The Best Debut Rap Albums of the 2010s

It’s well-known that hip-hop is one of the most popular genres in music. A big part of that success has been a result of the emergence of new generations of talented rappers who’ve set the standard for what rap could be with their debut albums. If you’re a fan of rap music, it’s expected that you’ve heard of some of the best debut albums released during the last decade. 

The 2010s may not have been hip-hop’s golden age, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been iconic albums released during that ten-year span. The 2000s in general have been a great period for rap music and debut albums have been some of the best projects that have come out during that time period. The 2010s was a decade that saw rap music reach new heights and produce some truly unforgettable albums.

Some of these albums introduced the world to some of the most successful artists of all time and are now considered to be some of the best rap albums of all time. Several of these albums changed the landscape of hip-hop and cemented their respective creators as legendary artists. These albums have helped to define a generation of hip-hop and are now essential listens for just about any rap fan. They pushed the genre in new and exciting directions. 

When it comes to best debut rap albums, there are a few that stand out from the pack. In the 2010s, there were a number of fire debut rap albums. Here are some of the best debut rap albums of the 2010s.

Drake – ‘Thank Me Later’ (2010)
Republic Records

Singles: “Over,” “Find Your Love” & “Fancy” 

Drake’s debut album Thank Me Later was highly anticipated by fans and critics alike. Luckily, it did not disappoint. Drizzy proved himself to be a master of both sing-rapping and delivering bars on this album. He showcased his unique vocal style with tracks like “Over” and “Find Your Love.” He also proved himself to be a hell of a storyteller, with songs like “Fireworks” and “The Resistance” giving listeners a glimpse into his life and experiences. Thank Me Later was a defining moment in Drake’s career and solidified him as one of the biggest names in rap music.

Waka Flocka Flame – ‘Flockaveli’ (2010)
Warner Records

Singles: “O Let’s Do It,” “No Hands” featuring Roscoe Dash and Wale & “Hard in da Paint”

Flockaveli was lowkey a game-changer. It helped to cement a new wave of trap music and set the sonic foundation for drill music, which became synonymous with Chicago artists like Chief Keef. Led by the hard-hitting production of producer of the moment Lex Luger, Waka Flocka Flame’s debut is full of tracks sure to keep your head nodding. The 17-track project, which was praised by the likes of Complex, Billboard, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork features most of Waka’s best-known songs, including the Drumma Boy-produced top 10 hit “No Hands.”

Nicki Minaj – ‘Pink Friday’ (2010)
Republic Records

Singles: “Your Love,” “Moment 4 Life” featuring Drake & “Super Bass”

Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday was an instant hit. It set the stage for her to become one of the most popular and influential rappers in the world. Nicki’s lyrical skills, distinctive flow and knack for crafting catchy tunes were on full display throughout the album. The 13-track project featuring production from Swizz Beatz, T-Minus, J.R. Rotem and Bangladesh also showcased her more introspective side, which came through on songs like “Dear Old Nicki” and “Here I Am.”

J Cole – ‘Cole World: The Sideline Story’ (2011)
Roc Nation/Columbia Records

Singles: “Work Out,” “Can’t Get Enough” featuring Trey Songz & “Nobody’s Perfect” featuring Missy Elliott 

Prior to the release of his debut, who would have thought that J. Cole would go on to be one of the best rappers of all time? Cole did! With Cole World: The Sideline Story, Cole proved that he was a force to be reckoned. The Fayetteville, North Carolina native’s debut was met with critical acclaim, and helped solidify him as one of the best rappers ever. The album sheds light on the story of Cole’s life and his growing up in North Carolina. Songs like “Work Out” and “Can’t Get Enough” showed that not only did he have bars for days, but that he could also make hits. Cole World debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and featured Jay-Z, Drake and Missy Elliott.

Meek Mill – ‘Dreams & Nightmares’ (2012)
Atlantic Records

Singles: “Amen” & “Burn”

Meek Mill’s Dreams & Nightmares was one of the most highly anticipated rap albums of the early 2010s. Meek’s first official project featured collaborations with Drake, Mary J. Blige, Nas, Rick Ross, John Legend and others. It also featured one of the greatest hip-hop intro of all time, “Dreams and Nightmares.” Whether you’re a fan of Meek or not, his debut is worth a listen or two.

Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012)
Aftermath/Interscope Records

Singles: “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, “Poetic Justice” & “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.”In the early 2010s, there were a number of excellent debut albums that set the tone for the decade to come. Kendrick Lamar’s major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d city is a perfect example of this. The album which tells the story of Kendrick’s upbringing in Compton immediately established him as one of the most important voices in hip-hop. good kid, m.A.A.d city is widely considered to be one of the best rap albums of all time, let alone one of the best debut albums. Throughout the project he demonstrates his expert use of wordplay and metaphors. He also shows he can crossover with addictive singles such as “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, “Poetic Justice” and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.”

Chief Keef – ‘Finally Rich’ (2012)
Interscope Records

Singles: “I Don’t Like”, “Love Sosa” & “Hate Bein’ Sober”

Even before he dropped an album, Chief Keef was a local legend. Months after receiving a cosign and a remix from Kanye West, the teenage star-in-the-making released his debut album, Finally Rich. The forefather of Chicago’s drill music collaborated with day-ones like Lil Reese, as well as legends like 50 Cent, Rick Ross and Young Jeezy on the album that featured cult-classics like “I Don’t Like” and “Love Sosa.”

A$AP Rocky – LONG.LIVE.A$AP (2013)
Polo Grounds/RCA Records

Singles: “Goldie,” “Fuckin’ Problems,” “Wild for the Night” & “Fashion Killa”

A$AP Rocky took the hip-hop world by storm following the release of his debut single “Peso.” Over a decade later, he continues to be an influence on the culture. His debut album, LONG.LIVE.A$AP is a part of what helped him make his mark on the rap world. The album that would eventually be certified platinum housed an eclectic collection of songs and spawned the hit “Fuckin’ Problems,” which featured 2 Chainz, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Other guests on the album included Santigold, Florence Welch, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Joey Badass and others.

Pusha T – ‘My Name is My Name’ (2013)
GOOD Music/Def Jam

Singles: “Pain,” “Numbers on the Boards” & “Sweet Serenade”

Pusha T was a seasoned veteran by the time his debut album My Name is My Name hit the streets, and it showed. Released in 2013, the album was one of the best projects from a rapper that year. Featuring production from Kanye West and The Neptunes, My Name is My Name showcases Pusha T’s lyrical prowess and knack for storytelling. It was met with critical acclaim and was praised for its lyrical content and production value.

YG – ‘My Krazy Life’ (2014)
Def Jam Recordings

Singles: “My N***a” & “Who Do You Love?”

After building a buzz with a series of mixtapes, YG broke through with his debut album, My Krazy Life. According to the Def Jam rap star, the album featuring hit singles like “My N***a” and “Who Do You Love?” was like “a day in the life of YG from the morning until the night.” Superproducer DJ Mustard handled much of the well-reviewed album’s production, incorporating his signature West Coast sound. Rich Homie Quan, Drake, Ty Dolla Sign, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar were just a few of the artists that appeared on My Krazy Life.

Rae Sremmurd – ‘Sremmlife’ (2015)

Singles: “No Flex Zone”, “No Type”& “Throw Sum Mo” featuring Nicki Minaj and Young Thug

Rae Sremmurd seemingly came out of nowhere when they dropped their first single, “No Flex Zone” in 2014. By the time their debut album dropped, months later, the Mississippi-born dynamic duo individually known as Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi were household names. Executive produced by hit-maker Mike Will Made It, Sremmlife featured several top 40 hits, including “No Flex Zone”, “No Type” and the Nicki Minaj and Young Thug-assisted “Throw Sum Mo.” The group’s first album landed on several best of 2015 lists and even made it to Rolling Stone’s The 200 Greatest Hip-Hop Albums of All Time list. Sremmlife was so successful that it spawned a couple of sequels.

Travis Scott – ‘Rodeo’ (2015)
Grand Hustle Records/Epic Records

Singles: “3500” & “Antidote”

Following the release of two mixtapes (2013’s Owl Pharaoh and 2014’s Days Before The Rodeo), Travis Scott let it be known he was here to stay with his debut album, Rodeo. The 14-track project was a sign of things to come from one of popular music’s most sought after artists. Rodeo’s lead single, “Antidote,” peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not only did the album feature a smash hit, it also featured a fire rap verse from Justin Bieber.

