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2014 Essence Music Festival - Day 1

Source: Johnny Nunez / Getty

Today marks the follow up to one of the greatest album’s in hip-hop history, Illmatic. It Was Written was Nas’s second studio album released July 2, 1996. Nas chose to focus his efforts in more of a mainstream direction following the moderate sales following his debut.

The album was a departure from that gritty New York underground sound towards a more polished, mass appeal direction. The album features the Mafioso and gangsta themes, and was the first appearance of Nas’s short-lived group, The Firm (Foxy Brown, AZ, and Cormega).

The album was his most commercially successful release, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200. His mainstream appeal may have grown, but others accused him as “selling out”.

Even through Nas dealt with some criticisms, others would argue to be one of his best works and still remains his highest selling release, with over 4 million copies in the United States alone.

Go back to those early days and listen to the album below!

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