13 most fascinating hip-hop album covers of all time

Categories: Lists
Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Riccardo Tesci's art for their freshly announced single "H.A.M." seems a love-it-or-hate-it type situation. Rotts, nautical stars (remember high school, when the seniors started to get tattoos?), scopa crowns, and platinum does not a consensus make, apparently.

All up in that spirit, here is a smattering of equally detestable and/or huggable album covers from the history of rap, plus the stories behind each of these noble contributions and sometimes ill-fated attempts.


The Don Killuminati contains some of the last material from Tupac Shakur, being released two months after his shooting in Las Vegas in 1994. It was supposed to mark the switch from his nom de plum 2Pac to Makaveli, which for obvious reasons didn't really stick. The cover is wonderfully aggressive, and far more tasteful than a certain other far less talented rapper's similar gambit. And from the album: Makaveli explains himself.


This is most certainly Pen and Pixel's finest hour. Who wouldn't go to this party? The Houston-based design company is the progenitor of a very specific type of album cover, a blatant-bling barely-composed type of early Photoshop wondrousness that to this day informs our idea of what a rap cover should (or absolutely not) look like. It's something that they will very happily oblige you for a probably manageable amount of money. And their website is a treasure trove.

indo-g christmas-n-memphis-530-85.jpeg

Indo G here missed his opportunity for an Oscar when he was disinvited from Three Six Mafia around the turn of the century, which is a shame for very obvious reasons, as it left him to his own devices which in turn led to recording Christmas N Memphis in 2002. I can't cop to having heard it, but judging from that cover, I (and you too, probably) absolutely want to. In eleven months.


Okay. Jesus. We don't have a fucking year here, gang, which is what the Geto (pronunciation: jee-toohg) Boys deserve. See that seemingly little man there? He just got shot in the face, and is barely stoked about it and really seems to just want to fake-talk to someone on a giant phone whilst being wheeled into certain anaesthetic bliss. See everyone else in the photo? That's what they call straight-to-god business.

Ahem, not real

I wish there was more to say about this record but: ALAS, it drinks not from the cup of extant, extinct or any middling gradation. It's fake. Not just any kind of fake, but Internet fake. So especially fake. If you have one-fourth an imagination then kindly use this as a mindpainting starter exercise: If Peter, Paul & Mary were trapped in a very frustrating rap contract that allowed very little in the way of budget for graphical branding and large-scale publicity, you'd probably look at this piece of what-will-be-called seminal graphic art in a very golden way.


The Arpanet-cum-Newsgroup foundation of Trick Daddy's Nostradamously forward-thinking cover for www.Thug.com is, in full hindsight, an amazing thing. Yeah, its a web page, we all get it. But making the artwork of your relatively overlooked record a Netscape/Web .80 thinkpiece that is as relevant now (especially now, really) as ever is no thing to blow your USB turntable's nose at.

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