Introduction: 21st Century Hip-Hop/Rap so far may not be as phenomenal as 20th Century Hip-Hop/Rap but nonetheless there has been an abundance of quality rap albums released this century. This century has seen the rise of Blu & Exile, Nujabes, Lupe Fiasco, Kendrick Lamar and many others who have dropped their debut albums within this century that have consequentially stood the test of time to be labelled as standalone classics. This list looks at the Top 10 Debut hip-hop /rap albums that stood out from other debuts.
Nujabes – Metaphorical music
Album: Metaphorical Music
Release Date: 21 August 2003
No one has been able to bring us more joy in rap music than Nujabes. The Tokyo, Japan born native’s debut album was a triumphant tribute to Jazz and 90s hip hop. The all time great hip-hop producer conjured up dream like moody beats throughout the whole album that connected to the listener like no other. Its not strictly a rap album since instrumental beats are almost equal to the number of rap driven tracks on the album. Every track on this album is in its own self contained world with different moods, themes, and lyrics. Although Asian, his contribution to hip hop music within this century must not be overlooked. He may have lived a short life but his music lives on. Rest in beats Nujabes.
Best tracks: Blessing it (Remix), Lady Brown, Letter From Yokosuka, A Day by Atmosphere Supreme and Latitude (Remix).
Lady Brown featuring Cise Star
She’s angelic and energetic, using sex as a weapon
I reckon that I’m confessing her body is just a blessing
From God down to Earth—she needs to be in a church
To prove we didn’t spawn from fish, but God’s work
Hurts to see her clothed ‘cause her body beholds
Secrets untold, valued like platinum and gold
For she is the key to open my mind to see
The energy that radiates from the gates of heavenly
Bliss. I reminisce over touch and a kiss
Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
Artist: Shabazz Palaces
Album: Black Up
Release Date: 28 June 2011
Hip-hops underrated rap group continues to drop great project after great project. Simply put Black Up is a fucking weird and otherworldly listen. its a bleak, dark, depressing and alien sounding that it would fit in perfectly as the soundtrack to the xfiles TV Series. The most experimental rap album since Madvillain’s Madvillainy, Black Up is some of the most anti-mainstream rap albums you’ll probably ever hear. Mind bending, gut-wrenching abstract lyrics and alien like sounding deep dub beats make up the greatness of this roller-coast of an album.
Best Tracks: “Free Press and Curl, Youlogy, Recollections of the Wraith and Yeah You.
Recollections of the Wraith
Starlight, advance on your mind
Anticipation, excitements to climb
Information, choices and sensation
New rules you can play with, blues: you can shake them
No ironies arise
No predictable surprise, no sarcastic satires
Just ancient patient beings seeing it to it, you’ll get high
New off the space ship, dipped in punctuation
Oh, what’s cracking, get your crew up with your do-up
It’s certain to be workin’ when you flirting with it to us
50 Cent – Get Rich or Die Tryin
Artist: 50 Cent
Album: Get Rich Or Die Tryin
Release Date: February 6 2003
50 Cent hasn’t exactly got the best rap career. Today’s 50 Cent is washed up and parades around as a parody or some sort, Kanye West embarrassed him almost 10 years ago in 2007 When Graduation pipped Curtis to the best first week sales. Furthermore, in the words of Biggie, 50 Cents reign at the top “was shorter than leprechauns”. 50 Cent realistically only stayed at the top of the rap game from 2003 – 2005, however despite his recent embarrassments 50’s debut album simply cannot be ignored. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is a timeless album. Hits such as In Da Club, Many Men (Wish Death), Wanksta, If I Can’t, 21 Questions, P.I.M.P and many more simply defined the 2000-2009 decade. Certified Diamond in 2013, you’ll never hear a rap album with as much hits as GRODT. Classic.
Best tracks: Many Men (Wish Death), If I Cant, P.I.M.P., 21 Questions, In Da Club and High All The Time.
If I fell off tomorrow, would you still love me?
If I didn’t smell so good, would you still hug me?
If I got locked up and sentenced to a quarter century
Could I count on you to be there to support me mentally?
If I went back to a hoopty from a Benz
Would you poof and disappear like some of my friends?
If I was hit and I was hurt, would you be by my side?
If it was time to put in work, would you be down to ride?
