Home Music Music Lists

20 Terrible Debut Albums by Great Artists

David Bowie, Billy Joel and 18 more iconic artists who made a bad first impression

David Bowie

David Bowie performing on stage at the Aylesbury Friars on January 29, 1972. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Michael Putland/Getty Images

Rome wasn’t built in a day and, chances are, neither was your favorite artist. Not everyone can be the Ramones and emerge fully formed, making a first impression that lasts a lifetime. From Rock & Roll Hall of Famers to Nineties alterna-heroes, here’s 20 artists that prove that slow and steady can win the race — even after a false start.

Mobb Deep, Juvenile Hell (1993)

Mobb Deep, ‘Juvenile Hell’ (1993)

Originally known as the Poetical Prophets, Havoc and Prodigy gained notice in 1991 through The Source magazine's "Unsigned Hype" column. They earned a deal with 4th and Broadway, just in time for the teenagers to catch wreck as part of the short-lived kiddie rappers fad. But compared to Kris Kross and Da Youngstas, Mobb Deep's tales of growing up sounded horrifying. Peer pressure means getting drunk and toting burners on the block, "Locked Up in Spofford" details a stint in the notorious juvenile detention center and, on "Hit It From the Back," the duo celebrate rough sex as Prodigy crows, "Fuck love makin'." Unfortunately, the duo didn't illustrate their hard-bitten street tales with memorable choruses, and the album's production is boilerplate boom-bap. There's little of the enigmatic menace and indelible hooks that would make their next album The Infamous a classic. Undeterred, Havoc blamed Juvenile Hell's failure on the label. "They didn't push our shit," he told Rap Pages in 1995. "We had mad potential — that's why when we got dropped, we got picked up real quick." Mosi Reeves

Show Comments