Nipsey Hussle – ‘Victory Lap’ (2018)
Atlantic Records

Singles: “Rap N*ggas,” “Last Time That I Checc’d” & “Dedication”

It’s not a secret that some of the best debut rap albums are created by artists that have something to prove. After grinding for much of his life, delivering dope mixtapes and attention-grabbing guest appearances, Nipsey Hussle finally released his debut album in 2018. Titled Victory Lap, the Grammy-nominated album featured everything from soulful vibes to motivational anthems. Offering a more polished sound on this album than on previous releases, the late rapper delivered a project that was both fresh and familiar.

Cardi B – ‘Invasion Of Privacy’ (2018)
Atlantic Records

Singles: “Bodak Yellow,” “Bartier Cardi,” “Be Careful” & “I Like It”

Cardi B’s debut album, Invasion Of Privacy was released in 2018 to critical acclaim and commercial success. The album introduced Cardi’s in-your-face style to the masses. She tapped into her own personal experiences and observations and crafted a project that was personal and universally relatable. It was also an album to turn up to! The well-crafted songs and clever lyrics resonated with listeners, helping her debut to not only achieve mainstream success, but also make history.

Playboi Carti – ‘Die Lit’ (2018)

Singles: “Poke It Out” featuring Nicki Minaj

Golden era-loving hip-hop heads may not get it, but Playboi Carti is a hugely influential artist. A couple of years before his Whole Lotta Red album was coined one of the best rap albums in modern history, Carti further established himself as an innovator with Die Lit.


The Five Best Moments From 2022 Governors Ball

With an uptick in concerts, albeit smaller, across New York City, the 2022 Governors Ball (June 10th-12th) represented a massive step up as far as attendance and expectations go. But if you had to ask any of the thousands of attendees who were present, the 11th annual Governors Ball at Citi Field in Queens, NY not only lived up to the hype but exceeded it.

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With great weather and beautiful sunsets curating the vibes this past weekend, the 2022 Gov Ball didn’t lack in star power or quality of music. As the trio of Kid Cudi, Halsey, and J. Cole headlined each of the nights (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), attendees were first blessed to watch the day’s long performances by a who’s who of artists– Playboi Carti, Jack Harlow, Kaytranda, and Ashnikko amongst others– before or after enjoying an assortment of attractions and spaces on-site.

Even though music festivals are becoming an experience more targeted at younger fans, it still manages to unite fans of all ages and backgrounds. The sight of watching two generations of listeners rap or sing their favorite words alongside each other is a sight that can’t be lost; especially when they’re singing Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.”

Here are the five best moments from the 2022 Governors Ball Music Festival.

J. Cole, Halsey, and Kid Cudi’s superstardom is clear as day
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To some this talking point is obvious but that’s the beauty of attending performances like the Governors Ball— you’re reminded of that truth in the clearest way possible. Regardless of which stage these trio of superstars performed at (there’s a lot of space to cover in Citi Field’s parking lot, by the way), thousands of attendees sprinted their way there in order to find the best view of them.

For nearly an hour each night, J. Cole, Halsey, and Kid Cudi each effortlessly cruised through their sets; aided by a variety of their most popular songs, and new material. And if that wasn’t enough, we also watched Halsey perform a lovely rendition of “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush.

The Playboi Carti show is every bit as advertised
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The term “the ground was shaking” is often misused but in this case, it was beyond accurate. As Playboi Carti touched the stage at Citi Field, the ground was literally shaking as his rabid fanbase turned up in the night.

With the influential Atlanta, GA MC standing on top of a built-in hill and the lighting being mostly dark minus an occasional flash, his set was not only memorable but proved why he’s one of hip-hop’s most-watched performers. The energy and visual effects of Carti’s performance at Governors Ball were the talks of excited fans on the subway home.

Shaq + random kid = exciting DJing duo
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At the halfway point of Saturday’s action at Governors Ball, NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal AKA DJ Diesel, performed what some considered the best set that day. Having jumped into the world of DJing EDM, Diesel controlled the crowd with the same ease once exhibited on the basketball court. But you know it wouldn’t be a Diesel show without crowd participation.

At one point, Diesel brought a kid on stage, put him on his shoulders, and they DJed together. The Gov Ball faithful provided a loud ovation to the interaction and the fact that Diesel’s set was only getting better.

