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Before It Was Written, it was envisioned. Many doubted that Nas, a street poet, could be more than just that. But if Nas was going to break the curse of the second album flop, he was going to have to diversify. Facts are facts—Illmatic is one of the greatest rap albums ever recorded, but it was still somewhat under-the-radar at the time.
Let me put this in 2016 terms: What Nas did with It Was Written was basically a mix of Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Lamar, because he delivered the social commentary that he was known for, and Drake, because these songs spoke to women and had mass appeal. The upshot was that Nas could enjoy the perks of pop success.
Nas had successfully become the crossover street poet recognized internationally. It Was Written went on to become his bestselling record and to this day people will argue about who the best MC of all time is: Biggie, Jay Z or Nas?