Saying car culture is important to black culture is like saying pimps like gators — duh. Your ride is a reflection of your status, even more so than your sneakers or your 59/50. So, it’s only natural that whip appeal has always been a popular subject for hip hop record, CD and mixtape covers. After all, before videos, album art was the public’s only window into an artist’s persona — and that persona often included pushing an expensive whip.
Within the coveted automobile club, Cadillac reigns supreme. Not just in any hood, but in every hood; they may not have subways in Miami, Atlanta or Cali, but they all got Caddies. Of course, other luxury vehicles have always had the love of the streets. Think of the Lost Boyz, â€œJeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz,â€ and with rap’s explosion in popularity, many artists have upped the luxury stakes to Bentley and Roll Royce. Your ride, in the end, is just a matter of taste: but it had best be expensive — at least on the album cover.
The Clipse – God Willin’ and Quasimoto – The Unseen
Two musically and geographically diverse artists both rep illustrated covers, both featuring the ubiquitous Cadillac. Clipse, hailing from Virginia, as shown on the cover itself, come with a Neptunes pedigree and gangsta wordplay, as well as a love of blasphemy and ‘lacs. Quasimoto, on the other hand, is a Cali-dwellin’ beatmeister with the Stones Throw pedigree and a love of weed — as well as a love of ‘lacs. One is mainstream as can be, cameoing in Justin Timberlake songs, the other an underground beatmining king, but they both represent Cadillacs. Maybe we really are all in the same gang….
Jay Z – Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five – On the Strength
Call this the Alpha and the Omega of rap covers, or “Ain’t a Damn Thang Changed.â€ One of the first well-known hip hop artists, GMF and his Furious Five crew portray an early vision of ghetto-fab: not one but two Rolls, and curiously, only two women. Cars first, I guess. Jigga, the new rap ruler, meanwhile, shows that ambitions haven’t changed in ’98. Volume 2 shows Jay pensively stroking his big, black…Bentley. All that’s changed are the clothes and the ho’s. Jay is all bizness in black, with nary a hoochie in sight.
B.G. – It’s All on U and EPMD – Unfinished Business
Middle-school rap icons EPMD show that livin’ large in ’89 means Benzo’s and IROCs (and J3s). Nearly ten years later, B.G. shows us that Benzo’s are still the joint — only this time it’s in an imaginary, Photoshopped landscape that includes an electric chair and ominous clouds. At least Eric and Parrish’s cars were real.