Plenty of upcoming artists shined on stage
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What makes Governors Ball a fun experience for music fans is the ability to discover more talent. This weekend, it was routine for attendees to watch new acts perform and immediately pull their phones out to download the songs they liked during their set (and trust me, it happened a lot).

As someone who is personally an avid new-music listener, I enjoyed OCTAVIO the Dweeb, Peach Tree Rascals, and Jax during their performances!

The weather and sunsets were beautiful to look at
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Seriously, it doesn’t get much better than that!


6 Things to Know About MF DOOM: A Rap Legend Shrouded in Mystery

MF DOOM is lowkey one of the most influential and well-respected figures to emerge out of hip-hop’s underground scene. A master of rhyme and disguise, his unorthodox style and flow have been unmistakable for more than two decades. The undisputed underground legend never needed mainstream success. The supervillain-themed rapper instead left his mark on hip-hop culture as he carved out his own lane with his intricate rhyme schemes, humorous lyrics and a mastery of sampling. Despite his music being described as weird and dark by some listeners, he managed to satisfy fans and critics with his hard-hitting, boom bap raps and cult classics like Operation: Doomsday and Madvillainy.

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In a 2021 interview with Inked Magazine, Playboi Carti spoke on the subtle impact of DOOM. “I don’t have to sound like MF DOOM to be inspired by him,” said the rap star who referenced DOOM on his Whole Lotta Red cut, “Stop Breathing.” “Nobody can keep a leash on him. Nobody can keep a leash on me. That’s definitely his impact. Even if I didn’t know that at first, I had to look up and think about this shit right here—it had already been done.”

Although known for his unique aesthetics and critically acclaimed albums and mixtapes, DOOM remained one of hip-hop’s most mysterious MCs over the course of his 20+ year career. Everything from his birthdate to the release date of his debut album have been up for debate. Even in his afterlife, MF DOOM managed to keep us guessing. Here are 6 things to know about MF DOOM –a well-respected rap legend shrouded in mystery.

His mask was inspired by the ‘Gladiator’ film

It’s well known that some of MF DOOM’s music was inspired by Doctor Doom, the masked comic book villain. DOOM’s mask, however, took inspiration from somewhere else. In a 2010’s interview DOOM said, “You know the movie Gladiator? Well around that time, they started selling these ‘gladiator masks’ that were replicas from the movie. So what it was is that a friend of mine told me he saw this mask that would be perfect for the DOOM character.”

He was a producer
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MF DOOM crafted sounds for himself and others, including Joey Badass and Ghostface Killah. DOOM produced four tracks on Ghostface’s critically acclaimed 2006 album Fishscale.

He had several monikers

Active on the mic since the late 1980s, the rapper born Daniel Dumile began his rap career as Zev Love X, a member of the group KMD. He would go on to drop projects under several different aliases, including MF DOOM (Operation: Doomsday, Mm..Food & Born Like This), Viktor Vaughn (Vaudeville Villain & VV:2) and King Geedorah (Take Me to Your Leader).

He has a street named after him

J. Conrad Williams Jr.

MF DOOM was further immortalized last summer when a New York street was named after him. Located in Long Beach, NY, where the enigmatic rap veteran once resided, the New York block is now known as KMD-MF DOOM Way.

He was once had a record deal with Adult Swim
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MF DOOM’s working relationship with Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim ran pretty deep. Not only did he voice characters for the network and feature his music in shows like The Boondocks, he also signed a recording contract with AS.

He was very particular about his name

MF DOOM stylized his name with all caps. ALL CAPS.


Hip-Hop Documentaries Worth Checking Out

Hip-hop is one of the most popular and respected genres of music in the world. So it’d be difficult to find someone who doesn’t know something about the musical and cultural art form. Some people have a deep knowledge of the culture as a whole. Others have a strong appreciation for the artists, their music and their style. No matter what level of hip-hop fandom you may identify with, you can further tap into hip-hop simply by checking out a documentary or two

Whether you are a diehard hip-hop head or just a casual listener, watching a documentary is a great way to learn more about the bars and the beats, the culture that surrounds the music and the artists who have helped shape the genre. Many of the top docs are informative, entertaining and inspiring all at once. These documentaries provide insight into the history and evolution of rap music, as well as its impact on pop culture as a whole. There are a lot of dope hip-hop-centric documentaries out there that offer a glimpse into the lives and come-ups of some of the biggest names in the world of rap. Here are several hip-hop docs worth checking out.