I get out and peel a nigga cap, chill and drive
I’m askin’ questions to find out how you feel inside
The Game – The Documentary
Artist: The Game
Album: The Documentary
Release Date: January 18 2005
Aftermath/Interscope really do have a knack to finding talent. First came Eminem, then 50 Cent came through and before the torch was passed to modern great Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, The Game was next in line. Straight from the motherfucking West Coast backed by Jimmy Iovine, 50 Cent, Eminem and Dr Dre, Game’s debut was simply exquisite. 50 stans and Game stans always go head to head to argue who had the better debut album, but Game’s debut comfortably wins here. Considered to be a classic album by many, it is said that The Documentary is solely responsible for reviving the West Coast Hip-Hop Scene. Who could forget the menacing pianos on Westside Story, the braggadocio track that is How We Do or the wonderfully produced and sampled soul track track Dreams? To be fair an album with production from Dr Dre, Kanye West, Havoc, Just Braze, Scott Scorch in his prime, Timbaland and many more mixed with Game’s cutthroat and brash lyricism was always going to be monumental.
Key tracks: Westside Story, Dreams, Hate It of Love It, How We Do and Put You On Game.
I had dreams of fuckin’ a R&B bitch like Mya
When I saw that ass on the front of that King
Read the article in the magazine, she loved gangsters, loved nasty things
So I’m in the glass house having nasty dreams
Good girls never give it up
But anything is possible, if 50 fucked Vivica
Hurdled life’s obstacles, found my way through the maze
Then joy turned to pain like Frankie Beverly and Maze
Used to dream of being Unsigned Hype
’til I was crushed by Dave Mays, almost let my pen fall asleep on the page
Daydreamin’ yesterday, dozin’ off backstage
I thought I saw Eazy talking to Jam Master Jay
Cannibal Ox – The Cold Vein
Artist: Cannibal Ox
Album: The Cold Vein
Release Date: May 15 2001
One of the most unique rap record of all time. The only rap album I can honestly say reminds of PlayStation game play music. Its not a coincidence that whenever I’m on my PS3 this album is playing in the background. I would have probably have never defeated the final boss on Infamous if not for this album playing as my soundtrack. Clever and smooth wordplay, charismatic delivery, incredible metaphors, and blistering production. This is independent hip hop at its peak and as good as they come. Simply monumental.
Best tracks: Iron Galaxy, Atom, Raspberry Fields and Stress Rap.
(And if there’s crack in a basement)
Crack heads stand adjacent
Anger displacement from food stamp arrangements
You were a still born baby, mother didn’t want you
But you were still born
Boy meets world, of course his pops is gone, what you figure
That chalky outline on the ground is a father figure?
So he steps to the next stencil, that’s a hustler
Infested with money and diamond cluster
Lets talk in laymen terms
Rotten apples and big worms, early birds and poachers
New York is evil at its core, so those who have more than them
BLU & Exile – Below The Heavens
Artist: Blu & Exile
Album: Below The Heavens
Release Date: July 17 2007
In 2004, Kanye’s landmark album The College Dropout shocked the rap world with its excellent use of soul samples. Three years later, Below The Heavens took that even further to define the year of 2007. Below The Heavens was an instant classic shortly after its release and is one of the most relatable rap albums you’ll possibly ever hear. At the tender age of 22 Blu raps about his lack of money, his father cheating in the next room, work, his grandmother, losing his virginity alongside his slight social anxiety and his drug intake, his women troubles and his devotion to making music. lyrically on point with the production sounding simply flamboyant and very pleasing to the ears.
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid M.A.A.D. City
Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Album: Good Kid M.A.A.D. City
Release Date: October 22 2012
Kendrick Lamar’s autobiography take on growing up in Comption, California is the West Coast version of Nas’s Illmatic. Impeccable storytelling, well written and thought out hooks, atmospheric beats and introspective production places GKMC as one of the best debut records not just in rap but across all genres. The album addresses issues such as racism, police brutally, religious faith, economic disenfranchisement, gang violence and dysfunctional women. He’s gone through all that and it simply makes you wonder, how did Kendrick from a mad city turn out to be a good kid eventually? Well go ahead and listen to the album to find out.
Key tracks: Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter, The Art of Peer Pressure, Money Trees, Good Kid, Sing About Me, Im Dying of Thirst.
