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It Was Written

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Editors’ Notes

Though the beats on It Was Written don’t match the eloquence or innovation of Illmatic, DJ Premier, The Trackmasters, and Dr. Dre all contribute to a musical backdrop that stays lean and sample-based, and largely avoids the pomposity that would mar Nas’ subsequent efforts. If Illmatic is a portrait of ghetto life told from the point-of-view of a preternaturally wise teenager, then It Was Written expands that portrait with mythological detail. Like his contemporaries Jay-Z, Raekwon, and Mobb Deep, Nas used crime films like Scarface as a blueprint to turn his portrait of project crime into something as stylish and forlorn as it is menacing.The lyrical precision and wordplay have become even more striking since Illmatic. In its description of a crooked cop and his trick, “Shootouts” chronicles a lifetime in a matter of lines: “A Irish man short slim with a tan, they say he laced her cheeba / She do be lookin weaker, now her teeth are foul / Speakin loud, peep her style, in and out of every reefer cloud.”


Born: 14 September 1973 in Long Island, NY

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Beginning with his classic debut, Illmatic (1994), Nas stood tall for years as one of New York City's leading rap voices, outspokenly expressing a righteous, self-empowered swagger that endeared him to critics and hip-hop purists. Whether proclaiming himself "Nasty Nas" or "Nas Escobar" or "Nastradamus" or "God's Son," the self-appointed King of New York battled numerous adversaries for his position atop the epicenter of East Coast rap, none more challenging than Jay-Z, who vied with Nas for the...
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It Was Written, Nas
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