How Classic Is Nas' It Was Written Album? | 1996 Reviews

Nas IWW 1996.jpg

CLASSIC RATING: 5 OUT OF 6

It Was Written (July 2, 1996)

Following up arguably the best pound-for-pound Hip-Hop album of all-time is not an easy task but Nas does a great job delivering an album which offers variety and consistency. Nas' greatest accomplishment with 'It Was Written' was being able to deliver a tracklist which varies from an underground i.e. «real hip» sound to a more mainstream «street-pop» sound by once again recruiting the hottest producers in the game: DJ Premier, Dr. Dre, and Trackmasters, Mobb Deep's Havoc among others.

The two tracks produced by Havoc would have been mediocre tracks on 'Hell On Earth' and certainly not stand-out tracks. If Nas had eliminated these tracks he would have had a stronger album. It seems they are included solely to have his fellow QB rappers on the album, and the beats end up sounding disappointing especially for fans of the Mobb.

Dr. Dre was very excited about working with Nas and especially the Firm who he was going to produce and turn into superstars. Unfortunately, it really sounds like Dre had lost his objectivity at this time in his career because the 'Nas Is Coming' beat is just strange and irritating with lots of weird 80s sounding sci-fi sound effects and a boring and unforgettable chorus.

 From the It Was Written booklet

From the It Was Written booklet

DJ Premier produced 3 tracks on 'Illmatic' but only shows up once here and that's just as well because 'Preemo' doesn't deliver on 'I Gave You Power'. It's an okay track but is nowhere near the brilliance of the 'Illmatic' tracks.

Where the album really shines is on the Trackmasters produced songs. You can say the Trackmasters saved Nas' career because the rest of the hot Hip-Hop producers Nas' recruited for this album all failed to deliver any classic material this time around. The Trackmaster are a very talented duo because they were able to make both hardcore and mainstream sounding beats for this album without sounding forced or contrived. E.g. 'Shootouts' sounds like it could have been produced by RZA while 'Street Dreams' and 'If I Ruled The World' are huge commercial hits and classic Hip-Hop tracks to boot. All-in-all Trackmasters produced seven of the thirteen tracks and most of them are brilliant and the rest of them are solid.

 It Was Written booklet

It Was Written booklet

With 'It Was Written' Nas proved that he was not just aiming to be an underground sensation -rappers rapper, but also an artist who delivers mainstream hits with an authentic Hip-Hop feel. Nas was able to answer the hype surrounding him while evolving his style and keeping fans and critics interested in what he would do next.

 Back cover of It Was Written by Nas

Back cover of It Was Written by Nas

How Classic Is Nas' It Was Written Album?

CLASSIC: The Message, Street Dreams, Affirmative Action If I Ruled the World (Imagine That) GREAT: Take It In Blood, The Set Up, Shootouts, Live Nigga Rap SOLID: I Gave You Power, Watch Dem Niggas, Nas Is Coming, OKAY: Black Girl Lost, Suspect

How do the ratings work? 

  • Each track receives either a: classic, good, or dog shit rating.

  • A classic song = 5 pts - A good song = 3 pts - A dog shit song = 1 pts

  • The points are added up and divided by the number of songs

  • The score is then rounded to the nearest whole or half point, e.g. 3.5 or 4.0

  • The most classic rating for an album is 5 and the most dog shit rating is 1