eMusic Review 0
The luxury of revisiting Nas's second album some 15 years later is that reappraisal allows for tempered expectations. In the aftermath of Nas's debut, Illmatic, still one of the most economically compelling pieces of music ever recorded, It Was Written was bizarre, showy and incongruous. It was neither a celebration of new status nor, as many fans lamented, a renewal of old themes. This was an entirely different Nas, one who presented himself as a cosmopolitan, Mafioso kingpin rather than the kid with the chipped-tooth smile dreaming of life beyond the "Rotten Apple."
Despite shattering Nas's persona as rap's great prodigy, It Was Written remains a consistent, occasionally thrilling album. "Escobar status" didn't make him lazy, as evidenced by the meticulous gangland tales of the Havoc-assisted "The Set-Up" or "Take it in Blood." "Affirmative Action" might have benefited from a tougher beat, but hearing Nas hatch plans alongside A.Z., an on-form Cormega and Foxy Brown is mob rap at its best. Schmaltzy Sting sample notwithstanding, "The Message" is an intoxicating mess of "one love/one king," TV-in-the-headrest fantasy. Even its erratic moments, like the first-person, Nas-as-gun experiment "I Gave You Power" or the pop-lunge "If I Ruled the World" seem… read more »