Entertainment Music The 10 Best Debut Rap Albums Share PINTEREST Email Print Music Rap & Hip Hop Basics Top Picks Rock Music Pop Music Alternative Music Classical Music Country Music Folk Music Rhythm & Blues World Music Punk Music Heavy Metal Jazz Latin Music Oldies Learn More By Henry Adaso Henry Adaso has written about hip-hop since 2005 and founded the award-winning blog The Rap Up. He has written for "Vibe," MTV, Rap Rehab, and more. our editorial process Henry Adaso Updated May 15, 2019 Hip-hop has long had a special relationship with the debut album — perhaps more so than any other genre. A debut album marks an MC's introduction to the world. It defines their legacy. And, for the most part, it goes down as their most definitive masterwork. For example, Dr. Dre had The Chronic. Nas had Illmatic. Jay Z had Reasonable Doubt. Biggie had Ready to Die. Here are the 10 greatest hip-hop debut albums of all time. 10 of 10 OutKast - Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik Year: 1994 Highlights: "Player's Ball," "Git Up, Git Out" Hip-hop's most consistent group started off on a strong note with Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. OutKast's first outing worked in part because Big Boi and Andre 3000 redefined most people's perception of southern rap. They created an experience that was far more progressive and, ultimately, familiar. They were "two dope boys in a Cadillac" with witty rhymes and funk-inspired production. 09 of 10 Kanye West - The College Dropout Year: 2004 Highlights: "Jesus Walks," "Spaceship" The path to Kanye West's debut, The College Dropout, was paved with great expectations. West shattered every barrier placed in front him, fighting his way through the fire to deliver one of the best hip-hop albums of all time. The College Dropout's mix of soul, wit, and warmth made it a favorite among hip-hop heads young and old. It was further validated by Best Rap Album Grammy. 08 of 10 A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Year: 1990 Highlights: "Bonita Applebum," "Can I Kick It?" A Tribe Called Quest's stunning debut appealed to lovers of alternative hip-hop and still resonates today. One highlight you've probably heard is "Bonita Applebum," an ode to a high school shawty which gets bonus points for its safe sex message: "I got crazy prophylactics." 07 of 10 De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising Toby Mott/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0 Year: 1989 Highlights: "Eye Know," "Potholes in My Lawn" One of the most innovative albums of their time, De La Soul's 3 Feet High & Rising pushed the boundaries of what was deemed possible in the late 80s/early 90s hip-hop. More than two decades after its release, the group's debut is still enjoyable from start to finish. Their sophomore album wasn't too shabby, either. 06 of 10 Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city Photo from Amazon Year: 2012 Highlights: "Don't Kill My Vibe," "Backseat Freestyle" There's a lot to love about Kendrick Lamar's Interscope debut. For starters, it's a remarkable rap album in every sense rap can be remarkable in this age. It's a portrait of the jungle through the eyes of a prey. And despite a Grammy snub, it was well received by fans, critics and peers. 05 of 10 Dr. Dre - The Chronic Photo from Amazon Year: 1992 Highlights: "Nuthin' But a G Thang," "Stranded on Death Row" Dr. Dre's solo debut, The Chronic, is one of the most important hip-hop albums ever. With a young and hungry Snoop Dogg playing his able wing-man, Dre captivated hip-hop with G-funk and bass-driven beats that announced the new name running the game. 04 of 10 Wu-Tang Clan - 36 Chambers Photo from Amazon Year: 1993 Highlights: "C.R.E.A.M.," "Bring da Ruckus" Wu-Tang Clan's debut, 36 Chambers, wasn't just a great collection of songs. It also introduced a number of characters that would go on to reach great heights individually. Wu's gritty sound, powered by RZA, was the perfect backdrop for their eccentric storytelling. This album is the number one reason Wu-Tang is widely considered the greatest hip-hop group of all time. 03 of 10 Jay Z - Reasonable Doubt Year: 1996 Highlights: "Can I Live," "Feelin' It" Before Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt, mafioso rap lacked nuance but not substance. Jay studied the game and perfected the template. In addition to meticulously crafted tales of materialism, he added a vulnerable side that personified less-than-usual street lords. One of the best albums hip-hop has witnessed yet. 02 of 10 Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die Year: 1993 Highlights: "Gimme the Loot," Juicy" Ready to Die is widely acknowledged as a hip-hop masterpiece. And for good reason. Biggie's first outing is a plowed furrow moisturized by visceral tales of survival. The only album released in Biggie's lifetime is compelling enough to stand up to virtually any hip-hop work of its era. Ready to Die reached gold within two months, platinum within a year. It also notched a prestigious 4.5 Mic rating in The Source, which praised Biggie's storytelling. 01 of 10 Nas - Illmatic Photo from Amazon Year: 1994 Highlights: "NY State of Mind," "One Love" Nas is young, hungry and inspired throughout his groundbreaking debut. With his borough, Queensbridge, as a constant backdrop, Nasty Nas offers vivid stories about blunt heads, fly ladies and prisoners. Equal parts bleak and hopeful; dark alleys and sun rays. In the end, Nas created a potent piece of poetry that still endures.