Top Ten Debut Albums of the Last Five Years (2006-2011)

Posted: October 6, 2011 in Countdowns, The Articles

Before I begin this list I would like to clarify what defines a debut album to me. The debut must be available for purchase on itunes or any other music distributor and it must be the artists first time releasing an album on a label. In other words, artists who were part of a collective or group such as Phonte, Evidence, and Big Boi, who all dropped terrific solo debuts, will not be included on this list. Also, free albums such as Big Krit’s Return of 4eva will not be included because it was first released for free. Enjoy…


Co$$ Before I Awoke (2011)

Wale Attention Deficit (2009)

10. Kid Cudi Man on the Moon: The End of Day (2009)

The immense mind of Scott Mescudi is one cluttered with depression, hope, and terrific music as displayed in his 2009 debut. The album was recorded during the height of Cudi’s drug use and that struggle is displayed in many of the songs. Cudi has the ability to create the perfect mood for every song. Though his lyrics are not spectacular they allow the listener to relate and sympathize with his struggle. Cudi’s melodic voice helps carry the album through even its weakest points. The album was a success among critics and listeners alike, elevating Kid Cudi into super-stardom.

9. Skyzoo The Salvation (2009)

The Brooklyn MC’s debut was a much-needed return to the foundation of east coast rap. The album features raw production from the likes of 9th Wonder, Illmind, Just Blaze, and Nottz. Skyzoo’s lyricism is vicious and introspective throughout the album. The one possible downside to this album is how criminally slept on it is. Skyzoo deserves recognition, get this album if you don’t already!

8. Earl Sweatshirt EARL (2010)

Where to start with this one….. Earl is one fucked up 17-year-old. At the time of the recording Thebe Kgositsile was 16 and rapping way ahead of his age. By that I mean subject matter of murder, rape, and drugs seems a  little mature for a pubescent kid. His unorthodox style is some strange mix of MF Doom and Wu-Tang. But for all his murderous lyrics the album is equally balanced with incredible stream of consciousness rhymes and relatable teenage stories of life and love (see Luper). This incredible mix leads to an unprecedented and completely original album. Earl seems to reach the violent, rage-filled subconscious we love to hide. Luckily, this album has pretty much remained hidden from those “new” OFWGKTA fans. Earl is the best member of Odd Future and after listening to this album you will be anxious for his future work. Oh yeah, one last thing. FREE EARL!!!!!!

7. Has-Lo In Case I Don’t Make It (2011)

An album as brilliant as it is criminally slept on. Has-Lo proved to be an underground phenom with the release of his great debut this year. With subject matter ranging from women, to government conspiracy, to the downfall of the rap game and a cold flow laced with poetic lyrics Has-Lo brings the full package to this release. Cop this album if you have yet to. You will not be disappointed.

6. Elzhi The Preface (2008)

Many listeners are just now catching up with the lyrical virtuoso that is Elzhi. Most recently, he reworked Hip Hop’s nonpareil Illmatic into his amazing mixtape ELmatic. However, overlooked still is his 2008 debut. The album is equally astonishing behind both the mic and the boards, as fellow Detroit native Black Milk handled the majority of the hard-hitting beats. Elzhi reminisces, educates, and simply amazes throughout the album.

5. Kendrick Lamar Section.80 (2011)

Kendrick Lamar is a conceptual genius and in is 2011 debut his brilliance shines immensely bright. Kendrick chronicles the struggles of the young adults and adolescence of America. Throughout the album Lamar seems to have complete control over everything he utters and tempts the listener to look around and see what he sees. His lyrics and flow are ridiculous and the production fits every track perfectly. His concept of Hii Power, though very mysterious and hard to recognize at first, is ultimately what completely bonds the album.

4. J. Cole Cole World: The Sideline Story (2011)

In an era where mainstream rap is horribly trite and predictable, and subject matter is restricted to weed, cash, and women, there is finally a savior. J. Cole’s highly anticipated  debut album surprised many by selling over 200k and shooting to first on the billboard. Because of the financial success of the album real rap enthusiasts finally have a weapon in the mainstream. The album itself is simply terrific. Having already dropped three classic mixtapes, fans of Cole and hip hop alike set unreachable expectations for this album. Although it is not the instant classic that many have lauded it as, it is still a fierce work of artistry. The production throughout the project, which Cole handled 95% himself, is impressive and diverse. His lyrics are ferocious at times while also being heart-wrenching at other points during the listening experience. J. Cole has brought the true message of the Hip Hop culture back to the mainstream and I believe in a few years listeners will look back at this album as a monumental moment for modern, new-age Hip Hop.

3. Fashawn Boy Meets World (2009)

Fashawn’s Boy Meets World is an album far too many listeners are unfamiliar with. The project is one of the truest chronicles of a young man attempting to define and reach his dreams in an unforgiving, damning, ironic world. Fashawn’s relatable tales bring out several emotions in the listener, spanning from sadness, laughter, hope, and faith. Exile handles the production on the entire album and every beat laces the imaginative lyrics to perfection. The future looks infinitely bright for the young MC out of Fresno, CA.

2. Lupe Fiasco Food & Liquor (2007)

In 2007 the world was introduced to the Hip Hop oracle that is Lupe Fiasco. His debut album is the definition of original and unprecedented. It is a work of genius where almost every song is some sort of metaphor all working under the authority of an even larger allegory, confusing huh? Fiasco comes with concepts on the project that marvel even the most knowledgable of Hip Hop heads and when he feels the need to be straightforward with his listeners he does that just as profieciently. Though recently Lupe disappointed fans with Lasers, it is hard to believe that he will not return to his unique and groundbreaking style that he employed in his first two albums. It could just be the dreamer in me, but I believe we have only been introduced to the sagacity of Lupe Fiasco.

1. Blu Below The Heavens (2007)

Not just a classic, a landmark. This album is a landmark for the Hip Hop genre. Blu, already known as an underground legend, comes through with some of the most poetic lyrics ever delivered on the mic. The struggle Blu defines is the struggle of not just every man, but every human being. The trials and tribulations of finding a partner, making a living, having a family, keeping faith, and simply surviving are all expressed in the project. And to top it all off every track is accompanied by the flawless production of Exile. Mixing the old school sound of Hip Hop with modern, universal problems and triumphs Blu created one of the best albums to ever be released. Every track is immaculate. As a listener, when the last track passes its final seconds you become a slightly different individual. You take in the experience of Blu mesh it with your own and look at life from a somewhat renewed perspective. This album is my generation’s Illmatic and will forever be the standard for which I compare future projects too.

-Ron Miller


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