Fade to Black: Jay-Z is undisputedly hip-hop royalty. You rarely come across living artists who have left a Hov-level imprint on the business and creative worlds. His 2004 Fade to Black documentary was long sought after digitally, which led to the film being added to Tidal for streaming two years ago. People go crazy for any insight into the life and career of Jay-Z, and Fade to Black accomplishes just that. The film originated as a means to document Jay-Z’s farewell concert at Madison Square Garden, along with a peek at the process behind what was touted as his last album, The Black Album as he was ready to retire. Funny thing is, years later, this documentary serves more as a ‘Blueprint’ for artists than it does as a farewell to Hov’s music career.

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jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy: Ye’s history has long been misinterpreted and relatively unknown by many. Many people knew the highlights of his career such as  his top albums and songs, but not the obstacles the artist formerly known as Kanye West had to surmount in order to get where he is today. This recently released Netflix docuseries has shined a light on Kanye’s journey, and made Ye seem more human than he ever has. His branding has historically put him in a higher position than those around him, but Jeen-yuhs shows him at his lowest. Seeing the impact of Donda West on Kanye’s demeanor and awareness makes the title selection of his latest project make all the more sense.

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B.I.B.L.E.: Fivio Foreign has come a long way since his breakout single, “Big Drip.” He’s managed to level up on many occasions thereafter, like when Pop Smoke passed and the NY Drill scene was looking for a new leader in its infancy, or when he began working closely with Kanye West. That moment when fans first heard his verse on Kanye’s “Off The Grid” with Playboi Carti will never be forgotten. With Carti being arguably the most discussed rapper other than Kanye, the fact that Fivio was the star of the song says a lot. After getting a peek at what the next chapter of his career would sound like, Fivio’s fans were blessed with a documentary that shines a light on his bright future by exploring his past and present. Titled after his most recent album, this doc is a must-watch.

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Still Rolling Papers: Wiz Khalifa is a legend in the game. He’s always being himself, yet he finds a way to constantly evolve. Wiz’s Day Today series on YouTube proved to be a massive success, dating back to the spring of 2009. Alongside his music videos, this mini-doc series has helped score him 27 million subscribers on YouTube. Recently, Wiz linked with HipHopDX to bring a new take on documentary content: a 30-minute video that explores Wiz’s roots and the rise of his Taylor Gang crew. It’s a very thorough, yet concise film featuring Chevy Chase, Curren$y, Snoop Dogg, and other notable acts that were instrumental in Wiz Khalifa’s come-up.

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Pressure: The Off-Season: It’s hard to find a 12-minute documentary that tells a comprehensive story. J. Cole’s Applying Pressure: The Off-Season documentary somehow manages to do just that, melding conversation, storytelling, music, and visuals together in a way that’ll have you hypnotized. Over the past decade, J. Cole has transformed into one of the biggest names in hip-hop. On top of constantly bettering his sound, he’s mentored other artists who’ve gone on to accomplish major things. While his REVENGE documentary will forever be a classic, J. Cole’s Applying Pressure doc is a wildly simple, yet effective explanation of the rapper’s career and his platinum-selling Off-Season album.

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Preacherman: Three years ago, Lil Baby unveiled his Preacherman documentary, and in the time since, he’s racked up nearly seven million views on YouTube. That’s impressive for a music video, and is even more so for a documentary. Baby has had one of the most admirable come-ups in hip-hop, and has grown a brand centered around hard work and generational wealth. This QC-backed documentary runs 26 minutes long, and is a flawless presentation of Lil Baby’s story before the world knew him. From his humble beginnings to becoming a household name, Preacherman covers everything you need to really get to know Lil Baby.

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KING: Young Dolph tragically passed away last November, but his legacy lives on through his music, brand, and ever-growing fanbase. This Worldstar Hip-Hop documentary is part of the brand’s Enigma documentary series, and explores Young Dolph’s roots growing up in Memphis, Tennessee. The adversity he faced took a high level of strength to endure, and his positive reaction to these hurdles molded him into the star he became. Dolph grew to be well-known in the rap game for his impressive work ethic and business acumen, along with his trademark Memphis-derived sound. KING effectively tells the story of a hip-hop legend, which is no easy task.

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