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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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The Roots

"Pass the Popcorn" (1993)

Before they were America's house band, the Square Roots were Philly kids setting up on South Street and annoying club owners — for every show they would bring 20 bags of popcorn and throw them at the audience. To build buzz during a European tour, they recorded Organix, featuring "Pass the Popcorn" loading the front. The verses are by Black Thought, ?uestlove and the briefly Root-ed Kid Crumbs. The buzz worked and soon the alterna-crew were labelmates with Beck and Nirvana.

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Lil Wayne

B.G.'z, "From tha 13th to tha 17th" (1995)

Then a foul-mouthed 12-year-old named Baby D, Lil Wayne made his recording debut alongside a "Lil Doogie" on 1995 Cash Money EP as the B.G.'z, rapping about "smoking beaucoup spliffs and clockin' much, much dollars. Writes Andrew Noz, "Legend has it that Wayne's mom pulled him from the project after hearing the profanity, leaving the album – and by default the name – in the hands of Doogie, the man they now call B.G."

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Eminem

Soul Intent, "Fuckin' Backstabber" (1995)

Whether it's technically a "demo," or a very limited run cassette single, there's no question that the "M&M" rapping on Soul Intent's "Fuckin' Backstabber" is the Marshall we know today. Though he's since lost the the fast Das EFX-ian flow and the breathy jazz-rap voice. Bonus: This track features D-12's Proof on the chorus.

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Tech N9ne

"Cloudy-Eyed Stroll" (1996)

Kansas City is in the middle of the country so it makes sense that the debut single from veteran Tech N9ne has the slow-rolling thump of California and the hyper-kinetic flows of New York – plus some spastic rhythms all his own.

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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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Nelly

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.

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