The debut studio album is a make-or-break moment for artists. There is a blurring of the lines between albums and mixtapes these days, but most mainstream artists give their studio albums an extra level of preparation and curation. Labels give albums an extra marketing push. The magic of the album is why Megan Thee Stallion was sure to clarify that her Fever project was not her debut album, even though it would have been a damn good one. It’s why Chance made a big deal about The Big Day — even though he has two mixtapes regarded as arguable classics.
There’s simply more at stake with the debut studio album. Just who has the best debut albums of the past five years, and how do they stack up against each other? I decided to take a swing at it.
10. YBN Cordae — The Lost Boy
YBN Cordae’s The Lost Boy is deceptively titled. The Maryland artist’s debut album is a sharp, focused exhibition of technical writing ability and thematic diversity. He delves deep on “We Gon Make It” with Meek Mill and “Broke As F*ck” — but the Anderson Paak-featured “RNP” proves that he can still have fun. The Lost Boy was only released last month, and while it may rank higher on a later version of this list, it is too good to not be mentioned.
9. Lil Uzi Vert, Luv Is Rage 2
Luv Is Rage 2 is the follow up to Lil Uzi Vert’s breakout Luv Is Rage mixtape, but it’s also his debut studio album. The 16-track album was another strong collection of melodic, genre-bending harmonies that exemplify why the Philly artist likens himself to a rock star. There’s, of course, the “Xo Tour Llif3” smash, but there are also catchy tracks like “The Way Life Goes” and the change-of-pace “444+222,” which showcases Uzi having some fun over a dance track. While the rap game is overloaded with sing-songy rappers, Uzi is a far better lyricist than most, and that fusion is on joyous display throughout Luv Is Rage 2.