30. Get Rich or Die Tryin’- 50 Cent (2003)
50 Cent’s classic debut album depicts the life of a gangster-like no other. The records loaded with hits, yet it offers a good amount of depth as it addresses subjects like 50 being shot nine times. Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ is the success story of one of hip hops most polarizing figures.
29. Whut? The Album- Redman (1992)
28. Will Rap for Food- Cunninlynguists (2001)
The culmination of Deacon the Villian and Kno, aka the Cunninlyguists, would forever change the underground hip hop scene. Both rappers are evidently hungry as their entire livelihood depended on the success of this release. Will Rap For Food covers an array of challenges that both artists faced coming up such as racism, doubt and hatred.
27. The Slim Shady LP- Eminem (1999)
The Slim Shady LP is the dark entrance into the mind of a troubled psychopath. Eminem uses dark humor and gory imagery to create his alter ego known as Slim Shady. Overall, the album serves as the entrance to Eminem’s life but, through the lens of his darkest thoughts.
26. Section 80- Kendrick Lamar (2011)
Section 80 was hip hops current king, Kendrick Lamar’s, welcoming statement to the game. On the album, we learn of the hardships he endured growing up in Compton, LA, and how he kept his head in check. Overall, it is a perfect starting point, preparing the world for the greatness we would witness for decades to come.
25. Doris- Earl Sweatshirt (2013)
After building a respected reputation in the early 2010s due to his work with Odd Future, Earl Sweatshirt had the entire hip hop world waiting for his debut album. Doris lived up to the hype as it served as a gateway to Earl’s unfortunate dark life. The 19-year-old rapper recites a handful of adverse events that have occurred in his life, such as his father’s absence and his mother’s tough love.
24. Bizarre Ride II- The Pharcyde (1992)
The Pharcyde would birth a new branch of hip hop with their 1992 debut album. Bizarre Ride II thrives with its humorous lyrics and trippy instrumentals, causing the listener to feel otherworldly. Each member has a unique voice, which makes each verse feel distinct; this applies especially group leader Fatlip.
23. 93 ’til Infinity- Souls Of Mischief (1993)
Four teenagers would come together as The Souls of Mischief to put Oakland, California, on the map with their debut album. 93 ’til Infinity blends the east coast boom-bap style with the laid back smoother west side feel. Overall, the project is an astounding debut loaded with bangers that are still enjoyed today.
22. Food & Liquor- Lupe Fiasco (2006)
Food & Liquor is the debut album of one of hip hop’s greatest lyricists, Lupe Fiasco. The album contains a range of stories from Lupe’s youth ranging from things as simple as his love for skating all the way too darker subjects such as oppression and racism. The project is tied together through complex wordplay and metaphors, making Lupe feel unstoppable on the microphone.
21. Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous- Big L (1995)
Big L uses his personal experiences to create a street bible on Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous. L has a firey delivery, but behind it, each line has multiple meanings as he goes on a lyrical barrage about life in Harlem, New York. The album covers many themes, such as police brutality and gang violence, which are still culturally-relevant today.
20. Man On The Moon- Kid Cudi (2009)
Man On The Moon was one of the most groundbreaking albums rap has ever seen. Kid Cudi fights his mental demons with his melodic flow and solacing voice. This classic debut is a one of a kind project which introduced hip hop into the world of Mr.Rager.
19. It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot- DMX (1998)
It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot sounds precisely how the title describes it. The album is a demonic trip into the mind of DMX and the internal and external battles he faces. DMX is a troubled individual, and his pain is reflected throughout the entire experience of the music. Not many hip hop projects have captured the man vs. world conflict as well as this gem.
18. Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik- Outkast (1994)
In a time where rap was violent and dominated by the east and west coast, a southern duo named Outkast changed everything. Andre 3000 brought lyricism and songwriting to a whole other level with his complex rhyme schemes and ahead of time wordplay. At the same time, Big Boi relied on his more aggressive delivery and hard-hitting punchlines to distinguish himself. Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik is the unforgettable debut that birthed hip hops greatest duo.
17. Lord Willin’- Clipse (2002)
Straight out of Virginia, Pusha T and his brother No Malice came together as the duo Clipse. Lord Willin, their debut album, covers their history leading up to the release which was heavily influenced by the two’s involvement in their cities’ drug trade. Mostly produced by Pharell Williams, the two rap about the work ethic and the troubles which drug dealing instilled in them.
