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100 Best Debut Albums of All Time

From the Beatles to Nas and beyond

It was 50 years ago that the Beatles‘ released their first album, Please Please Me. In honor of that world-changing LP, we’ve compiled a list of the 100 Greatest Debut Albums of All Time. A note on how we made the list: Albums got docked points if the artist went on to far greater achievements (which is why Please, Please Me and Greetings from Asbury Park, great as they are, didn’t made the Top 10); conversely, we gave a little extra recognition to great debut albums that the artist never matched (hello, Is This It and Illmatic!). We also skipped solo debuts by artists who were already in well-known bands, which is why you won’t see John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band or Paul Simon. We focused, instead, on debuts that gave you the thrill of an act arriving fully-formed, ready to reinvent the world in its own image.

beastie boys
1

‘Licensed to Ill’

Beastie Boys
Def Jam 1986

A statement so powerful, so fully-realized, that the Beastie Boys spent the rest of their careers living it down. Licensed to Ill created a new way for middle America to rock – with thundering combination of hip-hop beats, metal riffs and exuberant smart-aleck rhymes – even as it picked up the flag from Run-DMC and delivered rap music irrevocably into the Heartland. It would become hip-hop's first Number One album, and one of the best-selling rap album of all time. Mike D, Ad-Rock, and MCA grew out of the record's frat boy sexual politics and party hearty world view, but head-smacking hits like "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)" and "Rhymin' & Stealin'", like the AC/DC and Led Zeppelin songs that were the Beasties' early touchstones, keep getting discovered by new generations of hell-raisers. It's the definition of the debut album that takes over the world: the shock of the new, with an impact that extends for decades.

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