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Best Debut Albums: 40 Must-Hear Early Works Of Genius
List & Guides

Best Debut Albums: 40 Must-Hear Early Works Of Genius

From sonic daring to emotional outpouring, the best debut albums set the bar not only for their creators, but for everyone else who followed.

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A debut album is often the most significant release in a musician’s career. While many artists will go on to develop their sound and produce some of their best and most commercial work on later releases, that first record often defines their musical mission. Serving as statements of intent, the best debut albums have enthralled fans, inspired countless other musicians and – sometimes – reshaped the music industry as a whole.

Here, then, are 40 of the best debut albums of all time: game-changing classics that served notice of their creators’ genius.

Listen to our Rock Classics playlist, and check out our list of the best debut albums, below.

40: Ed Sheeran: ‘+’ (2011)

With his refreshingly contemporary breed of folk-pop and hip-hop-inspired verbosity, Ed Sheeran’s debut album, +, marked the arrival of a peerless songwriter. Just 20 years old at the time of its release, Sheeran proved himself as adept at crafting affecting love ballads as he was conjuring beats from his loop-pedal to back up his delirious rapping, as on his career-launching song You Need Me, I Don’t Need You. Though Ed Sheeran would go on to find even greater commercial success with later releases, + saw him effortlessly turn in one of the best debut albums of the 2010s and set out his stall as one of Britain’s top-tier tunesmiths. 

Must hear: You Need Me, I Don’t Need You 

39: Lady Gaga: ‘The Fame’ (2008)

Inspired by high fashion, performance art and musical shape-shifters such as David Bowie, Lady Gaga made an enormous impact with her electro-pop-infused debut album, The Fame, spearheaded by the game-changing pop hits Just Dance and Poker Face. By courting notoriety with the music videos for Paparazzi and Lovegame, Gaga was clearly schooled in the art of creating Madonna-esque controversy, but, as a songwriter, she embodied a pop crossover appeal like no one else before her. Easily one of the best debut albums of the 2000s, it’s easy to see why The Fame made Lady Gaga one of the most famous stars on the planet.

Must hear: Poker Face

38: Dizzee Rascal: ‘Boy In Da Corner’ (2003)

Dylan Mills (aka Dizzee Rascal) was just 18 when he released one of the best debut albums in UK history: the gritty and uncompromising Boy In Da Corner. Self-producing his uncomfortably disjointed beats, the Roll Deep crew MC mixed drum’n’bass, garage and British hip-hop to become a pioneer the UK’s grime scene, painting a vivid picture of East London’s social, economic and political landscape. Having unleashed Dizzee’s matchless flow, Boy In Da Corner then went on to win the 2003 Mercury Prize.

Must hear: Fix Up, Look Sharp

37: Missy Elliott: ‘Supa Dupa Fly’ (1997)

Sparking a chain reaction of eccentric lyrical wordplay and genre-defying beats, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott well and truly split the atom on her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly. Produced by Tim “Timbaland” Moseley, the album immediately saw Elliott take her place among the best female rappers of all time, not least for her transformation of Ann Peebles’ 1973 hit, I Can’t Stand The Rain, into a late-90s hip-hop classic, The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly), whose success was aided by a memorably wacky promo clip in which Elliott dances in a blow-up suit in front of a fish-eye lens. With intoxicating grooves that verge on electronica and avant-funk, Supa Dupa Fly was ground zero for Missy Elliott’s incomparable star power. Its aftershocks are still being felt today.

Must hear: The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)

36: Madonna: ‘Madonna’ (1983)

As a prelude to her ascent to 80s pop superstardom, Madonna’s self-titled debut album sought to mix the punky attitude of Blondie with a synth-led reimagining of disco. A sonic prototype for Madonna’s gambit for chart-conquering glory, the album offered a superlative introduction to the Michigan-born artist’s club-ready fusion of synth-pop and post-punk brazenness. On the undeniably catchy singles Holiday and Lucky Star, all the elements of the best Madonna songs began to fall into place, forming a pioneering work of dance-pop that quickly made Madonna one of the most influential female musicians of all time, setting the blueprint for countless female artists to follow.

