Spin (10/96, p.139) - "...It's the production, stupid. Choruses you remember; grainy, pop-savvy loops: When Nas manifests `sleep is the cousin of death,' a line also on ILLMATIC, the sentiment now sounds majestic--worthy of all his Don Corleone street fantasies..."
Entertainment Weekly (7/26/96, p.56) - "...Humor disguises the grim subject matter while Nas' eye for minutiae lends credibility and urgency to his hip-hop short stories." - Rating: A-
Q (9/96, p.118) - 4 Stars (out of 5) - "...Downbeat funk grooves churn in a foggy wash, heavy on electric pianos and smooth strings that ooze bittersweet menace....Angry, lean and full of drive, Nas is the only rapper capable of challenging the Wu-Tang Clan's dominance."
The Source (8/96, p.95) - 4 Mics (out of 5) - "...Nas reveals himself not only as a rhymer, but also as a thinker....[He] explores the realm of ideas through stories, using example as a device to show rather than tell....IT WAS WRITTEN is an audio anthology of ghetto stories told by one of hip-hop's most prolific writers. If ever there was a straight up genius in hip-hop..."
Rap Pages - "...This joint features the essence of what rap is supposed to be jampacked with--strictly skillz that will pay the billz..."
New York Times (Publisher) (7/28/96, Sec.2, p.30) - "...Throughout the album, Nas stays deadpan as he touts his skills, dispenses advice and places himself within a brutally competitive underworld..."
NME (Magazine) (12/21-28/96, pp.66-67) - Ranked #41 in NME's 1996 critic's poll.
NME (Magazine) (6/29/96, p.51) - 6 (out of 10) - "...Over a series of stark, almost austere backing tracks, Nas' neat, considered lyrics treat the violence that surrounds him with a mixture of remorse, resignation and ebullience....he paints lurid pictures..."
Personnel includes: Nas, Mobb Deep, Dr. Dre, Lauryn Hill (vocals); Delight, Dave Atkinson (keyboards); DJ Kid Capri (scratches); JoJo Hailey (background vocals).
The Firm: Nas, AZ, Foxy Brown, Cormega (rap vocals).
Producers include: Nas, Trackmasters, Poke, Tone, DJ Premier.
Engineers include: Eddie Sancho, Kelston Rice.
"If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)" was nominated for a 1997 Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance.
Nas' 1994 debut album, ILLMATIC, has been called one of the best rap albums of all time, and this followup documents the main reason why: Nas is the supreme lyricist in hip-hop. On the surface he is a gangsta rapper dispensing richly detailed street stories. But Nas speaks in metaphors not easily interpreted, and his songs constantly challenge the listener to see into his innermost thoughts. He dwells neither on what he could be or wants to be, but rather, simply, on what he is. He's one of the few rappers who can fairly be labeled a poet.
IT WAS WRITTEN utilizes the musical talents of street-oriented producers to enhance Nas' feel for reality. Among those producers are Dr. Dre, who collaborates on "Nas Is Coming" in a joint attempt to squash the East Coast/West Coast war.
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