It Was Written is the second studio album by American rapper Nas, released July 2, 1996 on Columbia Records in the United States. Following the moderate sales success of his acclaimed debut album, Illmatic (1994), Nas chose to focus his efforts in a more mainstream direction. Primarily produced by Trackmasters, it is a departure for him from the raw, underground tone of his debut album towards a more polished, mainstream sound. The album features mafioso and gangsta themes, and marks the first appearance of Nas’s short-lived supergroup The Firm, which included rappers Foxy Brown, AZ, and Cormega.
The album proved to be Nas’s most commercially successful release, debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart. It also heralded Nas’s mainstream popularity and followed the success of other mafioso rap albums such as Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… (1995) and Reasonable Doubt (1996). However, his stylistic changes and increased mainstream success fostered accusations of selling out within the hip hop community. It has been viewed by music writers as one of Nas’s best records and remains Nas’ best-selling release, with over 4 million copies in the United States alone.