There are plenty of successful debut albums, but none of them made history the way The Beastie Boys did. In 1986, Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock changed the landscape of Hip-Hop when they released their debut album Licensed to Ill. With the legendary Rick Rubin behind the boards, the first Jewish rap group signed to Def Jam blurred the lines between rap and rock with songs like "Brass Monkey" and "Fight For Your Right" the way Run DMC and Aerosmith did just months before with "Walk This Way." Less than three months after its release, Licensed to Ill was certified Platinum and became the first rap album to top the Billboard charts. Today, the iconic album is certified Diamond and still reigns as one of Columbia Records' fastest-selling debut records thus far.
'Paid In Full' - Eric B & Rakim (1987)
In 1987, Eric B & Rakim paved the way for every MC in the East Coast when they dropped their debut album Paid In Full. The RIAA finally awarded the landmark LP with certified platinum about eight years after the album dropped. Revered singles like "Eric B. Is President", "I Ain't No Joke", "I Know You Got Soul", "My Melody” and, of course, "Paid in Full" inspired generations of lyricists to try and measure up to their rapping skills and hit-making repertoire.
'Bigger and Deffer' - LL Cool J (1987)
After his debut album Radio went platinum, LL Cool J made history when he created hip-hop first love ballad in 1987 properly titled “I Need Love." The groundbreaking, emotional record first appeared on LL’s second studio album Bigger And Deffer. Following the album’s release, the commercial success behind “I Need Love” helped elevate the LP to platinum status within the same year without the help of any outside artists. Currently, the album is considered 3x platinum with well over three million units sold.
'As Nasty As They Wanna Be' - 2 Live Crew (1989)
As controversial as their music was to the U.S. government, 2 Live Crew made history by being the first Southern rap group to go platinum with the first album to be deemed “obscene” by the United State. Upon the official release of As Nasty As They Wanna Be in April 1989, Mr. Mixx, Luke Campbell, and the late Fresh Kid Ice defied the odds stacked up against them once sexually explicit records like “Me So Horny” and “Dirty Nursery Rhymes” became part of the mainstream pop culture. Eight months later, 2 Live Crew’s sophomore reached platinum status without the help of any featured artists.
'Blacks’ Magic' - Salt-N-Pepa (1990)
There weren’t too many women in hip-hop topping the charts the way Salt-N-Pepa did, and they did it all without features. In March 1990, Cheryl James aka “Salt” and Sandra Denton aka “Pepa” released their third studio album Blacks’ Magic. Among the 13 records on the album, one single in particular “Let’s Talk About Sex” went on to become the official sex anthem across the globe, and also become the theme song for AIDS Awareness in the 1990s. The major success of the single helped uplift the album to platinum status in the same year the album dropped.
'Dead Serious' - Das EFX (1992)
Early hip-hop heads and fans of the Golden Era can easily recall the impact of William "Skoob" Hines and Andre "Krazy Drayz" Weston a.k.a Das EFX’s iconic album Dead Serious. After Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith discovered them in ’91, the Brooklyn duo began to record at EPMD’s home base Firehouse Studios in Brooklyn where they made popular singles "Mic Checka" and their self-produced smash hit "They Want EFX.” Both major singles accompanied eight other solo records on their debut LP Dead Serious which dropped via East West/Atlantic Records in April 1992. After a year of topping the charts with their notable singles, the album officially chiseled Das EFX into rap history when it went platinum in 1993.
'Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)' - Wu-Tang Clan (1993)
We couldn’t leave out the Shaolin warriors from the platinum club. The Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) began an iconic legacy that introduced the world to the RZA, the GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa. Cappadonna, and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard. After the album dropped in 1993, Wu-Tang started off by selling 30,000 copies in the first week. By 1995, their debut album garnered well over two million units sold making the album 2x platinum with no features.
'ATLiens' - OutKast (1996)
It’s safe to say OutKast outdid themselves on their sophomore album ATLiens. The Atlanta duo followed up the success of their 1994 debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik with a 15-track LP that would set the standard for rap artists for the next two decades. The album’s title track, “Two Dope Boyz (In A Cadillac),” “Jazzy Belle,” and Elevators (Me & You)” are just a few groundbreaking singles that make this platinum album a classic. Three months after it was released, ATLiens was eligible for platinum status. Seven years later, ATLiens went double platinum.