Must hear: Lucky Star

35: Oasis: ‘Definitely Maybe’ (1994)

Selling 100,000 copies in its first four days of release and earning itself the accolade of the fastest-selling debut album in British music history, Oasis’ Definitely Maybe was nothing short of a Britpop phenomenon. With its “Wall Of Sound”-esque guitars embodying a howl of working-class rage, from the album’s opener, Rock’n’Roll, to its unironic bid for immortality, Live Forever, Definitely Maybe owes its success to frontman Liam Gallagher’s inimitable nasal drawl and the no-nonsense songwriting approach of his brother Noel. Often imitated but never bettered, it remains one of the best debut albums for the way it triumphantly booted open the door to the Britpop boom, reigniting a generation’s love for rock’n’roll in the process.

Must hear: Live Forever

34: Linkin Park: ‘Hybrid Theory’ (2000)

Taking its title from Linkin Park’s original band name, Hybrid Theory encapsulated the group’s pioneering experimental sound at the turn of the 21st century. Effortlessly fusing hip-hop, metal and electronica, the six-piece crafted a modern rock classic which became the highest-selling debut album of the era. Alongside singer and MC Mike Shinoda’s rap vocals, Chester Bennington’s melodic singing and raging screams created a perfect duality, while spreading a message of hope for the modern nu-metallist. Originally released on 24 October 2000, the album remains as influential as ever, inspiring groups such as Bring Me The Horizon, twenty one pilots and BROCKHAMPTON.

Must hear
: In The End

33. N.W.A: ‘Straight Outta Compton’ (1988)

In 1988, N.W.A released one of the boldest, most menacing debut albums of all time, revealing the truth behind Compton street life, gang culture and police brutality. The controversial single Fuck Tha Police found them labelled “the world’s most dangerous group” and led to an FBI warning and further police attention – which only added to N.W.A’s notoriety. Many critics at the time ignored Dr Dre’s slick production, the group’s forward-thinking rhymes and the socio-political message of the album’s title track, and focuses instead on the profanity in the lyrics and what was deemed to be a glorification of gang culture; though as Ice Cube put it to the Los Angeles Times: “Our music’s not shocking to people who know that world. It’s reality.”

Must hear: Straight Outta Compton

32: Van Halen: ‘Van Halen’ (1978)

Undoubtedly one of the most innovative and original guitarists since Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen’s Earth-scorching work on Van Halen’s self-titled debut album was hot enough to start forest fires. Rolling forth like a burst of lava, Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love saw Eddie ignite a spine-tingling riff that prompted an army of 80s metal groups to reach for their hairspray. From the volcanic display of dexterous soloing on Eruption to the red-hot groove of Runnin’ With The Devil, the album would go on to sell more than ten million copies in the US alone, introducing the world to Eddie’s genius and easily taking its place among the best debut albums in rock music.

Must hear: Runnin’ With The Devil

31: Daft Punk: ‘Homework’ (1997)

Perfectly encapsulating Daft Punk’s love of technology and house music, Homework is rightly regarded as the finest bedroom-produced record of all time, and will forever stand as one electronic music’s best debut albums. Their rawest work in terms of sound, musicality and feel, Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter composed the record with live performance in mind. Homework’s use of creative sampling, whomping beats and razor-edged, vocoder-treated vocals crafted a disco-infused sound that remains unrivalled to this day, with such cuts as the gritty Da Funk, the aggressive Rollin’ & Scratchin’ and the unforgettable, chart-topping Around The World revealing the intricacies of their sound.

Must hear: Around The World

30: Massive Attack: ‘Blue Lines’ (1991)

A masterpiece of whatever genre you label it, Blue Lines incorporated elements of hip-hop, dub, funk, soul and R&B, becoming the first-ever trip-hop album in the process. At a time when US groups such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were breaking through with an alt-rock/grunge sound, Bristol’s Massive Attack were something entirely different, underpinning their dark textures and an array of voices with experimental beats. Over three decades after its release, Blue Lines continues to stake its claim as one of the best debut albums of all time, casting a shadow over so many other electronica artists that followed.

