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6 Rappers Who Successfully Followed-Up Great Debuts: Kanye West, OutKast, And More

by Joey DeGroot   Jul 26, 2014 09:13 AM EDT

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Earlier this week, legendary Queens rapper Nas offered some words of encouragement to Kendrick Lamar, concerning Lamar's impending follow-up to his instant classic debut good kid, m.A.A.d city from 2012. As Nas knows all too well, plenty of rappers have failed to deliver a satisfying follow-up to a widely praised debut album. However, these six rappers and rap groups managed to release albums that were just as good, if not better, than their debuts.

1. Beastie Boys

As musically diverse and politically conscious as the Beastie Boys would become, the group's best-known rallying cry remains "Fight For Your Right," the ironic party anthem from its debut album Licensed To Ill. Though Licensed To Ill was hugely successful, becoming the first rap album to top the Billboard charts, its music pales in comparison to the Beastie Boys' follow-up Paul's Boutique  (released 25 years ago yesterday, July 25) which is a dizzyingly dense masterwork of sampling and tag-team rhymes.

2. Public Enemy

Public Enemy's 1987 debut Yo! Bum Rush The Show introduced a sense of political urgency never before seen in hip-hop or even music in general. The album was named the best of the year by NME, but the group's 1988 follow-up It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is the group's true masterpiece, even named by Rolling Stone as the 48th greatest album of all time.

3. A Tribe Called Quest

One of the earliest and most prominent groups of the alternative hip-hop movement was A Tribe Called Quest, whose debut album People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm combined jazz and socially conscious lyrics to bring hip-hop to a more sophisticated, poetic place. However, the group's second album The Low End Theory took all of the strongest elements of the debut and streamlined them into one of the top five greatest hip-hop albums of the '90s.

4. De La Soul

One of the highlights of the golden age of hip-hop was 3 Feet High and Rising, the sunny 1989 debut from Long Island rap trio De La Soul. However, at the dawn of the '90s and the gangsta rap era, the trio made a conscious attempt to shake its hippie image, resulting in the rougher yet still excellent De La Soul is Dead. Both 3 Feet High and Rising and De La Soul is Dead were included by The Source on its list of the 100 greatest hip-hop albums of all time.

5. Kanye West

After making a name for himself as a producer for Jay-Z, Kanye West struggled to find a record label willing to sign him as a rapper. However, after West's debut album The College Dropout ended up selling four million copies worldwide, all of the label executives who turned him down must have felt pretty stupid, and even more so after his sophomore effort Late Registration established West as a genius of both hip-hop and pop.

6. OutKast

What makes OutKast unique among the other rappers on this list is that even though their first two albums were highly acclaimed and commercially successful, neither of them is widely considered to be the duo's best. OutKast burst onto the scene with 1994's Southernplayalisticaddilacmuzik, which brought national attention to the Southern hip-hop scene with its lead single "Player's Ball," and would outdo themselves with 1996's ATLiens, which further established the duo's idiosyncratic style. However, it's the group's next two albums, Aquemini and Stankonia, that are widely regarded as OutKast's masterpieces.

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