Ice Cube - AmeriKKKa’sMost Wanted
Ice Cube’s debut still stands as one of the most reflective, socially conscious works of the gangster rap movement. Though the lyrics are less intricate than contemporary acts, few artists have delivered a work as substantive as Amerikka’s Most Wanted. The interesting thing about this album is how topically relevant it remains. Amerikka’s Most Wanted discusses several issues with Compton specifically and America in general. Issues like gang violence are still prevalent in today’s Compton, and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.d. city deals heavily in gang violence.
2Pac - 2Pacalypse Now
Though this is definitely not Pac’sgreatest work, 2Pacalypse Now was the first America heard of the emcee. With a flow reminiscent of Rakim, Tupac laced this album with political raps and social inspection, all in Black Panther-esque rhetoric. The album also featured “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” one of the most powerful singles of the ‘90s.
Dr. Dre - The Chronic
TheChronic is widely considered among the most important albums in music history, but particularly rap history. Admittedly,the lyrics did not age well and the latter half of the album is about half as great as the first. However technically lacking The Chronic is today, it introduced G-Funk and established the sound of the West Coast for a generation. Few rap albums can bear the historical responsibility The Chronic does,and after 20 years it is still one of the best produced, most pivotal works in rap.
Snoop Dogg - Doggystyle
While The Chronic pioneered the G-Funk sound, Doggystyle personifies it. Snoop is at his finest here with his trademark steady,deliberate flow over some of the hottest beats of the era. Though Doggystyle varies little in topical content, few emcees have managed to match Snoop’s versatile delivery and style.Doggystyle also popularized the pimp aesthetic in rap culture.
Nas - Illmatic
The general consensus is that Illmatic is one of, if not the bestalbums in the genre. Period. This is of course debatable, especially given Illmatic’s company in this list. Nevertheless, Illmatic is a staplework of hip-hop. Nas’s lyrical dexterity was nearly unprecedented upon the release of Illmatic and the album remains one of his best works. Illmatic has been cited as a source of inspiration for many contemporary rappers, including Lupe Fiasco, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar to name just a few. Illmatic is also one of the premier concept albums of the era.
Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die
It is unfortunate The Notorious B.I.G. wasonly able to release two studio albums. It is, however, remarkable that justthose two releases were enough to secure Big’s position as one of the G.O.A.T.s. Ready to Die is an excellent workof rap. Big manages to outline the duality of the hustler mentality perfectly in this album. The money and glamour of an empire beget by the destruction of one’s own eventually leads to guilt and thoughts of suicide. At least in Biggie’s case. Big’s is a deeply introspective story that balances honesty with braggadocio. We haven’t even touched on the technical prowess of the record
Jay-Z - Reasonable Doubt
In retrospect, Jay Z probably had the strongest debut album of the ‘90s. He rhymed with the technical fluidity of Nasor Big, but with much more progressive production. Reasonable Doubt is arguably Jigga’s best album and easily one of the best albums on this list. Jay has always been a versatile emcee and that versatility lives through this album. Both the production and topical content is relevant, almost contemporary. At just under 16 years Reasonable Doubt aged well.
Eminem - The Slim Shady LP
It is a funnier, scarier Eminem we see in The Slim Shady LP. Though his major label debut doesn’t fully display the lyrical flexibility of the emcee, it did help popularize horror-core rap, which is making mainstream treads through artists like Tyler the Creator and Hopsin. That isn’t to say Eminem’s signaturerhyme style is absent. The Slim Shady LPoffers bars that are as dense as they are shocking, with many metaphors extending through entire songs.
Easily 50 Cent’s best work, Get Rich or DieTryin’ is one of the bestselling rap albums of all time, and easily among the bestselling of the decade. Featuring one of the hottest club bangers of the era“In the Club”, 50’s major label debut sparked a new chapter in rap music, the battle of sales. The commercial appeal of GetRich or Die Tryin’ doesn’t offset its strength as a work. The album has laudable production and 50 rides the beats close.
Kanye West - The College Dropout
TheCollege Dropout reintroduced soul sampling to rapproduction and broadcasted more balanced lyrical content than much of itscontemporaries. This is also some of Kanye West’s best work, which says something given the artist’s consistently high quality music. The album’s whole aesthetic also helped push high fashion in hip-hop. Of all the albums listed TheCollege Dropout is perhaps the most contemporary and comparable to KendrickLamar’s good kid m.A.A.d. city. Bothworks push theme and narrative through skits. Both utilize unique flows andproduction patterns. Both came during a largely stagnant period in rap.
HNHH examines 10 of the best major label, solo debuts in rap following the acclaimed release of Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid m.A.A.d. city”.
In the two weeks since the release of Kendrick Lamar’s heralded good kid m.A.A.d. city, many pundits have lauded the technical and creative prowess of the work as nothing short of an instant classic. This could very well prove true in coming years.
While the Compton emcee’s masterpiece marinates, HNHH takes a step back to look at 10 of raps greatest, most influential debuts. Only major label, studio debuts are listed and only solo acts before 2005 at that. Otherwise groups like Wu Tang and duos like Eric B and Rakim would merit a spot, and that’s just to name a couple of hip hop’s amazing group acts. Also, only albums released between 1990 and 2005 are listed.
With all that said here is our list; an assemblage of hip hop debuts that are now canonic and with good kid m.A.A.d. city potentially joining their ranks in the future.