Must hear: Unfinished Sympathy

29: Ramones: ‘Ramones’ (1976)

Released in 1976, Ramones’ self-titled debut album is still rightly regarded as one of the most influential punk albums ever made. Featuring some of the best Ramones songs, among them Blitzkrieg Bop, Judy Is A Punk and I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend, it unleashed a fast, loud blast of energy that perfectly sums up Ramones’ quirky mix of hard rock and bubblegum pop. Influencing the first wave of punk-rock revolutionaries such as The Clash, as well as 90s pop-punk descendants such as Green Day, Ramones’ debut album takes pride of place in any self-respecting punk fan’s record collection.

Must hear: Blitzkrieg Bop

28: Guns N’ Roses: ‘Appetite For Destruction’ (1987)

Appetite For Destruction was the biggest thing to happen to hard rock since Led Zeppelin’s legendary fourth album. Though not immediately popular upon release, sales soared once the Welcome To The Jungle video aired on MTV, swiftly followed by the unforgettable Sweet Child O’ Mine single. It would then go on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling debut album of all time.

Must hear: Welcome To The Jungle

27: Pretenders: ‘Pretenders’ (1979)

One of the best debut albums to come out of the new wave era, Pretenders’ self-titled debut album is an uncompromising work of arresting pop-rock. Blending the punky attitude of frontwoman Chrissie Hynde’s sultry vocals with a refreshingly melodic bent, the album features some of the best Pretenders songs, among them Brass In Pocket and Precious. A must-have for any fan of new wave or punk-rock, Pretenders’ opening salvo introduced Chrissie Hynde as one of the best frontwomen in rock, carving out a much-needed space for women in music and continuing to influence numerous female musicians today.

Must hear: Brass In Pocket

26: Björk: ‘Debut’ (1993)

Technically, Björk recorded her debut album aged 11. Officially, however, Debut is where her solo career began. After first finding fame as part of The Sugarcubes, Björk set out on a solo career that would cover almost every type of music imaginable. Uniting electronic, pop, house, jazz and trip-hop music, Debut is packed full of alternative hits (Human Behaviour, Venus As A Boy, Big Time Sensuality) that set the stage for her further experiments in sound.

Must hear: Human Behaviour

25: Rage Against The Machine: ‘Rage Against The Machine’ (1992)

Rage Against The Machine’s debut album offered a master class in the fusion of hard rock and hip-hop, and remains a landmark record at the intersection of music and politics. The combination of frontman Zach De La Rocha’s politically-charged vocals and guitarist Tom Morello’s filthy tone placed the group in a league of their own, with songs such as Bombtrack, Killing In The Name and Bullet In The Head propelling the record to critical acclaim. Just as impactful today as it was in 1992, Rage Against The Machine is also, ironically, home to one of the most unlikely UK Christmas No.1s of all time.

Must hear: Killing In The Name

24: Sade: ‘Diamond Life’ (1984)

Due to its sophistication, originality and timeless soul sound, Sade’s debut album became an immediate hit whose sales were matched by critical acclaim. Introducing the singer as the new voice of British soul, Diamond Life won a Best British Album BRIT Award and eventually went multi-platinum, selling over ten million copies worldwide. It remains one of the best-selling debut albums of the era, and one of the all-time greatest records from a female British singer.

Must hear: Your Love Is King

23: Talking Heads: ‘Talking Heads: 77’ (1977)

In September 1977, Talking Heads released their debut album, Talking Heads: 77, after becoming darlings of New York City’s underground rock scene. Often cited as one of the best debut albums of all time, the album’s indelible pairing of art punk and new wave with frontman David Byrne’s distinctive vocals still packs a punch, aided by the herky-jerky oddball R&B opener Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town and the murderously insistent bass line which drives Psycho Killer. Fully establishing Talking Heads as one of the most influential bands of the late 70s and early 80s, it’s no wonder their debut album was such a critical success. It still remains a timeless new wave gem.

