Happy 11-11-11 Day! It’s common knowledge you only get one chance to make a first impression. That old adage is especially true in the entertainment business. One false move and it could grand opening, grand closing for a career. With that being said, The Urban Daily decided to discuss the best debut albums of the past eleven years. Why only in the past eleven years? If we didn’t do it like that, you’d probably be able to guess the artists on there like a bad suspense film. Reasonable Doubt, Illmatic, Ready To Die, and Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) would hold the top spots. So check our list of the best debut albums in the past eleven years. Were all of your favorites on here? If not, sound off in the comments and let us know who should’ve been on the list and who should’ve been ranked higher.
11. Chrisette Michele – I Am (2007)
After causing a stir with her guest appearances on Nas’ “Can’t Forget About You” and the Jay-Z single, “Lost One,” New York native, Chrisette Michele sauntered her way onto our radar with an understated yet powerful first album. I Am featured sultry slow jams and self empowered up tempo cuts with jazz inspired vocals. Women identified with the R&B vocalist over songs dealing with heartbreak and all of love’s twists and turns. The brothas could respect her because although there were songs detailing how bad a man treated he, one of the most poignant ballads was “Love Is You.” Dedicated to her father, “Love Is You” showed male listeners she wasn’t an angry black woman black men try to avoid like the plague. Since it’s release, Michele has dropped two more critically acclaimed albums and received a Grammy. With Jay-Z and Nas in her corner, how could anyone be surprised at her level of success?
10. Nelly – Country Grammar (2000)
When Nelly barged his way into our radios eleven years ago, nobody could get enough of the St. Lunatic. Having been rejected by almost every label in the game, Universal Records took a shot on Nelly and reaped the benefits. With the help of producer Jay E, Nelly’s single, “Country Grammar,” became a top ten hit and catapulted him to stardom. The title track was so catchy everybody disregarded the fact that it’s talking about doing a drive by while smoking herb. Check those lyrics again. Follow up singles like “E.I.” and “Ride Wit Me” helped Nelly’s freshman set go nine times platinum. His sophomore disc, Nellyville, solidified his place atop the rap world in the earlier part of the 2000s. However, his last few albums have tarnished his multi-platinum album streak. Instead of platinum, Brass Knuckles and 5.0 have gone triple balsa wood.
9. India Arie – Acoustic Soul (2001)
Whoever said, “Progress is a slow process,” must have had India Arie in mind. The lead track, “Video,” peaked right outside of the top 40 and “Brown Skin” fared slightly better. Once Arie began performing the track on every television show she could, the disc’s steam began to pick up. In February of 2002, India was nominated for seven Grammys, the most for anyone that year. The problem was she lost every single trophy. Alicia Keys was the swan, while India Arie was given the role of the ugly duckling that night. We aren’t even going to get into the whole “Alicia won because she was light skinned” arguments that spilled from disgruntled mouths. Arie took a shot at the recording academy by wearing a shirt with a backwards ‘7’ on Saturday Night Live a week later. India’s subsequent releases have been well received, but have never matched the double platinum status of Acoustic Soul. The Grammys have since awarded her four awards. They’re still trying to make up for the seven she was shut out for at the start of her career.
8. Clipse – Lord Willin’ (2002)
The Thornton Brothers form Virginia hooked up with The Neptunes and created the album called one of the best albums of the 2000s by Pitchfork. Anchored by cocaine imagery and raw raps, Lord Willin‘ helped The Clipse become fan favorites. The Virginia bred duo’s debut was certified Gold a month after it’s release. Their initial success didn’t shield them from label politics. Work for their second album ground to a halt in 2004 when Arista Records was assimilated into Jive Records. Known as a pop label, Jive didn’t know how to market the brothers and allowed them to languish on the shelf. When they realized they were locked into their Jive contract, the brothers Thornton released the stellar mixtape, We Got It For Cheap. Their following collections have gotten critical acclaim, but they haven’t reached the same commercial success they tasted on their first album. Pusha T is doing his solo thing with Kanye West and G.O.O.D. Music and Malice published a book called Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind & Naked. Their hustle continues.
7. Alicia Keys – Songs in A Minor (2001)
Alicia Keys had been in the industry a number of years before Songs in A Minor dominated radio. She provided vocals for Da Brat’s 2000 album, Unrestricted. Once “Fallin'” became a hit, she didn’t need any assistance from established artists to shine. Alicia Keys shocked R&B fans with soulful compositions that recalled greats like Marvin Gaye and Aretha Frankin. Songs in A Minor was collection of songs dealing with the highs and lows of a relationship on the decline. While many thought the first single was a remake, the only actual remake was Keys’ version of Prince’s “How Come You Don’t Call Me.” Due to its acclaim, Alicia rode the wave of stardom all the way to the Grammys in 2002, where she swept all of the R&B categories she was nominated in, tying Lauryn Hill’s record of five wins in a single night. Songs in A Minor was a solid foundation for Keys to leap from and spread her creative wings. Each album thereafter had a few more experimental elements than the previous. Though she’s received some backlash due to her personal life, excuse those indiscretions because of this album.
