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Top 10 Greatest Rap Debut Albums

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Ryan Barnett. In the music game, it’s all about the first impression. Debut albums are do or die, and this is no truer for any genre more than rap and hip hop. A great first record can send an artist into the stratosphere and influence the music for years to follow. In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 rap debut albums of all time — those benchmark freshmen efforts that redefined the game for all who followed.
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Transcript
Script written by Ryan Barnett.

In music where it’s all about the first impression, these benchmark hip hop efforts redefined the game for all who followed. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 rap debut albums of all time.

#10 – Run-D.M.C.: “Run-D.M.C.” (1984)


With their self-titled debut, Run-D.M.C. brought a new edge to the burgeoning hip hop genre. With its light beats and heavy rhythms, the album helped hip hop transition from the likes of Kurtis Blow to harder acts like Public Enemy. Run-D.M.C. also holds the distinction of being the first rap album in music history to go gold.

#9 – 50 Cent: “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” (2003)


Hitting number one on the Billboard 200 in its first week of release, the six-time platinum and Grammy-nominated Get Rich or Die Tryin’ showcased 50 Cent’s rapping skills on many memorable tracks. With backing from both Snoop Dogg and Eminem, production from Dr. Dre, and nine bullet wounds to cement his street cred, Fiddy’s entry into the scene also had just enough mainstream flavor to get him intense radio airplay.

#8 – Eric B. & Rakim: “Paid in Full” (1987)


This golden-era hip hop duo may not enjoy the same name recognition as others on this list, but they’ve been major influences on many of the genre’s finest. On Paid in Full, Rakim’s innovative rapping style introduced the use of internal rhyming to the genre. Meanwhile, DJ Eric B. brought sampling to new heights with “Eric B. Is President,” “Paid in Full,” and “Move the Crowd.”

#7 – Beastie Boys: “Licensed to Ill” (1986)


Beginning with their freshman effort, the Beastie Boys – with their good humor and an infectious sense of fun – stood out in a genre that was always self-serious. Sampling everyone from Black Sabbath to Kool & the Gang, the Boys also had the first rap rock album to reach the top spot on the Billboard chart with Licensed to Ill.

#6 – Jay-Z: “Reasonable Doubt” (1996)


While not the biggest performer on our list when it comes to sales, Jay-Z’s 1996 debut Reasonable Doubt was a landmark hip hop album whose influence can still be felt today. With singles like “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” Jay-Z popularized the Mafioso lifestyle in rap music and gave us some of the smoothest rhymes complemented by deep lyrics.

#5 – Snoop Dogg: “Doggystyle” (1993)


One of the first G-funk records, Snoop Dogg’s debut was instrumental in defining the West Coast hip hop sound thanks to its laidback flow and synth arrangements. After debuting at number one on Billboard, selling over 800 thousand copies in its first week and going on to become quadruple platinum, Doggystyle is still considered a vital hip hop record decades later.

#4 – Dr. Dre: “The Chronic” (1992)


This album became so essential to the gangsta rap sound that it’s hard to remember a time when Dr. Dre was just one member of N.W.A. His first solo outing may not have hit it as big as some of the subsequent work he produced for his protégés, but The Chronic was without a doubt a cornerstone of the genre thanks to slick production and funky beats.

#3 – The Notorious B.I.G.: “Ready to Die” (1994)


Biggie Smalls was little more than a kid when his first album debuted. And yet, he created one of hip hop’s great love anthems in “Big Poppa” and left an indelible print on the industry that has lasted years after his death. Following a series of mainstream successes from the West Coast, Ready to Die re-established East Coast hip hop with its smooth rhymes and honest story-telling.

#2 – Nas: “Illmatic” (1994)


Nas’ first effort might have been a commercial disappointment when initially released, but Illmatic is now recognized as one of the greatest rap albums of all time. Biggie may have re-established East Coast hip hop, but Nas redefined it with his true-to-life yet poetic lyrics, serious subject matter and street attitude.

#1 – Wu-Tang Clan: “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” (1993)


With their catchy rhythms, aggressive beats and graphic lyrics, Wu-Tang dropped onto the scene with a unique sound that was funny to kids and frightening to parents. Their debut album not only paved the way for multiple East Coast hip hoppers, including several rappers on this list, but even managed break into the mainstream by penetrating the Billboard 200’s top fifty.

Do you agree or disagree with our list? Which rap debut albums would be in your top ten? Be sure to let us know, and check us out WatchMojo.com for more great top 10s!
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