Must hear: Psycho Killer

22: The Stooges: ‘The Stooges’ (1969)

A wild and unwieldy work of proto-punk, The Stooges’ self-titled debut album was one of the best debut albums of the late 60s, brilliantly showcasing the Ann Arbor, Michigan, rock group’s antipathy towards hippiedom. Almost entirely misunderstood when it was released, The Stooges is today vaunted by fans of punk-rock for being well ahead of its time, as if the band anticipated the kick-back against peace-and-love ideals in favour of a more youthful mixture of gritty realism. Frontman Iggy Pop’s blood-curdling yelps about teenage boredom and guitarist Ron Asheton’s dissonant fretwork took garage-rock noise to ear-splitting extremes, as heard on cuts such as I Wanna Be Your Dog and No Fun, which captured all the raw power of the best Stooges songs.

Must hear: I Wanna Be Your Dog

21: The Smiths: ‘The Smiths’ (1984)

Sensitive singer Morrissey and jangle-pop guitar-god Johnny Marr changed indie-rock overnight with the release of The Smiths’ self-titled debut album. From the anti-Thatcherite working-man’s angst of Still Ill (“England is mine/And it owes me a living”) to the gloomy meditation on the Moors Murders (Suffer Little Children) and the statement of intent that was The Smiths’ debut single, Hand In Glove, the album is an alluring and dreamy record that saw The Smiths marry shimmering guitar riffs with off-kilter lyrics that soundtracked many a long dark night of the soul in bedsit land. The unforgettable What Difference Does It Make? remains a fan favourite, bouncing along on a confident groove and a looping guitar riff. Undeniably unique, The Smiths’ first effort earns a place on our list of the best debut albums for bringing colour to the grey reality of British life in the mid-80s.

Must hear: What Difference Does It Make?

20: Kate Bush: ‘The Kick Inside’ (1978)

Summoning its creator into the pop charts like a mystic apparition, Kate Bush’s debut album, The Kick Inside, was a beguiling work full of nods to gothic literature (Wuthering Heights) and even playful art-pop verging on reggae (Them Heavy People). Released in February 1978, the record was a long-gestating labour of love, meticulously crafted over years following the 16-year-old Bush’s discovery by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour. Though she was 20 by the time the album itself was released, Bush’s unique style had by that point taken a magical turn. Truly peerless and highly imaginative, The Kick Inside wouldn’t be the last time Kate Bush would wow listeners with her captivating voice, but it contains many of the best Kate Bush songs, and still stands as one of the best debut albums in pop history.

Must hear: Wuthering Heights

19: Pink Floyd: ‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ (1967)

Having honed their live sound at London’s UFO Club and traversed the hallucinatory soundscapes of 60s British psychedelia, Pink Floyd’s debut album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, was a pop masterclass for the acid generation. Inspiring a legion of songwriters with his whimsical and childlike wordplay, Syd Barrett’s ingenious and playful flirtations with fairy tales and nursery rhymes took listeners on a trip they’d never forget, from the deep-space amble of Interstellar Overdrive to the bell-ringing splendour of Bike. As one of the best debut albums to emerge from the 60s rock scene, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn not only marked Pink Floyd’s arrival, but it also saw psychedelic music reach creative peaks it would never scale again. For that reason, it remains a treasure trove of sonic wonder.

Must hear: Interstellar Overdrive

18: R.E.M.: ‘Murmur’ (1983)

Icons of the US college-rock circuit, Athens-based post-punk group R.E.M. created an enigmatic yet robust debut album in the shape of Murmur. With influences ranging from the folk-rock of The Byrds to the sombre introspection of Nick Drake, the sound of Peter Buck’s jangling Rickenbacker guitar tones provided a backdrop for frontman Michael Stipe’s cryptic lyricism, giving tantalising hints of the alternative-rock sensations R.E.M. would become. From the uptempo call-to-arms of Radio Free Europe to the wistful emoting of Talk About The Passion, Murmur is perhaps the most potent distillation of the band’s yet-to-be-tapped potential, and it still stands tall as one of the best debut albums of its era.

