It Was Written was released 20 years ago, on July 2, 1996. It debuted at #1 and went on to become Nas’ best-selling album while also featuring some of his most memorable songs. Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones blessed the rap world with his multiplatinum sophomore LP. It Was Written was produced by the legendary Trackmasters and DJ Premier.
The 22-year-old Brooklyn-born emcee consciously pushed the album in a more mainstream direction, hoping to secure a wider fan base. Well It worked.
The album proved to be Nas’ most commercially successful release, debuting at #1 on the US Billboard 200 chart. It’s viewed by music critics as one of Nas’ strongest records and remains his best-selling release, with over four million copies sold in the U.S. alone.
One of the album’s standout singles, “If I Ruled the World,” featured Lauryn Hill, who (at the time) was riding the wave of her recent success with The Fugees. Other guests included Foxy Brown, Dr. Dre and Mobb Deep.
It Was Written is a classic. It stands up against any other classic hip-hop album. It was the benchmark for what Nas is capable of, that he could make big pop records that are also hood records.
Illmatic sold 500,000 units. It Was Written sold 3.5 or 3.6 million. He gained five-times his audience with It Was Written.