The album was released shortly after the success of "Pass the Dutchie", which is the album's opening song. The Youth of Today contains twelve reggae tracks, written by Freddie Waite and Musical Youth themselves, and produced by Peter Collins. Some subsequent releases omitted "Gone Straight" and "Rub 'n' Dub", and had the rest of the tracks in a re-arranged order. The album included a colourful comic story on its inner sleeve, designed by Lon Goddard, as well as a big Musical Youth poster. The cover photograph is credited to Eric Watson.
"Pass the Dutchie" was the album's lead single, released to great commercial success. It scored a number one position in no less than five countries and earned a Grammy Award nomination. A rapid follow-up, "Youth of Today", was released at the end of 1982 and achieved respectable chart success. The third single, "Never Gonna Give You Up", released in early 1983, became the band's second biggest hit in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The album's fourth and final single, "Heartbreaker", didn't fare as well and charted only in the UK, outside the top 40.
The Youth of Today was released to positive reviews and commercial success. It peaked at number 24 in the United Kingdom and number 23 in the United States. It fared much better in France and Canada, where it peaked at number 13 and number 8 respectively. The album was certifiedGold in both the UK and Canada.