After the success of "Illmatic," Nas returned two years later with "It Was Written." The album continued with the themes of street life, drug dealing and crime that Nas painted so vividly on his debut. The lead single, "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)" featuring hip-hop songstress Lauryn Hill was a smash hit and scored Nas his first Top 20 R& B single. "It Was Written" was also notable for its first iteration of "The Firm," a rap group composed of Nas and rappers Foxy Brown, AZ and Cormega, who went on to collaborate on another album with Nas.
Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times