A chart-topping native rapper used to be a rarity in the UK. As the foundations of the British rap industry have gradually built, the homegrown talents have eventually seen mainstream success, both on the singles stage and albums stage. But only a handful of UK rappers have seen a number one album. Since its inception in 1956, less than twenty albums by a UK rapper have topped the UK Albums Chart; a history that is undocumented by our own publications.
From the very first to the latest, here are the chart-topping albums released by a British rapper.
The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come for Free (2004)
Date Achieved: 27 June 2004
Label: 679 / Locked On
The very first album to top the UK charts by a UK rapper was The Streets’ second album, A Grand Don’t Come for Free. Written, performed and produced by Mike Skinner, the classic record centres around a girl named Simone and a missing £1,000. It entered the chart at number two, eventually topping the chart in its seventh week and returning back to number one four weeks later by dethroning the Scissor Sisters.
The Streets – The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living (2006)
Date Achieved: 16 April 2006
Label: 679 / Locked On
With his third album, Mike Skinner became the first UK rapper to have two number one albums. The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living debuted directly at number one, staying there for the week. Though not the most popular album in The Streets’ catalogue, it maintains its legacy for being yet another watershed moment for British hip hop.
Plan B – The Defamation of Strickland Banks (2010)
Date Achieved: 18 April 2010
Label: 679 / Atlantic
Though not a rap album, Plan B’s second album still qualifies for his status as a rapper. This album saw him explore his soulful vocals to depict the story of a performer sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. Backed by the success of the single “She Said”, The Defamation of Strickland Banks debuted at number one, selling 68,173 copies. It returned to number one in its third week of charting, and was the fifth best-selling album of the year in the UK.
Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy (2010)
Date Achieved: 10 October 2010
The new decade saw an explosive entrance by Tinie Tempah. Backed by a famous string of singles (“Pass Out”, “Frisky”, “Written in the Stars”), his debut album Disc-Overy entered at number one, selling 85,000 copies. It became the fourth album by a UK rapper to hit the top, incorporating elements of electronic and drum & bass into its makeup. It may not hold classic status, but Disc-Overy remains a breakthrough record for homegrown mainstream rap.
Plan B – Ill Manors (2012)
Date Achieved: 29 July 2012
Label: 679 / Atlantic
From a rapper to a singer to now a filmmaker. Plan B wrote and directed a film titled Ill Manors in 2012, accompanying it with a soundtrack album. The album debuted at number one and stayed there for a week. With Ill Manors, Plan B became only the second UK rapper with two number one albums.
Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer (2017)
Date Achieved: 3 March 2017
From 2012, UK rap would go on a four-year drought without a number one album. Stormzy’s emergence signalled the inception of a new generation, fuelled by independence and callbacks to grime. His debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, entered and peaked at number one for a week, selling 68,594 units and beating off competition from Rag’n’Bone Man. Though not entirely a grime record, it became the first grime-centred album to top the charts.
Dave – Psychodrama (2019)
Date Achieved: 15 March 2019
Label: Dave / Neighbourhood
Among the new class of UK rappers was Dave. His debut album, Psychodrama, fought off competition from Foals, Dido and Sigrid to top the chart with 26,390 units. Among its chart success, Psychodrama had the critical acclaim to back it. The album has non-consecutively remained in the top 100 of the UK Albums Chart even two years after release.
Stormzy – Heavy is the Head (2019)
Date Achieved: 10 January 2020
Label: Merky / Atlantic
The turnover of the decade marked a significant increase in number one UK rap albums. Its first year alone saw four top the chart, one shy of the total for the entire 2010s.
Released in the last few weeks of December 2019, Stormzy’s sophomore album entered the charts at number two before reaching the top spot in its fourth week the following year. It remained in the top ten for fifteen consecutive weeks. Heavy is the Head marked Stormzy as the third UK rapper with two number one albums, alongside The Streets and Plan B.
J Hus – Big Conspiracy (2020)
Date Achieved: 31 January 2020
Label: Black Butter
The next member of the Number 1 Club was J Hus with his sophomore album, Big Conspiracy. After reaching number six with his 2017 debut Common Sense, Big Conspiracy entered straight at the top by dethroning Eminem’s Music to be Murdered By, notably with a day’s notice of release and no music videos.
Nines – Crabs in a Bucket (2020)
Date Achieved: 4 September 2020
Label: Zino / Warner
All rappers listed so far nailed their first number one with either their debut or follow-up effort. For Nines, it took four mixtapes and his third studio album to earn it. After making the switch from XL to Warner, Nines debuted atop the chart ahead of Metallica (by 2,000 sales), Gregory Porter, Disclosure and Katy Perry. Its power in streams and downloads marked the victory, notably within the midst of national lockdowns and the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Headie One – Edna (2020)
Date Achieved: 16 October 2020
Eight mixtapes later, Headie One released his debut studio album in late 2020. It entered at number one with 15,494 units, competing directly with D-Block Europe’s own debut, The Blue Print: Us vs Them. Edna marked the first number one album by a drill artist, spending five consecutive weeks in the top 40.
Slowthai – Tyron (2021)
Date Achieved: 19 February 2021
Label: Method / Interscope / AWGE
Slowthai marked the twelfth number one album by a UK rapper with his second record, Tyron. The double-disc followed two years after Slowthai’s debut album, Nothing Great About Britain (chart peak: 9). Tyron entered at number one and remained there for a week, among a top five consisting of Foo Fighters, Pale Waves, Dua Lipa and The Weeknd.
KSI – All Over the Place (2021)
Date Achieved: 23 July 2021
Label: RBC / BMG
Famous YouTuber turned rapper KSI earned a number one album with his second solo effort after narrowly missing the peak with 2020’s Dissimulation. Featuring hip hop heavyweights Future, 21 Savage, Lil Wayne, Polo G and more, All Over the Place sold 34,328 units in its first week, driven strongly by physical sales.
Dave – We’re All Alone in This Together (2021)
Date Achieved: 30 July 2021
Label: Dave / Neighbourhood
The second album by Dave debuted atop with a stark 74,000 units ahead of Anne-Marie and Olivia Rodrigo. It shifted to number two the following week before returning back to number one in its third week. The record-setting sales allowed a Silver certification in just its second week of release, and a Gold certification the following month. We’re All Alone in This Together made Dave the fourth UK rapper with two or more number one albums, following The Streets, Plan B and Stormzy.
Central Cee – 23 (2022)
Date Achieved: 4 March 2022
After narrowly missing the top spot with his 2021 debut mixtape, Wild West, the West London rapper claimed it second time round with 23. Released under no label, it sold 29,764 units first-week and saw further success across Europe. Although 23 is not an album, its achievement highlights the growing change in the industry around project classification and the blurred lines that comes with it.
Digga D – Noughty by Nature (2022)
Date Achieved: 22 April 2022
Label: CGM / EGA
Digga D continued to showcase the ascent of UK drill with his third mixtape, Noughty by Nature. It debuted atop with 8,855 units sold – 69% attributed to streaming while 2,356 sales were made through CD and cassettes.
This article will be periodically updated to account for further number one albums.