RollingStone magazine recently did a piece on the “Top 100 Debut Albums of All Time” and surprise, surprise, three goofy Jewish goods from Brooklyn clocked in at number 1. The Beastie Boys’ License to Ill, was described as “A statement so powerful, so fully-realized, that the Beastie Boys spent the rest of their careers living it down.”
Even though I would argue Ill Communication, is a better album musically and critically, RollingStone had a point with hip-hop albums. Most of the time, debut hip-hop albums are looked on as the best in an artists’ career because they have been working on them the entire lives. After the record is release, there lives change dramatically. They don’t live in the projects anymore, they aren’t living their parents basement and they birthdays aren’t as Biggie put it “The worst days.” That said, here are Five Debut Hip-Hop Albums You Should Hear Right Now.
1. Nas- Illmatic (1994)
Even though the cover of Illmatic, includes a young boy, Nas was a fully formed man at 20 when this class was released. It’s full of brash, observant lyrics of a young boy growing up on the mean streets of Queensbridge, Brooklyn. The album didn’t include any famous guest appearance (apart from Q-Tip), but the album didn’t need one. As opposed to albums nowadays that have club hits, you won’t find that on Illmatic. It’s scary listening to this album, envisioning what Nas went through.
Although true hip-hop heads would disagree, Nas wouldn’t be able to duplicate the success he had on Illmatic until seven years later with the aptly titled Stillmatic.
Key Tracks: N.Y. State of Mind, Memory Lane (Sittin’ in the Park) and It Ain’t Hard to Tell
2. Kendrick Lamar- Good Kid, m.A.A.d City (2012)
You might be telling yourself, come on, Kendrick Lamar? Wasn’t this album just released. Well yes it was. And I think it may already be one of the greatest hip-hop albums today. This rare in todays hip-hop world especially as many times mixtapes have exhausted many of artist’s best material, before their debut. But Kendrick simply kills it. The Jonathan Safran Foer of the music world, Kendrick Lamar is able to fuse modern hip-hop with abstract lyricism.
Can’t wait to see him this summer and what he’s able to come up with next.
Key Tracks: Poetic Justice, Money Trees and Swimming Pools (Drank)
3. Kanye West- The College Dropout (2004)
When recording his VH1 “Storytellers” episode Kanye West, began with, “So many people get caught up trying to remake their first album and its impossible for me to make another College Dropout, but I can make the best Graduation and best 808s that I can make. That’s how you keep advancing as an artist. So few hip-h0p artists have advanced, their songs on seventh and eighth albums sound exactly like their first album. More than an artist, I’m a real person, and real people grow.”
Even though West has tried to sound different (and some people would argue crazier) on each album, The College Dropout reminds his best. It introduced to a generation of music listeners a new style of hip-hop and really changed popular forever.
Key Tracks: We Don’t Care, All Falls Down, Last Call)
4. Jay-Z- Reasonable Doubt (1996)
Believe it or not, Jay-Z had a life before Beyoncé, before he sold the Nets (a small share) before he bought the Nets (a small share), before he signed Robinson Cano and before he retired two times. Reasonable Doubt is such an amazing underrated album. I don’t think people could even name two songs from it and if you told them that Biggie is on it, they’d cry bullshit. But Biggie is. The whole album is great. Start to finish. It’s show you how amazing and diverse Jay-Z will be one day.
Key Tracks: Brooklyn’s Finest, Feelin’ It, Can’t Knock the Hustle
5. Eminem- The Slim Shady LP (1999)
“Hi kids, do you like violence, wanna see me stick nine inch nails through each one of eyelids,” is how Eminem announced himself to the world. He got crazier and crazier causing two things: people expecting him to one up himself in each album and a serious drug problem.
Key Tracks: My Name Is, Guilty Conscience, Rock Bottom)