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Nas - It Was Written
Label: Sony
Release: 1996

1. Album Intro
2. The Message
3. Street Dream
4. I Gave You Power
5. Watch Dem Niggas
6. Take It In Blood
7. Nas Is Coming
8. Affirmative Action
9. The Set Up
10. Black Girl Lost
11. Suspect
12. Shootouts
13. Live Nigga Rap
14. If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)
It Was Written - Nas
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Nas' sophomore album begins with a skit that is unlike those on other Hip Hop albums. Instead of the glorification of drugs and violence, the skit tells the story of a slave uprising. Two slaves, voiced by Nas and fellow rapper Az, who guested on "Life's A Bitch," on Illmatic, talk of change and escaping from their environment and into the "promised land." Both rappers declare that they won't be bound by shackles or a master for much longer.

Whether the skits creation was intended to raise awareness of the suffering African Americans have endured in the past and still go through today or it's merely a prohetic statement from Nas himself comming to grips that with It Was Written he would finally break into the mainstream and break the chains of the poverty he grew up in and leave them behind is not certain. What is certain is that It Was Written is a dynamite follow up to Illmatic and eventually did cement Nas into Hip Hop royalty.

The balance of radio friendly songs such as "Street Dreams," and "If I Ruled The World," the latter featuring a beautifully sung chorus from The Fugees Lauryn Hill, and brilliant Hip Hop classics such as the Dj. Premier produced "The Message," and "I Gave You Power," make It Was Written a Hip Hop album that can be enjoyed by many, whether you were raised on Gangstarr or brought up listening to LL Cool J.

"I Gave You Power," showcases possibly Nas' best attribute, storytelling. While the subject matter of the song is nothing new in Hip Hop, Nas takes us one step higher by telling a tale of the harsh life of poverty-stricken communities through the eyes of a firearm. By the song's end when the pistol decides to jam, resulting in the demise of his owner, you know you aren't listening to the standard Hip Hop album. But then again, Nas has always been a step higher than the standard rappers.

The album also showcases Nas' group, The Firm, with the song "Affirmative Action," which topples all of the songs which were released on the group's full length debut some years later. While the group, which besides Nas consisted of Cormega, Az and Foxy Brown all deliver above average verses, it is Nas who steals the show with lines such as "life's a bitch, but God-forbid the bitch divorce me."

If you're looking for an album which relies more on above average production and lyrics rather than one catchy single and an album full of filler, It Was Written should prove to be a great listening experience. Although it was not as greatly appreciated when it was first released, I'd think it's safe to say that It Was Written is a definite Hip Hop classic.

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