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25 Astonishing First Appearances By Famous Rappers

Hear some of the earliest recorded rhymes from Jay Z, Eminem, Beastie Boys and more

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Beyoncé may have “woke up like this” but her husband spent the Eighties rapping in a Hawaiian shirt. Not every rapper can be Run-D.M.C., changing the world the first time they hit wax. In that spirit, here are 25 recording debuts from successful rappers, ranging from the legendary to the forgotten to the completely regrettable. By Christopher R. Weingarten

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Kanye West

Grav, "Line For Line" (1996)

Remembers Chicago rapper Grav: "I was either going to or coming out of a Fugees concert and this young kid runs up to me like, 'Yo, I heard you got a record deal. Yo, you should let me get some beats on your album. You should just come to the car and let me play some beats for you.'" Luckily Grav listened to the eager youngster, Kanye West, because, "The boy was a child prodigy way back then." West did a handful of beats on Grav's one and only album, Down to Earth and spit some gnashing bars on "Line for Line."

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St. Lunatics, "Gimme What U Got" (1997)

Although he would later elevate his bandmates – Ali, Murphy Lee, Kyjuan, Slo Down and City Spud — Nelly really did steal the spotlight on the early St. Lunatics single "Gimme What U Got," a Number One hit at St. Louis radio station KATZ. The melodies hint back at Eighties hip-hop standards like Dennis Edwards' "Don't Look Any Further" and Tom-Tom Club's "Genius of Love" and the flows look forward to the sing-songy flow that would put St. Louis on the hip-hop map.

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Nicki Minaj

Hood$tars, "Don't Mess With" (2004)

Then known as Nicki Maraj, young Nicki was part of a quartet called Hood$tars, a group associated with Brooklyn rap pioneers Full Force – and featuring the son of Force's Bowlegged Lou. Lou remembers, "After a while we just focused on doing a solo project on Nicki. I took it to like every record company but record companies at the time wasn't really interested in any female rappers." Before that, Hood$tars got out a track called "Don't Mess With" which was used as entrance music for wrestler Victoria, and appears on ThemeAddict: WWE The Music, Vol. 6.