Must hear: Radio Free Europe

17: Gang Of Four: ‘Entertainment!’ (1979)

Always a more cerebral band than most of their punk contemporaries, Gang Of Four put their intelligence and political outspokenness on full display on their debut album, 1979’s Entertainment! Easily one of the finest post-punk albums ever made, it features songs such as Damaged Goods and At Home He’s A Tourist, which are both searing indictments of capitalist society. From the propulsive and danceable Love Like Anthrax to the darkly atmospheric I Found That Essence Rare, Entertainment! fully deserves its place among the best debut albums, and it remains hugely influential. More than 20 years on from its release, Gang Of Four would be praised by groups such as Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party during the mid-2000s post-punk revival era, proving just how much Entertainment! shaped the jagged and angular guitar sound of contemporary indie-rock.

Must hear: Damaged Goods

16. Patti Smith: ‘Horses’ (1975)

A singer-songwriter, musician, author and poet, Patti Smith delivered a moment of musical history with her debut album, Horses. Reimagining 60s rock’n’roll with a lyrical flair and a unique punk aesthetic, the record cemented the already-established Smith’s place as a key figure in the New York punk rock movement. From the opening lines of Gloria (“Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine”), to her requiem for Jimi Hendrix, Elegie, Smith set herself apart while perfectly conveying the importance of poetry within music.

Must hear: Gloria

15: Jeff Buckley: ‘Grace’ (1994)

As Anna Calvi once noted, listening to Jeff Buckley’s fabled Grace feels like falling in love for the first time. The only album completed by the talented singer-songwriter before he accidentally drowned in Memphis, aged 30, the record has grown in stature since its original release, and is rightly acclaimed for Buckley’s unusual approach to songwriting, his virtuosic guitar playing and his almost operatic vocal ability. From the angelic rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah to the exceptionally passionate performance of the title track and the heart-wrenching original album closer, Dream Brother, Grace rightly paints Jeff Buckley as one of the most talented artists of all time – one whose legacy is not likely to fade.

Must hear: Dream Brother

14: Black Sabbath: ‘Black Sabbath’ (1970)

Often cited alongside Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin as pioneers of heavy metal music, Black Sabbath rather appropriately unleashed their doom-laden sound on Friday, 13 February 1970. After the 17-year-old Tommy Iommi sliced off the tips of two of his fingers while working at a sheet-metal factory in Birmingham, the determined guitarist fashioned prosthetic fingertips for himself and detuned his guitar by a minor third for comfort, establishing the group’s ominous-sounding tone in the process. Nowhere is this more apparent than on their debut album’s opening title track, which featured Iommi’s “devil’s tritone” and is now regarded as one of the first doom metal songs in history.

Must hear
: Black Sabbath

13: The Strokes: ‘Is This It’ (2001)

Instantly hailed as the new saviours of rock’n’roll by NME, The Strokes arrived to give indie music the adrenaline shot it sorely needed at the turn of the millennium. Boasting a wantonly minimalist garage-rock sound with Television-esque riffs and a smattering of Lou Reed’s street-wise snarl, their debut album, Is This It, is arguably the most important rock record of modern times. Leather-clad singer Julian Casablancas not only helped define the Top Man-enamoured fashion style of his generation, but also encouraged a slew of indie-rockers to pick up their Fender Strats and become part of the mid-2000s “New Rock Revival”. Without Is This It there would be no Libertines or Arctic Monkeys. Still full of bite and disarmingly vital, it’s a safe bet that musicians are going to be citing this record an influence for years to come.

