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The 25 Greatest Hip-Hop Debut Albums of All Time

on March 14, 2018, 12:14pm
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10. 50 Cent – Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003)

50 cent The 25 Greatest Hip Hop Debut Albums of All Time

With a reputation built from a series of ground-breaking mixtapes and a larger-than-life origin story, plus co-signs from Dr. Dre and Eminem, 50 Cent had a lot riding on the release of Get Rich or Die Tryin’. The Queens rapper had learned to weave his boastful rhymes with catchy hooks while flooding the streets with his freestyles, so when it came time to deliver full songs over top-shelf beats, 50 Cent was primed for the occasion. He balanced aggressive rhymes on songs like “Back Down” with R&B-tinged tracks “21 Questions”, showing he could make music for the gangstas and ladies alike. –Eddie Fu

Standout Track:

Definitive Lyric: “They say I walk around like I got an S on my chest/ Nah, that’s a semi-auto, and a vest on my chest” — from “What Up Gangsta”

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09. Queen Latifah – All Hail the Queen (1989)

queen latifah The 25 Greatest Hip Hop Debut Albums of All Time

Queen Latifah followed many female acts in blazing a trail for women in rap with the release of her 1989 debut, All Hail the Queen. Catapulted by “Wrath of My Madness” and the Monie Love-assisted feminist anthem “Ladies First”, the album produced in part by DJ Mark the 45 King tackled issues like gender disparity and domestic violence, which remained talking points throughout Latifah’s career. All Hail the Queen established “The La La La from Halstead” as the queen of rap’s Daisy Age – triggered by the Native Tongues – and a bona fide spitter equipped to go bar for bar with any male counterpart. –Karas Lamb

Standout Track:

Definitive Lyric:Ladies first, there’s no time to rehearse/ I’m divine and my mind expands throughout the universe/ A female rapper with the message to send/ The Queen Latifah is a perfect specimen.” — from “Ladies First”

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08. Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992)

the chronic 4ea687eb81068 The 25 Greatest Hip Hop Debut Albums of All Time

On The Chronic, Dr. Dre broke ground with a new G-Funk sound comprised of fat, rolling bass lines and trill, melodic synths. As he redefined West Coast hip-hop and gangsta rap as a whole, Dre proved he could succeed without the N.W.A while also launching the careers of his co-stars Snoop Dogg, Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, Nate Dogg, and Warren G. While the lyrics seem to be focused on partying on the surface, songs such as “Lil Ghetto Boy” detail the plight of growing up in a hopeless environment. –Eddie Fu

Standout Track:

Definitive Lyric: “You never been on a ride like this befo’/ With a producer who can rap and control the maestro/ At the same time with the dope rhyme that I kick” — from “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang”

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07. OutKast – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994)

outkast southernplayalisticadillacmuzik The 25 Greatest Hip Hop Debut Albums of All Time

Big Boi and Andre 3000 became known to the world as Outkast – the otherworldly Atlanta-based rap duo from the depths of The Dungeon – with the release of their 1994 LaFace Records debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. The duo burst onto the scene with the repurposed Christmas jam “Player’s Ball”, which portended over 15 tracks of chicken grease and certified gangster. The album produced by Organized Noize would find them disrupting the East Coast/West Coast rivalry with a distinctive sound and futurist swagger that forced rap to put some respect on Southern hip-hop and put the world onto king shit. –Karas Lamb

Standout Track:

Definitive Lyric:It goes, give me 10, and I’ll serve you then, now we bend/ The corner in my Cadillac. My heart does not go pitty-pat for no rat/ I’m leaning back, my elbow’s out the window/ Coke, rum, and indo fills my body, where’s the party?” — from “Player’s Ball”

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06. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die (1994)

notorious big ready to die11 The 25 Greatest Hip Hop Debut Albums of All Time

The Notorious B.I.G. released his full-length debut, Ready to Die, to critical acclaim in 1994. Live from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Biggie delivered cinematic, intricately worded hustler’s tales that spoke to his lived experience in Brooklyn and cemented him as a legend without leaning into precious portrayals of street life. The self-proclaimed “rap phenomenon” got busy over bottom-heavy beats from The Hitmen, showcasing his charismatic flow and aptitude for balancing braggadocio with candor. Ready to Die would famously go on to sweep the 1995 Source Awards, eclipsing Nas’ seminal debut, Illmatic, and positioning Biggie as the king of New York. –Karas Lamb

Standout Track:

Definitive Lyric: “Who shot ya? Separate the weak from the obsolete/ Hard to creep them Brooklyn streets/ It’s on nigga, fuck all that bickering beef/ I can hear sweat trickling down your cheek/ Your heartbeat sound like Sasquatch feet.” — from “Who Shot Ya”

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