6. Young Jeezy – Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (2005)
Jay Jenkins’ first release made a name for other people besides Jeezy. Producers, Shawty Redd and Drumma Boy, became household names because of it. Thug Motivation 101 was about one thing: moving that white to make money. Actually, that’s all Jeezy’s career has been about. Despite being strictly about the trap, Jeezy had records for everyone. The streets praised the “Go Crazy (Remix)” at the same time the charts were being dominated by “Soul Survivor.” With street cred being Jeezy’s ultimate concern, he resists doing commercial rap. The albums following Thug Motivation 101 have remained true to the formula found on the aforementioned. We still rock with Jeezy, but we can’t wait for his new project, Thug Motivation 103 to hit the streets in December. Cheeeeaaaa!
5. John Legend – Get Lifted (2004)
John Legend’s first opus hit the airwaves in late 2004. Get Lifted introduced us to the singer with killer piano skills. Primarily produced, by Kanye West, Legend found a way to blend gospel rooted soul with contemporary R&B production. The lead single, “Used To Love U” appealed to the people who were tired of their gold digging mates. “Ordinary People” was a ballad everyone could relate to. It was about the emotional roller coaster love takes you on. Eventually, the album won John three Grammys including Best New Artist. He’s managed to steer clear of the “Best New Artist curse” by continuing to deliver soulful R&B that’s thought provoking and inspiring. If you’re still sleeping on John Legend, you better wake up!
4. Jill Scott – Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 (2000)
When Jill Scott crooned “Do you remember me?” The world replied, “No, but I’d like to know who you are.” Jill Scott came on the scene and made her natural vibe seem like the best thing since sliced bread. We loved her sass in the video for “Gettin’ In The Way” for threatening to drag a chick in the street and whoop her tail for all it was worth–$5.99 or something like that. Her wordplay and the way she bends notes as she sings is arguably the best aphrodisiac behind chocolate. Who Is Jill Scott? helped Jilly from Philly pursue all of her passions like acting and poetry. She started out with small parts on Girlfriends and wound up in two Tyler Perry films, Why Did I Get Married? and its sequel. As for now, Scott is enjoying motherhood and we are basking in the glow of her Light of the Sun album, which was released earlier this year.
3. 50 Cent – Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ (2003)
What can be said about Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson that hasn’t already? After recovering from getting shot nine times, 50 Cent stormed the music world with rhymes detailing his former life on the streets of Jamaica, Queens, New York. With the help of Dr. Dre and Eminem, 50 Cent became the biggest rapper in 2003.Thanks to the hype machine at Interscope Records, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ debuted at number one after selling 872,000 copies in four days. The first single, “In Da Club” broke records as the most listened to song in radio history. That feat was accomplished in a very short week. 50 has decided to venture into acting where he has shared the screen with greats like Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Samuel L. Jackson. 50 Cent hasn’t abandoned rap. He’s gearing up to release a new album in the coming months.
2. Beyonce – Dangerously In Love (2003)
There’s no denying Beyonce’s star power. She might not be your favorite artist, but homegirl does the damn thing. After freeing herself from the two ball and chains Destiny’s Child, Beyonce mania exploded. You couldn’t go ten minutes without hearing “Crazy In Love” during the summer of 2003. A mix of go-go and hip-hop inspired beats, Dangerously In Love proved what we all kind of knew–Beyonce is better as a solo artist. Don’t get me wrong, we love Kelly and Michelle, but their only coup was having survived all the member changes. Dangerously In Love spawned two number one tracks, “Crazy In Love” and “Baby Boy.” Critics hailed Dangerously In Love for its innovation and execution. Beyonce positioned herself as the Queen Bee of the music game and she wasn’t willing to hand over the throne until she announced at the 2011 Video Music Awards that she was expecting. We are all happy for her. Female R&B singers are a bit more appreciative than most because they can actually have a career now.
Kanye West – The College Dropout (2004)
Everything I’m about to write, Kanye West has already told you. He’s arrogant like that. The College Dropout was a shot in the arm for rap music. The sample heavy album wasn’t about the usual guns, drugs, money, and women topics. The College Dropout was about a guy who was from a middle class background with a love for rap music. Before West dropped this project, your issues with the law had to documented with mug shots. The College Dropout debuted at number two, selling 441,000 in its first week and earned West a host of acclaim and awards. His ego began to become a nuisance when he pitched a fit because he didn’t win an American Music Award. West threw a tantrum at the Grammys because Maroon 5 beat him out for Best New Artist. Although I don’t condone his behavior, can you blame the guy for getting upset? I mean really, “This Love” over “Jesus Walks?” “Jesus Walks” is technically a gospel song that got played in the clubs. I’ve never been to a church where the minister thanks the choir for their lovely rendition of “Sunday Morning.”
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