Must hear: Last Nite

12: Kanye West: ‘The College Dropout’ (2004)

Kanye West originally made a name for himself as a producer for artists such as Jay-Z and Talib Kweli. Soon taking the hip-hop world by storm, his production style would be one of many reasons for The College Dropout’s glowing success, with the album displaying a master class in sampling, drum programming and song arrangement. At the time, few were ready to place their bets on Kanye as a solo artist, but he set himself apart from his peers, steering away from the gangsta persona and finding peace and conviction in religion, family and humour.

Must hear: Jesus Walks

11: Led Zeppelin: ‘Led Zeppelin’ (1969)

Led Zeppelin’s debut album laid the groundwork for one of the most influential musical careers in rock. While many groups, such as The Beatles, pushed music forward with their increasingly experimental approach to recording, Led Zeppelin took music in a heavier direction, stretching their blues roots to new extremes. The unison of Jimmy Page’s dizzying fretwork, John Paul Jones’ dexterous bass, John Bonham’s thunderous grooves and Robert Plant’s yowling vocals created a rock synergy unlike any other.

Must hear
: Good Times Bad Times

10: Lauryn Hill: ‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’ (1998)

To understand the importance of Lauryn Hill’s debut album is to remember the state of mainstream hip-hop at the time of its release. Misogyny seemed to fuel every 90s hip-hop video, with women being represented as objects for men’s pleasure while sexist rhymes filled every other bar. Released on 25 August 1998, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill provided a voice for black feminism in hip-hop culture, with the former Fugees member preaching a message of love, equality and peace through an infectious blend of soul, reggae and R&B that set her apart from other artists of the era. One of the best debut albums of the 90s, it picked up five Grammy awards, including Record Of The Year, and its popularity sparked a generation of future stars (Beyoncé, Janelle Monáe, Kendrick Lamar) to speak boldly on world matters and personal identity.

Must hear
: Doo-Wop (That Thing)

9: The Notorious B.I.G.: ‘Ready To Die’ (1994)

Christopher Wallace, otherwise known as the legendary rapper The Notorious B.I.G., had been displaying his lyrical abilities on Brooklyn’s Fulton Street since the age of 13, in an attempt to step away from the drug-dealing lifestyle he felt destined for. As he put it in Things Done Changed: “If I wasn’t in the rap game/I’d probably have a ki, knee-deep in the crack game”. Biggie’s life experience flooded into Ready To Die– not only one of the best debut albums in hip-hop, but one of the most brutally honest records of all time. Upon its release, Biggie became an overnight star and a patron for East Coast rap, restoring New York’s visibility at a time of West Coast dominance.

Must hear
: Juicy

8: The Jimi Hendrix Experience: ‘Are You Experienced’ (1967)

In 1966, Jimi Hendrix arrived in London as a force to be reckoned with. A mere week later, he dominated the city’s rock scene, jamming with Eric Clapton at a Cream concert and stealing the show so convincingly that Slowhand not so slowly left the stage. Are You Experienced established Hendrix as one of the best guitarists in the world, with singles such as Purple Haze, Hey Joe and Foxey Lady unveiling a visionary, psychedelic approach to the blues.

Must hear: Purple Haze

7: The Doors: ‘The Doors’ (1967)

Nothing quite amalgamated sex, poetry and rock’n’roll like The Doors, whose self-titled debut album remains a classic-rock staple. Effortlessly bringing a jazz sensibility to rock music, John Densmore’s free-form drumming, Ray Manzarek’s virtuoso keyboards and Robby Krieger’s lysergic blues guitar created a seductive backdrop upon which Jim Morrison laid his smouldering vocals. Singles such as Break On Through (To The Other Side) and the baroque-pop Light My Fire helped the record spend two weeks at No.2 in the US, with only The BeatlesSgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band denying it the top spot.