'Kaleidoscope Dream' - Miguel (2012)
After making a major impression with “All I Want Is You,” Miguel had to follow up with some of the best eclectic tunes in his catalog to date. The San Pedro, California native unleashed “Adorn” from his arsenal followed by his infectious single “How Many Drinks” to guarantee that his sophomore album would be one to remember. Although Kaleidoscope Dream holds contributions from notable songwriters like Alicia Keys and producers like Salaam Remi, Miguel stood alone at the mic as he crooned other eccentric singles like “Arch & Point” and “The Thrill.” After the album earned 3 Grammy Award nominations in 2013, Kaleidoscope Dream eventual went platinum last November 2017.
'2014 Forest Hills Drive' - J. Cole (2014)
After seven years in the game and dropping classic albums, J. Cole finally earned his first RIAA platinum plaque for his 2014 Forest Hills Drive album all on his own. Cole dropped his third studio album in December 2014 with popular singles like “No Role Modelz” and “Wet Dreamz.” Over nine months after its release, the album reached platinum status and one year later 2014 Forest Hills Drive went 2x platinum.
'What A Time To Be Alive' - Drake & Future (2015)
Drake and Future have a reputation for rocking features for other artists throughout the years. Yet, when they came together in 2015 for their own collaborative mixtape What A Time To Be Alive, both MC’s knew from the beginning that no other lyricist would fit into their solid tracklist. Drizzy and Future Hendrix first gave their fans a taste of the OVO/FBG crossover with their banger “Where Ya At,” which originally appeared on Future’s Dirty Sprite 2. During recording sessions for the Metro Boomin-produced single, Aubrey and the Beast Mode rapper began putting together the project they had been talking about doing since the beginning of 2015. Two months later, Drake and Future released What A Time To Be Alive and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Although there were only two rappers on the entire album, Metro Boomin executively produced the project with contributions from beatmakers like Boi-1da, Southside, and Noah “40” Shebib. With hits like “Jumpman,” “Big Rings” and “Diamonds Dancing,” their mixtape went platinum less than six months after its release.
'T R A P S O U L' - Bryson Tiller (2015)
Bryson Tiller revived Trap & B when he dropped his breakthrough single “Don’t” on his SoundCloud page in 2014. After the track picked up an overwhelming amount of traction, Tiller re-released the record as his first single from T R A P S O U L, and the rest is history. Once the album dropped in 2015, the Louisville, Kentucky native had everyone hooked especially after singles like “Exchange” and “Sorry Not Sorry” were added into rotation at radio stations across the country. After six months, the singer's debut album reached platinum status with over a million units sold and went 2x platinum in November 2017 without features.
'Islah' - Kevin Gates (2016)
Kevin Gates had been making street classics long before he went platinum. After dropping numerous mixtapes since 2007, Gates finally released his debut album Islah via Bread Winner’s Association/Atlantic Records. Before the album's debut in January 2016, the Baton Rouge native hit Billboard Top 100 chart with singles like “Really Really” and “2 Phones.” It only took eight months for his first studio album to become certified platinum by the RIAA, easily making him one of the grittiest members of the platinum club.
'24K Magic' - Bruno Mars (2016)
Bruno Mars has racked numerous awards for his 24K Magic album, including an RIAA certification. Since its release in November 2016, the “Finesse” singer earned plenty of mainstream success from songs “That’s What I Like” and “Versace On The Floor.” Before embarking on his international tour, 24K Magic took about eight months to reach the million mark in album sales. By August 2017, the album was certified 2x platinum, right before Cardi B hopped on his “Finesse” Remix.
'Awaken, My Love!' - Childish Gambino (2016)
Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino went from a rebellious comedian with a passion for hip-hop to an international superstar, thanks to his third solo album, Awaken, My Love! The California native got his fans hyped for new music when he broke his social media hiatus by tweeting out a link to his new app, giving fans a first listen of the album’s first single “Me and Your Mama.” The song would go on to debut on Beats 1 Radio before the album’s standout track “Redbone” dropped on BBC Radio a week later. Awaken, My Love! finally dropped on Dec. 2, 2016 and debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart with 101,000 album-equivalent units sold. Although the single entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 75, “Redbone” eventually peaked at No. 12 eight months after the featureless album dropped. The song, which was written by ‘Bino and produced by Ludwig Göransson, went four-times platinum in February 2018 while the entire LP finally went platinum in September 2018.
