Complex Presents: The 50 Best Debut Albums In Rap History
Tuesday November 27th 2012,
Filed under: Albums,Listicles,Web Work
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Complex Presents: 50 Best Debut Albums In Rap History

Here are the direct links to the blurbs I penned for all you time-poor types:

Smif N Wessun – Dah Shinin’

Capone N Noreaga – The War Report

Brand Nubian – One For All

Jungle Brothers – Straight Out The Jungle

Ultramagnetic MC’s – Critical Beatdown

The Beatnuts – Street Level

Main Source – Breaking Atoms

Black Sheep – A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill

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28 Comments so far
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Gawd! Another useless list! What THE FUXX!! AAARRRHHHhhh!!

Comment by Fosterakahunter 11.28.12 @

Good picks1

Comment by bloody bastard 11.28.12 @

Was Tical in there?

Comment by PetePablo 11.29.12 @

@petepablo- no it isn’t. it’s also missing organized konfusion and black moon’s debuts.

Comment by 4:20 11.29.12 @

As half assed as some of those lists are, one good thing about them is that they expose the young’uns to all the treats they missed out on. The more inquisitive (and fed up) ones will investigate further.

How about the greatest sophomore albums of all time?

Comment by oskamadison 11.29.12 @

@oskamadison – that’s a good idea

Comment by BIGSPICE 11.29.12 @

When I first saw this title I laughed and wondered how many groups have even got a big enough catalogue to qualify for having a great debut.
You can’t win making any kind of “best of” list – the people who know what’s on the list will just disagree with the ranking or what is/isn’t on there.
Pretty pointless even bothering to agree or disagree. Agree with oskamadison that it’s use is helping people find good music, not changing people’s opinions.

Comment by djbosscrewwrecka 11.29.12 @

Dumb article and concept and motherfuck Complex’s bullshit one-item-at-a-time click click click nonsense…

Knuckleheads would be better off, as Oskah suggests, coming up with a 50 best SOPHOMORE albums… PE and Mobb Deep come first to mind where a follow-up blows the debut away; Gang Starr also.

Comment by Mad Dog Sydney 11.30.12 @

What the hell? Let’s go in…

PE-Nation Of Millions
Eric B & Rakim-Follow Thw Leader
Beastie Boys-Paul’s Boutique
De La Soul-De La Soul Is Dead
The Fugees-The Score
Nas-It Was Written (yeah, I said it…)
Ghostface-Supreme Clientele (a monster)
OC-Jewelz (real heads know…)
Mobb Deep-The Infamous (Mad Dog, the only people who even know “Juvenile Hell” even exist are probably the ones who frequent this site…)

Add on…

Comment by oskamadison 11.30.12 @

Hold up, forgot a monster: GZA’s Liquid Swords…

Comment by oskamadison 11.30.12 @

Jeru’s Wrath of the Math was a dope follow-up.
Casual’s Fear Itself was a dope debut.

Comment by esto 11.30.12 @

NINE Cloud Nine
CELLA DWELLAS Last Shall Be First

Comment by DaGrimeyWay 11.30.12 @


Comment by RakeyBBB 11.30.12 @

Common – Resurrection
Tribe – Low End Theory

Comment by BIGSPICE 11.30.12 @

For the most part, there’s a lot of good shit on the list, but what kinda fuckin fgts include GARBAGE from rap clowns like Young Jeezy and Missy Elliot??? And how the fuck are either of them even considered Hiphop??? Also, can someone please explain to me how the fuck 50 Cent made the Top 10??? I could maybe understand him bein in the Top 50 (not really), but Top 10? Fuckouttahere!! Thank god they got #1 right.

Comment by Wicked 12.01.12 @

Also, say whatever you want about Eminem’s INFINITE album from ’96 and how it was only available locally in Michigan, but the fact still remains that it’s his debut album! You don’t get to choose what you’re fuckin debut is… your debut is the first album you put out and INFINITE is Eminem’s first album, NOT The Slim Shady LP. *shaking head*

Comment by Wicked 12.01.12 @


Good call!! How I forgot those 2??!!

Comment by oskamadison 12.01.12 @

@ Oska

For the soph list, are you saying the soph album has to better than the frosh effort, or are we just talking dope ass second albums?

I assume it’s the latter because of your inclusion of It Was Written; I agree it’s a much better album than a lot of people give it credit for being, but it can’t be better than Illmatic?

Just want to clarify before I nominate.


Agreed, and Infinite is damn fucking good in its own right!

Also, I don’t I assume they counted Get Rich… for 50, right? (No way I’m clicking 50 times with Complex’s asinine format), but did “Power of the Dollar” actually get a release, because that shit was fucking dope! Pretty much the only thing dude ever did that I didn’t hate.

Comment by digglahhh 12.01.12 @

What up digg!!

Just simply dope second albums regardless of how dope the debut was. As far as IWW goes…I’m goin’ into unpopular territory but (deep breath) from beginnig to end IWW I think is a more complete album than Illmatic.

Comment by oskamadison 12.01.12 @

IWW has too much “filler” IMO. Of course, “filler” can be a relative term, as tracks like “Shootouts” would be standouts on lots of even above average rappers’ albums.

I’d be interested to hear more of what you mean by complete, in this sense. I probably won’t agree, but I’m always willing to listen to well-informed opinions of others on here.