Sing About Me, Im Dying of Thirst
You wrote a song about my sister on your tape
And called it Section.80, the message resembled “Brenda’s Got a Baby”
What’s crazy was, I was hearing about it
But doubted your ignorance how could you ever just put her on blast and shit
Judging her past and shit, well, it’s completely my future
Her nigga behind me right now asking for ass and shit
And I’mma need that forty dollars even if I gotta
Fuck, suck and swallow in the parking lot
Gonzales Park, I’m followed by a married man, a father of three
My titties bounce on the cadence of his tinkling keys
Matter of fact, he my favorite ’cause he tip me with E’s
He got a cousin named David and I seen him last week
Lupe Fiasco – food and Liquor
Artist: Lupe Fiasco
Album: Food & Liquor
Release Date: September 19 2006
Like many I first got my taste of Lupe Fiasco when he was featured on Kanye West’s Touch The Sky track. Lupe’s flow, clever wordplay and reference to an anime classic series Lupin the 3rd sold me on him, but I never would have thought his debut album would have been this incredible. Food & Liquor set the bar so high for Lupe that over a decade later he hasn’t managed to top it, even The Cool falls short. This album is a roller coaster that deals with a wide variety of subjects, such as Lupe’s love for skateboarding, religion, poverty, racism, gun culture and many more. who can forget the centrepiece of the album, “The Cool” that lays the groundwork for his successive album also named The Cool.
Key Tracks: Kick Push, The Instrumental, Sunshine, Daydreamin, The Cool and Hurt Me Soul.
A long look
Wasn’t shook, wasn’t ashamed
Matter of fact, only thing on his brain was brains
Yeah, and gettin’ back in his lane
Doin’ his thang
First he had to find something to slang
Next stop was his block
It had the same cops
Walked right past the same spot
Where he was shot
That some lil’ niggas tried to sell him rocks
It just felt weird, being on the opposite
Madvillain – Madvillainy
Release Date: March 23 2004
Its seems that whenever artists and producers leave their home country for another, classics or masterpieces are produced. Kanye West in 2009 left for Hawaii and almost a year later dropped his masterpiece My beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kendrick Lamar visited South Africa, gained some inspiration, scrapped what he was already working on and dropped one of the greatest albums ever To Pimp a Butterfly. Madlib and Doom flew to Brazil to craft the early demo of Madvillainy in 2002 and two years later dropped the album that gives illmatic and Liquid Swords a run for their money. Madvillainy is a fucking trip, I seriously would not recommend listening to this album while on acid because you may go insane. One of the rawest hip hop albums ever, its essentially quality fast food rap as all tracks are less than 3 minutes apart from two. You have Madlib’s production which is quirky, outlandish, simply genius, experimental, thrilling, cartoonish, odd, playful, edgy and alien like, while you have DOOM’s lyricism which is dynamic, intrinsic and meticulous. Put both together and you’ll experience something that could make you doubt your very existence. Absolute classic.
Kanye West – The College Dropout
Artist: Kanye West
Album: The College Dropout
Release Date: February 10 2004
The College Dropout? More like The College Classic. No album deserves this number one spot more than The College Dropout. Madvilliany may be the better album, but the impact and influence of TCD far outweighs Madvillainy and any other album on this incredible list. Where would Chance The Rapper, Drake, Lupe Fiasco and J Cole be without this album.? TCD was the album that put an end to gangster rap and allowed for backpack weirdo rappers to infiltrate the mainstream. Kanye West has never been so confident on a record, backed by his own crazy, soulful and varied production, Mr West’s lyricism shines and makes the most impact. He didn’t have to adopt the fake gangster thug persona, all he had to do was be himself and a classic was formulated in the year 2004.
Best tracks: All Falls Down, Spaceship, Never Let Me Down, Slow Jamz, Through The Wire, Family Business and Last Call.
Never Let Me Down
Racism’s still alive, they just be concealin’ it
But I know they don’t want me in the damn club
They even made me show ID to get inside of Sam’s Club
I done did dirt and went to church to get my hands scrubbed
Swear I’ve been baptized ‘least three or four times
But in the land where niggas praise Yukons and getting paid
It’s gonna take a lot more than coupons to get us saved
Like it take a lot more than doo rags to get you waves
Nothing sad as that day my girl’s father passed away
So I promised to Mr. Rainey I’m gonna marry your daughter
And you know I gotta thank you for the way that she was brought up