Album: It Was Written
Producer: Trackmasters
Label: Columbia

Nas' 1996 sophomore album It Was Written pulled a hard left on the gritty boom-bap of 94's Illmatic, tapping Trackmasters Poke and Tone to imbue his sound with a radio-ready slickness in the hopes of securing the commercial success that eluded him the first time around. But It Was Written meshed its rap radio power plays like "Street Dreams" and "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)" with bleak, uncompromising street stories like "Take It in Blood" and "Shootouts." The latter finds Nas and his crew carrying out a cold revenge plot against a ruthless neighborhood cop and his pothead jumpoff in the first verse, and follows them through bullet-blazing battle when a neighborhood hotshot dips after losing a dice game-and returns with burners out.