Must hear: Light My Fire

6: Portishead: ‘Dummy’ (1994)

Guided by the hypnotic presence of frontwoman Beth Gibbons and producer Geoff Barrow, Portishead’s 1995 debut album, Dummy, was a trip-hop masterpiece that fused blissed-out beats and obscure samples with an emotionally fragile yet soulful collection of songs. From the self-pitying James Bond theme balladry of Sour Times to its eerie yet romantic closer, Glory Box, Dummy would go on to win the Bristolian duo a 1995 Mercury Prize, and it continues to be referenced as a key influence on modern-day hip-hop producers such as Danger Mouse. Even rapper Kendrick Lamar seems to be a fan, inviting Beth Gibbons to feature on Mother I Sober, a track on his 2022 album, Mr Morale & The Big Steppers. By pairing a heart-rending voice of unquenchable femininity with lo-fi beats to temper listeners’ despair, Dummy fully earns its place among the best debut albums of all time.

Must hear: Sour Times

5: Wu-Tang Clan: ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’ (1993)

When the Staten Island-based hardcore rap ensemble Wu-Tang Clan dropped their debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), in November 1993, everything changed. Produced by RZA and featuring the group’s nine members – RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God and Masta Killa – its stark, minimalist beats and gritty lyricism reinvigorated the East Coast hip-hop scene after several years of weathering the West Coast’s gansta-rap onslaught. As one of the best hip-hop albums of all time, the unique sound of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) sold more than three million copies in the US, pioneering a raw style of streetwise storytelling that would go on to influence fellow NYC rappers such as Nas and Jay-Z.

Must hear: C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)

4: Television: ‘Marquee Moon’ (1977)

With punk music venue CBGBs as their springboard, New York-based rock group Television sought to turn rock music on its head, expunging all traces of its blues-based tics on their 1977 debut album, Marquee Moon. Replacing 12-bar moribundity with angular new wave riffs and searing post-punk guitar solos, it’s an album that remains as revolutionary as it was commercially impactful, peaking at No.30 in the UK in April 1977. One of the best debut albums to come out of New York, Marquee Moon went on to inspire a legion of guitar bands – notably The Strokes – and ushered in a new dawn not just for punk fans, but for rock’n’roll in general. Without it, the sound of contemporary indie-rock would be vastly different.

Must hear: Marquee Moon

3: Nas: ‘Illmatic’ (1994)

Released at the height of hip-hop’s Golden Age, Illmatic showed the lengths to which rap music can go and set Nas apart as one of the best MCs of all time. Despite enlisting the hottest producers around – including Pete Rock, DJ Premier and Q-Tip – for a sample-heavy masterpiece on which to spit his rhythmic New York narrative, Nas did not score the chart-topping success he expected. Now, however, Illmatic stands as one of the most groundbreaking and poetic debut albums in in hip-hop history.

Must hear: NY State Of Mind

2: The Velvet Underground: ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ (1967)

After being taken under the wing of pop art provocateur Andy Warhol, The Velvet Underground sought to uproot all prevailing flower-power platitudes with a record that sold little at the time of its release, but which has since been hailed as one of the best debut albums in the history of rock music. Driving a pitchfork into the hippies’ back-to-the-garden party thanks to Lou Reed’s nihilistic lyrical preoccupations with sadomasochism (Venus In Furs) and hard drugs (Heroin), The Velvet Underground & Nico also boasted the beguilingly Teutonic tones of German singer Nico and the avant-garde sonics of Welshman John Cale’s meddling viola. Hugely influential on the development of punk rock and the DIY indie scene, The Velvet Underground & Nico remains one of the most incendiary debut records ever released.

Must hear: Sunday Morning

1: Joy Division: ‘Unknown Pleasures’ (1979)

Even those who haven’t heard Unknown Pleasures will have seen its iconic artwork. Topping our list of the best debut albums of all time, Unknown Pleasures found Joy Division forging their own sound and leading the way for post-punk in Britain. At the time of its release, no other album sounded like it – and still nothing else comes close. Ian Curtis’ dramatic lyrics and unparalleled baritone vocals were perfectly matched by producer Martin Hannett’s extraordinary sonic sculptures, constructing a raw yet futuristic sound that continues to point the way for sonic innovation in rock music.

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