April 24, 2015

Nas - It Was Written (1996)

While Illmatic snowballed from a New York cult favorite to the most widely well known and well received hip hop album of all time, It Was Written is what initially made Nas a phenomenon outside just the world of hip hop. The next biggest artist of Queens Bridge of 1996, Mobb Deep, may have ridden on the breakthrough success of The Infamous with close to the same sound on the respectable Hell On Earth, but Nas had moved on. Here he gravitates to more market friendly beats; not as a sellout move, but rather a to fit his increasing mafioso lyrical style in a type of rags to riches form. This approach is far from a flop, but I don't think he quite nails it here. His rapping ability is just as fresh and intense as on Illmatic, but the slicker beats don't do him as much justice as those grimy underground beats from 1994 even if it was a deliberate move to complement his lyrical style. His lyrics are close to incredible, but I noticed a very slight amount of self-indulgence, which isn't necessarily a bad thing and I do think there's some kind of sub-textual introspection to his phrasing here. It might not be perfect, but It Was Written is a very strong album that, in my opinion, almost lives up to the 'classic' label other people give it. I must say that the second half is the stronger side because of the more familiar East coast beats.


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