’ve only heard parts of the hook. Fuck. My fucking internet is fucking up. Lauryn Hill is singin’ at the beginning of the song. It sounds really fucking good. This beat is dope af. Nas is pretty much just painting the picture of his utopia. Lauryn Hill did a pretty great job with the hook. When did “Jake” become slang for cops? Is that a thing? I’ve never heard that before in my life… Anyway, this song is definitely dope af. The hook is catchy as hell and Nas did his thing on all the verses. The beat is dope af too. I fuck with this shit. This is dope af. 5/5

Final Thoughts:

This album is definitely not as good as Illmatic, but it’s still worth listening to. There are a lot of great songs on here. I’m not exactly elated with the direction he took… I’m not a huge fan of Mafioso Rap. I definitely would’ve preferred if he stuck to his original style of conscious street music. He seemed a lot more relatable on Illmatic. He didn’t do a bad job with the shit on here, but it’s just not as interesting. The beats on this bitch felt a little more generic too. He was clearly trying to reach a more mainstream audience. The beats on Illmatic were a lot rougher. Illmatic had music about being stuck in the hood. He makes it sound like he enjoys killing people on this album tho. It’s cool I guess. Just not that cool. I fuck with the album tho. As I said before, there’s some great music on here. I fuck with this album. This album is dope. Almost dope af. It didn’t quite make it tho. Also, that shit about shit being written in hieroglyphics and shit like that… I didn’t get any of that shit on here. I’m still not exactly sure what the fuck he was talking about. Kinda wish he made a song called It Was Written where he actually talks about that shit instead of just glorifying crime.

Favorite Song: Suspect

Least Favorite Song: Street Dreams




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