A picture says a thousand words but for many hip-hop album covers there often arenâ€™t a thousand words to be said. The typical hip-hop album cover displays a portrait of the rapper with the album title sprawled across the bottom, however, many artists have stepped up their aesthetic department and produced more creative cover art. Some artists add elements such as concept and color, while others go as far excluding themselves from the album cover and let an image speak for itself. In 2006 many artists pushed the envelope with politically charged and out of the box cover art and brought meaning to album aesthetics.
10. Dilated Peoples – 20/20
Dilated Peoples really opened the eyes and ears of their listeners with their album 20/20. The cover displays a broken SLR camera lens within the shattered glass is a Cyclops body. The concept of the eye within the lens of the camera is built upon the Dilated Peopleâ€™s theme of awareness. Throughout their lyrics they accentuate being aware of everything thatâ€™s going around you and looking beyond the surface. The broken lens represents the mainstreamâ€™s skewed perception of reality.
9. The Clipse â€“ Hell Hath No Fury
After a prolonged hiatus, The Clipse return harder than ever with their album, Hell Hath No Fury. The Clipse have coined themselves as the bakerâ€™s men of the industry and demonstrate their role well with the cover of their latest album. The cover displays Pusha T and Malice hanging around an old fashioned stove oven in front of a dollar bill wallpaper. The white oven symbolizes The Clipseâ€™s history in the free base drug game and the casual demeanor of the brothers represents their takeover.
8. Jurassic 5 – Feedback
Jurassic 5 brings it back to basics with the cover of Feedback. The cover displays a colorful music equalizer with the burgundy faces of the five members of Jurassic 5 etched in each column. The 6th column shows the group name in block letters and surprisingly the album title appears in small type, almost unnoticeable, making the cover art of the album speak for its self.
7. Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
Ghostface strengthens his drug affiliation persona with his album Fishscale. Ghost relays his drug history with his fisherman cover and tracks like â€œKiloâ€ and â€œCrack Spot.â€ The OG version of the cover shows Ghostface skinning the scales of a fish on a dock a front a ship and the dark tones reflect the heavy themes of the album. The title, Fishscale, comes from the slang term that means high quality cocaine which looks similar to the scales of a fish.
6. Outkast – Idlewild
Similar to the cover of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, the cover of Idlewild show Big Boi and Andre 3000 separated, yet united, on the same album. The theme is set in the 1940s where Andre is shown playing the piano and Big Boi is draped in fur behind an old fashioned mic. The cover is divided in half, each half having one OutKast member as its focus. In the background of each half is the opposite member. This foreshadows the music on the album where Big Boi and Andre either perform solo on the tracks or together in collaborations.
5. Rhymefest – Blue Collar
Rhymefest stays true to his everyday man personality with the cover of Blue Collar. Rhymefest plays a worn out blue collar worker in a navy jumpsuit asleep next to an employee of the month plaque. The plaque is a parody of the Uncle Sam army posters from back in the day to show a parallel between serving your country and your employer. Rhymefestâ€™s choice of the blue collar worker represents his everyday portrayal and connection to his fans, the general public.
4. Massive Attack – Collected
Massive Attack has always been known for their fusion of rap, rock and techno and they exhibit this with the cover Collected. The cover displays the infamous guns and roses as the theme and hub of the cover. The dark tones of the roses atop the rose background foreshadow the dark and mellow themes of the album.
3. Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor
The cover of Lupe Fiascoâ€™s Food & Liquor has received mixed reviews. The cover art concept resonates with Lupeâ€™s interest in Japanese Anime and cartoons. Lupe is in space surrounded by a floating boombox, along with other items such as a Nintendo DS, comic books, figurines and the Quâ€™ran. The idea came from the decks of skateboards designed by Instant Winner where a man is floating with an accordion, and other objects as well as from Dragonball Z character, Super Saian. While many did not think highly of the cover art, Lupe reminds critics that it was a work for himself and the inside cover was for the fans.
2. The Roots – Game Theory
Game Theory is arguably the heaviest Roots album to date, built on the notion that the actions of one individual determine the fate of others, often negatively. In the case of this album it represents how social issues negatively affect the community to the extent that one feels like theyâ€™re hanging themselves by being a part of it. The cover is in black in white and a hang-man is painted on a lyric laden newspaper. The dark tones represent the themes and weight of the issues Black Thought raps about throughout the album.
1. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere
The concept of St. Elsewhere was inspired for the television drama, St. Elsewhere, where doctors treated patients unwanted by major hospitals in a rundown establishment in South end Boston, Ma. The cover shows a destruction cloud that was most likely the result of a nuclear bomb and within the disarray are images in relation to war and sex. The cloud represents everything society refuses to address directly such as the â€œsex sellsâ€ phenomena and the war in Iraq. The cover artâ€™s controversial undertone reflects that of Gnarls Barkleyâ€™s music and abstract style.