To add to the soph list –

Immortal Technique – Revolutionary Vol. 2
BDP – By All Means Necessary
KGR: Wanted: Dead of Alive
2Pac – Strictly for my NIGGAZ (?)
BDK – It’s a Big Daddy Thing
Cormega – The Realness
Jay-Z In my Lifetime Vol. 1 (yeah, I said it!)
Das EFX – Straight up Sewaside
The Liks – Coast to Coast
Naughty by Nature – Self Titled (if you count The New Style, Independent Leaders album as their frosh joint)
Outkast – Atliens
I’m sure a lot of people would nominate Dare Iz a Darkside, though I don’t love that album as much as many do.
And, does Wu Tang forever count?

Comment by digglahhh 12.02.12 @

Oh, BTW, how rude of me… Waddup, right back you, Oska!

Comment by digglahhh 12.02.12 @

Additional nominations from my homie, Shoe Daddy Kane–

Funkdoobeist – Brothers Doobie
Cypress – Black Sunday
KMD – Black Bastards
Prince Paul – Prince Among Thieves
Show & AG – Goodfellas
Lord Finesse – REtrun of the Funkyman

Comment by digglahhh 12.02.12 @


When Illmatic dropped, it had me in a headlock for pretty much all of ’94. It just had this ill aura about it like “this ain’t no radio/MTV shit, this is strictly for the true heads. Don’t like it? Fuck ya…” As I came across a lot of those pre-Illmatic demos, I saw that he was recycling a lot of old joints, but I didn’t really mind. I loved It Was Written just as much when it dropped too, “If I Ruled The World” and all. I just felt IWW was more well rounded, thought out and executed better. People gave the Trackmasters a lot of grief (mainly all the undergrounds heads who looked at the Trackmasters and cats like them as “the enemy”, not realizing that they actually were underground cats who figured out how to make accesible records) but they actually gave Nas their harder joints. Shootouts was actually kinda ill to me (especeially when you realize they flipped the same Al Green sample Mobb Deep used for “Eye for An Eye” and no one noticed.) My least favorite joint on IWW was “The Set up” and I’d even let that rock. Illmatic, for all its brilliance, when I listen to it now, sounds like just a collection of songs, almost like a demo. The ironic thing is Illmatic is still in my top 5, IWW, top 10. Go figure…

Comment by oskamadison 12.02.12 @

BTW, Digg, Good call on BDP and BDK. Black Sunday? That’s when Cypress Hill’s decline started. The first joint was funkier. And how could I forget my dude Red? Which reminds me…

Robbie, find Red’s “White People Are Rioting” freestyle and post that bitch ASAP!!!!!! Straight gonnorhea…

Comment by oskamadison 12.02.12 @

One more thing: Hell yeah, Wu-Tang Forever counts. Even the filler on there was ill (tell me I’m the only one who liked “Black Shampoo”, lol…) Good call on G Rap too. Here’s one: Pete Rock and CL Smooth-The Main Ingredient. And does Extra P’s “First Class” count as a sophomore joint since “The LP” didn’t see an official release ntill 2009?

Comment by oskamadison 12.02.12 @


Re: the Black Sunday call – I was chilling with my boy on Sunday, watching football and drinking beers and shit and I brought up this conversation, so he wanted me to throw some additional nominations out there that he thought of. So, those weren’t necessarily my picks.

On Illmatic/IWW, I hear what you were saying. Nas sort of established his mainstream identity on that album that would define him in the more casual rap listener’s mind for years to come on that album, if that makes any sense. Like, hardcore rap fans thought that “Nasty Nas” was the essence of Nas, but the more mainstream Hot 97 listener defined him more by the “Nas Escobar” style. People always try to compare Reasonable Doubt and Illmatic, but I think that’s an apples to oranges comparison, it’s Reasonable Doubt and IWW that were really more similar albums, and worked largely for the same reasons and succeeded by doing the same type of thing for the artist. They also track better as contemporary works.

All in all though, I just think there are too many forgettable tracks on side 2 of IWW. (ha, side 2 – what a quaint notion that is nowadays!)

Suspect, Shootouts, the Set Up… they all kind of mesh into one mush of Nas thug-crime boss hybrid rap that didn’t work so well more often than it did.

Two other quick points. One, I do think that the sort of Illmatic to It Was Written transitional period was when Nas was at his best as an emcee. You still had the young wizard story teller, couple with the birth of the Esco phase, when that whole steez was still somewhat novel. And, all kinds of joints he did in that general time frame are bananas. The Foulness freestyle series. The True Dialect verse. Street Dream Remix. The Verbal Intercourse verse (though that was actually an older verse), etc. A lot of the stuff from that period in his career make the short list of my favorites across the whole Nas catalog.

Two, Nas should really just drop an album where he rhymes exclusively over break beats. IMO, that is when he is at his best and the purity of his talent as an emcee shines most undeniably.

Comment by digglahhh 12.04.12 @

“Two, Nas should really just drop an album where he rhymes exclusively over break beats. IMO, that is when he is at his best and the purity of his talent as an emcee shines most undeniably.”


You know, that’s the best idea I’ve heard in years. Imagine if Nas did an album where they cleared all of the samples to classic breaks. like The Foulness Freestyle for 80 minutes.

Comment by 5 Grand 12.04.12 @

@ digglahhh

Didn’t mean to leave you hangin’. Last week was hectic. Great points about that period between Illmatic and IWW. A couple of other joints from that period is “Understanding”, which I always thought was a pre-Illmatic joint but was actually recorded after and Mobb Deep’s “Eye For An Eye”, where “Escobar” made his debut. That break beat album would be an ill idea, especially if he got Marley Marl to give it that ’86-’88 QB grime. Let Marley chop up “Impeach The President” and “Funky Drummer” about 4 or 5 times apiece and let Nas go in.

Comment by oskamadison 12.10.12 @

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