The Making of Nas' "It Was Written"

“The Message”

Produced by: Trackmasters

Nas: “That was inspired by my position, since my first album had great success. There were lots of new rappers coming in the game and lots of us were making noise. You had Jay-Z coming, you had Raekwon branching off to be solo from the Wu-Tang, you had Mobb Deep coming up. You had Tupac going crazy. You had so many different artists and things happening in hip-hop.

“It was just a real serious point in rap. It was crazy back then; everyone was lyrical, everyone would battle you, everyone had a crew. Crews back then wasn’t only popping bottles, they was popping pistols too. I hadn’t really been shot [like I say in the song] but everyone else around me, so I was their voice.

 

It was crazy back then, everyone was lyrical, everyone would battle you, everyone had a crew. Crews back then wasn’t only popping bottles, they was popping pistols too. - Nas

 

“I saw Jay-Z driving a Lexus with the TVs in them. I got rid of my Lexus at that point and I was looking for the next best thing. It wasn’t a shot at Jay but it was just saying that’s the minimum you gotta have. It’s not a shot at him but he inspired that line. It wasn’t necessarily a shot at him but because the song was a shot at everybody, he fell into that. But he definitely inspired that line.

“There was a moment where it wasn’t just about being a fly guy with money, it was, ‘I’m still in the streets, I still got one foot in the streets.’ We were all gunning for that position or gunning people off of us trying to take our position. That was my position on ‘The Message’ like, ‘Yo, back up, everybody.’”

Tone: “I was at home watching the movie The Professional one night. The movie went off and the song ‘Shape of My Heart’ by Sting came on. I jumped up and said, 'Oh my God.' At the time, there wasn’t no Internet so I ran down to the record store, found out who made it, went home, and chopped it up. That was different for hip-hop at the time. It was actually the first time we experimented with Latin-feeling guitars.

“'Shape Of My Heart,' that’s a love song. You don’t get any more pop than that. Using that sample with Nas, it was like, 'Wow. Where are they going with this.' So it was a very popular sample, with a pop artist, and now you’ve got Nas rapping on it.

 

There was some undertones with him taking little jabs at other rappers in that record. [Laughs.] The 'Lex with TV sets, the mininum,' that line was directed right at Jay-Z. Jay was fronting hard with the Lexus in his videos and there was a little rivalry brewing. - Tone

 

“I brought the beat to the studio one night. It was at the end of a session, at Chung King, and they were like, 'What do we work on next?' I threw the cassette on and the intro had Nas really stuck because we got the intro from Scarface, which was really big for him. He was listening to it but when the drums kicked it he went bananas. He jumped up like, 'Oh my God!' Instantly, he knew the rhyme for the record.

“It took me a minute to really realize the picture he was painting. I was so caught up in the flow that he was putting on it that I didn’t even listen to what he was actually saying. The picture he on 'The Message' that was incredible.

“There was some undertones with him taking little jabs at other rappers in that record. [Laughs.] The 'Lex with TV sets, the mininum,' that line was directed right at Jay-Z. I’ll say it since they’re friends now. Jay was fronting hard with the Lexus, at the time, in his videos and there was a little rivalry brewing. It hadn’t really started yet, but it was brewing.”

Poke: “He definitely was referring to New York as a whole with that one king line. And I know 'Lex with TV sets, the minimum' was definitely at Jigga-man. Nas is very subliminal. You would have to read into it to know that he was even talking about Jay.”

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