'4 Your Eyez Only' - J. Cole (2016)
Two years ago, J. Cole shocked the masses with his fourth studio album 4 Your Eyez Only. Despite teasing the impossibility of retirement months prior, fans, critics and evidentially the label itself was caught off guard by Cole’s featureless full-length LP, which dropped with barely any promotion. The 10-track album, based on the life of Cole’s slain childhood friend and intended for his friend’s daughter to listen to in his absence, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Although the album dropped without an official single, “Déjà Vu” debuted as the album’s first single followed by “Neighbors” shortly afterward. With 492,000 album-equivalent units (363,000 of which were pure album sales), 4 Your Eyez Only became Cole's fourth No. 1 album with all 12 tracks making the Billboard Hot 100. A month after its release, the album was certified gold and went platinum less than four months later.
'Future' - Future (2017)
Future went all out when he dropped his self-titled LP last February then dropped his HNDRXX album a week later. Despite the star-studded team of producers, the "Wicked" rapper chose to fly solo on Future and saved the features for HNDRXX. The 17-track album ignited airwaves with his flute-based trap banger “Mask Off,” which later got the remix treatment from Kendrick Lamar. He glorified the “Draco” and deemed himself the “Super Trapper” over beats produced by DJ Khaled, Metro Boomin, Zaytoven, Southside and more. Weeks after dropping the deluxe version, the album racked up over a million units sold five months after its initial release.
'American Teen' - Khalid (2017)
After cutting vocals for Alina Baraz and Kendrick Lamar, Khalid made his mark in hip-hop/R&B with his debut album American Teen, which holds mainstream radio favorites like “Young, Dumb, & Broke” and “Location.” Since the album dropped in March 2017, Khalid let his album sales rack up, lent his vocals to Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” and embarked on his Location Tour. After seven months, Khalid’s debut album certified platinum, selling at least 1,220,000 album-equivalent units in the U.S with 147,000 pure album sales. Khalid may be one of the newest members of the platinum club, but he's crafting hit records like a veteran.
'There's Really A Wolf' - Russ (2017)
Russ doesn’t feel like he has anything left to prove, and he’s got the platinum plaque to back him up. In May 2017, the Secaucus, Jersey-born lyricist dropped his debut album There’s Really A Wolf without the help of any featured artists or outside producers. Russ engineered, mixed, mastered, and wrote all 20 songs on the album, which features standout singles like “What You Want” and “Cherry Hill.” After debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and No. 4 on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, it took nearly a year for the album to reach platinum status. Recently, Russ celebrated his accomplishment and thanked his fans for making it possible.
'KOD' - J. Cole (2018)
J. Cole chose wisely when he decided to drop off his fifth studio album KOD on April 20, 2018. With only four days of self-promotion, fans couldn’t wait to decipher every syllable to come from the Dreamville CEO’s fifth studio release. With 12 featureless tracks, the album set the standard with bluntly forced bars over unforgettable instrumentals from start to finish. Each meaning of the album's three subtitles (Kids on Drugs, King Overdosed, and Kill Our Demons) came to life from its title track where he addresses the “kids on drugs” to fans and media.
After outing his alter-ego kiLL edward on “Friends” and “The Cut Off,” other standout singles address the “kings overdosed” like “1985,” a stern yet inspirational injunction to the young, mumble rappers in the game. At the time of the project's release, it was interpreted as a retaliatory diss track aimed at Lil Pump and Smokepurpp. Although fans thought it was a true sign of dominance, Cole claims it was a “if the shoe fits” type of record, and personally explained that to Pump when they met after his Rolling Loud set in Miami.
Despite the dramatic undertones, the album’s closing track debuted at No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart while other songs like "ATM" (No. 6), "Kevin's Heart" (No. 8), and "KOD" (No. 10) broke the top 10 simultaneously, which had never been done before. KOD debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s 200 Chart earning 397,000 album equivalent units with 174,000 in pure album sales and went platinum within eight months of its release.