Elemental Covers

For those of you out there that think 50 Cent invented hip-hop, it’s time to recognize. Before “rap music,” the four main elements of hip-hop were DJing, Bboying, Graffiti and Emceeing. Although these elements do still get represented globally, seldom do mainstream artists pay homage to hip-hop’s core elements and roots. When a rare occurrence does grace the industry, we are reminded of the journey hip-hop has taken from inner city beginnings to a pop culture phenomenon.

Method Man – 4:21
The cover for Method Man’s 4:21 epitomizes hip-hop’s art element by basing its entirety on graffiti. The title 4:21 is formed by two steel like structures and along the sides of the numbers are vibrant tags that state “the day after,” Method Man and the names of his fellow Wu peers. The background consists of a building silhouette and atop it lays “Method Man,” tagged in black, so fresh that the paint is seen dripping from each of the letters. Most covers that include graffiti consist of a simple tag, so Meth’s graffiti heavy art stands out as the burner amongst the rest.

De La Soul – De La Mixtape
The DJ has long been an important music entity and the days of the rookie trailing behind him with crates full of the latest singles is a past time that will forever be engrained in Hip Hop culture so it is inevitable that the album cover for De La Mixtape serves as a tribute. The cover resembles a piece straight from an artist’s sketchbook. It displays a drawn mixer atop a milk crate with De La vinyls spilling out the mouth. The electric green backdrop is decorated with spray paint splatters across the back and serves as a subtle homage to taggers.

Black Star – Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star
While hip-hop has become a multicultural phenomenon its origins lay in Black music, so it is only natural that Kweli and Mos would use a boom box to emulate the Black Star persona on the cover of their self-titled album. The cover displays the faces of Black Star etched in the amber sunset above a sea of green faces. Beneath the block lettered Black Star title is a white outlined blaring boom box with radiant orange stars within the speakers and the entire cover is enclosed in a geometric border. The warm colors of the cover art bring a more euphoric appreciation for music as opposed to the darker tones found in many LP covers.

Gang Starr – The Ownerz
Gang Starr complements their classic material with classic elements in their cover for The Ownerz LP. The cover is completely black and white with the exception of a few elements in different hues strategically placed to bring the attention across the cover. DJ Premier and Guru stand affront a Gang Starr laden gate with posts made of speaker like bricks. The album title is tagged on a blank label and escapes from the left side of the cover along with assorted stickers and labels. Music and the art are both exemplified in this cover which recognizes hip-hop’s many elements.

Jurassic 5 – Feedback
The cover of Jurassic 5’s Feedback is simplistic, yet eye-catching. The multi-level equalizer, brightly arranged on the black background represents the ever prominent music elements of hip-hop. Within each column are the sketched faces of the group next to the block lettered Jurassic 5 emblem. Although rap was the last element developed in hip-hop, its mainstream appeal has made it the most visible and the Feedback cover embodies its significance.

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Kendra Desrosiers

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  1. Whut about End2End Burners by Company Flow? That 12” wuz drawn by none other than Phase 2! (graf legend, if you didn’t know)

    Plus, the video wuz the first to feature that 3D “living” graf ish that BET copied (inferiorly) for its Rap City opening.

    And whut of Artifacts’ Wrong Side of Da Tracks 12”? BTW, WAY better cover than single (but great sample)!

  2. yo that J5 cover sucks. And what about beatboxing? how could anyone disinclude beatboxing from the main elements? shit, are we talking the REAL history or the MTV history?

  3. and…..hiphop was ALWAYS multicultural, blacks may have dominated the media coverage, but many many infamous writers and b-boys were from a wide variety of racial backgrounds.

  4. This section doesn’t cover vinyls Rick, sorry.

    Hip Hop was created off the heels of the civil war and the Black Nationalist/Black Power movement. While it did develop into a multicultural movement, the pioneers were Black and the birth place, South Bronx, was predominantly Black as well. The keywords are the creators and pioneers. This was not meant to offend those who are not Black and are into either one of the elements, its just stating the facts of the origins. Also, infamous implies negativity, so while a group like the Beastie Boys were not infamous, they were popular but could not be considered a pioneer regardless of the fact that Paul Revere is still one of my favorites.

    However, little known fact is that many pioneers in Punk were closely associated with those of Hip Hop because they both were underground during the same time period. While Blondie may not have invented the scratching turntable technique or break, Debbie Harry did “rap” part of Rapture and include many Hip Hop images and artists such as Grandmaster Caz in the video which helped make Hip Hop mainstream (not necessarily a good thing).

    In regards to “real history.” Real history defines Hip Hop in four pioneering elements which obviously led to others. Beat boxing is grouped with Rap because back in the day most emcees could beat box. It was a necessity because everyone did not have the luxury of an on call DJ during freestyle battles like we do today. Besides, an MTV history would name the Sugar Hill Gang as a pioneer and “Rappers Delight” an original classic when we all know about the biting from Caz but that’s another story.

  5. infamous implies that theyre skills were beyond that of their enemies. I don’t agree with your afrocentric interpretation of hiphop history. It was about parties before politics and you’re angle excludes thousands of whites and latinos who contributed so much to hiphop’s roots.

  6. the music, granted, predominantly black, but once you start talking about graf and breakin, its a whoooooole diff’rent story.

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