16. Operation: Doomsday- MF DOOM (1999)
Operation: Doomsday is the introductory project into the world of one of hip hops greatest MCs, MF DOOM. Over abstract instrumentals, DOOM puts on a show for the listener as he shows off his special ability to rhyme almost any pair of words together. Based on lyricism alone, this is one of rap’s finest projects and is only bettered by the themes and content built in it.
15. Capital Punishment- Big Pun (1998)
Capital Punishment is the pinnacle of what late 90s hip hop sounded like. The boom-bap production fused with a tad bit of RnB creates a hardcore album with a sweet touch. Big Pun goes on a lyrical barrage for the entire length of the project showing, the true wordsmith he was. Unfortunately, Big Pun would never be able to top his debut as he passed away only two years later.
14. B4.DA.$$- Joey BADA$$ (2015)
After his critically acclaimed 1999 mixtape, fans were waiting for Joey Bada$$’s first studio album. After over three years of work, the resulting product was B4.DA.SS. The project is less personal and more theme-driven as it covers topics such as corruption, abuse, and greed. Joey has a one a kind performance as his passion for each subject he addresses leaves the listener questioning their own decisions.
13. 3 Feet High and Rising- De La Soul (1989)
During the emergence and popularization of gangster rap, De La Soul defied industry standards with 3 Feet High and Rising. Taking a stylistically upbeat approach caused the record to feel a lot more optimistic than their contemporaries, such as N.W.A. and Public Enemies’ work. The lyricism is silly yet addictive to listen to as members Posdnuos, Trugoy, and Maeso built on each other’s ideas with their unique styles and twists. 3 Feet High and Rising is tied together with its radical production, which implemented an array of samples from iconic artists, including James Brown and Jonny Cash. In retrospect, De La Soul’s iconic debut contained the positivity hip hop craved at the time.
12. Below the Heavens- Blu & Exile (2007)
California rapper Blu and producer Exile’s debut album, Below The Heavens, is extraordinary as it is an emotional and mental trip to digest. Exile’s production is grand and immersive and sets the tone on each song. Some tracks are as simple as a pure boom-bap drum and a soul sample, while others are crafted with multiple layers and beat switches. To complete the entire album, Blu uses unique words and advanced rhyme schemes to show off the true wordsmith he is. On top of his fantastic writing, everything he says has meaning, which leaves the listener walking away pensively from each line. Overall, Blu & Exile’s debut formed one of hip hop’s most underrated pairs and best albums.
11. Rodeo- Travis Scott (2015)
After his 2014 Days Before Rodeo mixtape, fans knew Travis Scott had something grand in store for his debut LP. In 2015 he would ultimately release Rodeo, which would become the most revolutionary and groundbreaking trap album to date. The entire record feels like a movie due to its constant instrumental build-ups, which have a beginning, climax, and finale. Most of the lyricism revolves around Travis’s early life, which is dense at times, but his constant switch up in flow, pitch, and style keeps the listener alert. All that being stated, Rodeo isn’t just one of the best debut albums of all time, it’s considered the best trap album ever by many.
10. Ironman- Ghostface Killah (1996)
After his standout performances on Enter The 36 Chambers and Only Built 4 Cuban Lynx, the entire hip hop world was waiting for Ghostface Killah’s solo debut. In 1996, Ironman finally released, and fans were delighted to see the Wu-Tang dominance continue. Clan leader, RZA, predominantly handles the instrumentals, making them nothing less than exceptional. To match its masterfully arranged production, Ghostface brings his a-game as he covers a plethora of matters going from his drug-dealing past to his emotional attachment for his mother. Looking back on it almost 25 years after release, Ironman is the most honest depiction of Ghostface’s life, telling an array of stories from birth to stardom.
9. Enter The 36 Chambers- Wu-Tang Clan (1993)
In 1993, RZA got together the most talented MC’s he knew to form the Wu-Tang Clan. With a star-studded cast including; Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Method Man, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and a few others, their debut album Enter The 36 Chambers has been considered one of the best albums ever for almost three decades. With a heavy influence from kung fu movies, the clan channels that energy in their rhymes as each member is fierce, proficient and brings something innovative to the table. Rapping about the past, present, or merely boasting of how talented they are, 36 Chambers gives no room to breathe as each artist constantly is bombarding the microphone lyrically. Aside from being nearly flawless, the debut is praised for putting together the most excellent collective hip hop has ever seen.
8. Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star- Black Star (1998)
After the tragic murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, hip hop was left in shambles as their most prominent figures were taken away from them due to an overabundance of violence. Amid the confusion, two New York-born hip-hop artists known as Mos Def and Talib Kweli decided to come together under the name Black Star. In an attempt to clean up the industry’s pollution, Mos and Talib trade verses reminiscing on hip-hop’s recent failures, even going deeper as both refer to various historical struggles that have oppressed the pair throughout their entire lives. Along with addressing social issues, both artists give their two sense of corrupt business practices, especially in the music industry. Looking at its impact, Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star helped put the conscious back in hip hop after its most devastating events.
7. The College Dropout- Kanye West (2004)
After years of being stuck behind Jay-Z’s spotlight, Kanye West finally got his chance to shine on The College Dropout. The album distinguishes itself from other records at the time with Kanye’s unique style. Ye talks about his family, religion, overcoming his doubters, and a handful of socially aware topics instead of promoting violence and drugs. College Dropout reaches new heights with its one a kind production, which prominently implants his signature sped-up soul sample beats. The start point for Kanye West as a rapper is one of hip hops most unique and influential projects ever.
6. Ready to Die- The Notorious B.I.G. (1994)
Ready To Die is the start and peak of the legendary Biggie Smalls. The Notorious B.I.G. tells the tale of his rags to riches story and the pain that accompanies it. Biggie is saddened even brought to the brink of suicide due to the trauma he’s faced coming up. With all that on his mind, Smalls still shows off his gangster side warning the listener not to mess with him or his crew. In summary, Ready To Die is the phenomenal start to a career that was sadly left unfinished.
5. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx- Raekwon (1995)
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is the pinnacle of braggadocios mafioso rap. Raekwon devastates the microphone with his lyrics doused with references to famous crime bosses and street related slang. On top of his profound wordplay, Rae also raps about the detriments which come with being a high profile gangster-like he is. Additional contributions to the include executive production from RZA and, most importantly, an array of features from the one and only Ghostface Killah. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was a significant step for Gangster Rap, Wu-Tang, Raekwon, and a few others.
4. Funcrusher Plus- Company Flow (1997)
In 1997, Big Jus, Mr. Len, and El-P came together as Company Flow and independently released their debut album Funcrusher Plus. The album was remarkably ahead of its time with its spacey production mostly done by current Run The Jewels frontman El-P. Each member plays their part well, especially, El Producto, who derives his anger into his words to create powerful verses over his masterful production. The core of Funcrusher Plus revolves around feeling like an underdog. Whether its due to your abstract sound, different appearance, childhood trauma, or something else the universe which Company Flow created is a world, any outsider can feel welcome in.
3.The Money Store- Death Grips (2012)
The culmination of production masterminds Andy Morin and Zach Hill with vocalist Mc Ride, resulted in a trio known as Death Grips. The group’s debut LP, The Money Store, quickly became one of the most unique projects seen in years due to its blend of unorthodox genres with traditional hip hop. The Money Store is loud, obnoxious, in your face, and ever-changing, continually causing the listener to be enwrapped in the music at all times. Mc Ride’s lyricism is just as sharp as the production as he covers various topics such as police brutality and addiction. As a whole, The Money Store is another example of how far the boundaries of hip hop can be pushed.
2. Reasonable Doubt- Jay-Z (1996)
In 1996 Jay-Z entered hip hop stardom with his debut LP Reasonable Doubt. The album displays Jay’s hunger on full throttle as he is trying to get him and his family out of Brooklyn’s deadly Marcy projects. Jay applies his hustling attitude to the microphone causing him to recite some of his best verses ever. Hov takes gangster rap to a whole other level as he brags about his tenured resume of selling drugs on the streets. Reasonable Doubt is more than your typical gangster rap album; it’s the story of a man fighting for his future and life.
1. Illmatic- Nas (1994)
Even 30 years after its release, Illmatic is considered the best rap album of all time by many people for great reasoning. The album cohesively depicts Nas’s life growing up in the dangerous Queensbridge projects. An array of stories are told covering topics such as gang violence, self-worth, and depression. With a diverse number of stories, Nas raps from the eyes of a gangster, philosopher, child, along with a few other personas, which adds an intriguing dynamic to the album. As a whole, Illmatic is Nas’s full autobiography, which tells a musician’s rag to riches story better than any other.