Top 10 Hip-Hop Album Covers of 2006

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A picture says a thousand words but for many hip-hop album covers there often aren’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.

honors_dilated1.jpg10. 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 People’s theme of awareness. Throughout their lyrics they accentuate being aware of everything that’s going around you and looking beyond the surface. The broken lens represents the mainstream’s skewed perception of reality.

hhcovers_theclipse.jpg9. The Clipse – 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 baker’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 Clipse’s history in the free base drug game and the casual demeanor of the brothers represents their takeover.

hhcovers_jur5.jpg8. 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.

hhcovers_ghostface.jpg7. 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 “Kilo” and “Crack Spot.” 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.

hhcovers_outkast.jpg6. 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.

hhcovers_rhymefest.jpg5. 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. Rhymefest’s choice of the blue collar worker represents his everyday portrayal and connection to his fans, the general public.

hhcovers_massiveattack.jpg4. 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.

hhcovers_lupe.jpg3. Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor
The cover of Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor has received mixed reviews. The cover art concept resonates with Lupe’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 Qu’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.

hhcovers_theroots.jpg2. 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 they’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.

hhcovers_gnarlsbark.jpg1. 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 “sex sells” phenomena and the war in Iraq. The cover art’s controversial undertone reflects that of Gnarls Barkley’s music and abstract style.

Kendra Desrosiers

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13 comments

  1. Nicki / Phaze.One says:

    I’ve seen quite a few Top10 lists like this around the web, and it’s all cool. However, I have to ask how album covers such as Lupe Fiasco and Little Brother (Especially this one, as it was released in 2005 lol) could gain entry on such a list as this. This is of course my personal opinion and all, but how come an album such as Cunninlynguists’ – A Piece Of Strange is nowhere to be found? I see that album as one of the best artistical cover arts made, not only in 2006. But of course, we’re all different.

  2. The whole minstrel thing is kind of weak, it works in one sense, but the stereotypes that are being pushed by the modern rap artists are generally offensive to a large section of the market; ie, images of rich angry, violent black men with large penises. Whereas originally, Minstrels were expected to provide harmless entertainment in which blacks were depicted as being submissive, safe, silly and fun to laugh at.

    So it seems like the little brother cover is a bit mixed up in terms of what its trying to communicate, that is, if it was originally an attempt at “controversiality”

  3. My bad on the Little Brother piece, it was listed as 2006 but I guess it was a rerelease so due adjustments are being made. As for Cunninlynguists, I excluded all underground artists because there was a possibility that there was going to be a list for underground covers and I didn not want any overlap.

    As for the Minstrel show, when they were in effect Whites felt it was harmless but Blacks felt it was degrading because it made Black people look stupid. Rap is compared to a minstrel show because many rappers make Black people look stupid, they sing (or rap) and dance (i.e. chicken noodle soup, walk it out, etc) and make anfool of themselves. I mean you can’t possibly be oblivious to the fact that Whites in black face parading around as Blacks was harmless, their mere makeup was offensive nevermind the show itself.

    Your definition of a minstrel show belittles the negative effects they had on the Black community. There was more than one stereotype pushed in the minstrel shows that are still prevalent in modern entertainment (see the minstrel show article that was just published in The Source). Many characters were materialisric, very promiscuous, dumb and funny, or big muscular trouble makers (see The Colored Museum video). The whole point of everyones comparison between minstrel shows and rappers is that they both present stereotypes that make Black people look bad and generally are under the supervision of some White people who own many of the record labels and ran the minstrel shows.

  4. I never thought I’d quote Radiohead, but what if “You do it to yourself?”

    I mean, as much as I consider most new rap “mistrelesque”, maybe that’s whut cats really are like, and maybe that’s whut cats really wanna hear.

    I hate that “Chain Hangs Low” song, but I allow that tastes vary. Sure, rap used to be about witty wordplay and the like, but many people don’t care for that and would prefer catchy sing-along choruses and danceable beats.

    Does it make black folk look bad? Perhaps, but I’m not qualified to judge. And if you do it to yourself, why should anybody give a damn?

  5. what we must also consider is the conflict and self-hatred which occurs in the black intelligensia whom generally push such ideas like “mistrelesque”.

    Just look at Cosby, a perfect example. And when educated and intelligent african americans deem certain behaviour among their “lesser” counterparts as undesirable to their OWN self-image, they tend to muddle things up by blaming the “white” controlled media.

    kind of like rednecks blame the “jew” run media.

    I know lots of dudes out there acting all ghetto, some are white, some black, some are even chinese, Ghetto steez is a natural condition when one’s possibilities are limited, the same shit was going down 50 years ago in the high plains of alberta, its just that they had a different soundtrack, but dudes were still getting tore up and thrown in jail.

  6. I can’t stress enough how insulting it was when BET announced it chose to ban artists such as Little Brother and A Tribe Called Quest because their music was “too intelligent” for its viewers. That was as if to say the Black community lacked the ability to be socially conscious. It would be unfair to say that the Hip Hop community generally does not favor “conscious” music if media outlets such as BET refuse to air the videos. Viewers are subliminally being directed towards liking a certain type of music and until we are given a choice, artists like NaS cannot deem Hip Hop dead. Hip Hop is not dead; its possibilities have yet to be revealed.

  7. Decent List … one I would love to add would be Redman’s Muddy Waters … the image, the font … the setting … pure brilliance …

    ;)

  8. why is the hell is that gnarls barkley album posted? that is by FAR the worst cover i’ve seen in my entire life. Of course cover art has no logical correspondance with musical content, but 1st impressions are lasting!
    lucky for the barkley team, radio is a popular medium b/c i wouldn’t pick this album off the shelves if they paid me!

  9. hip hop is not accepting what is popular or mainstream. Take what is “hip”, and “hop” the other direction. Be an individual! If everybody wears shoes, I’m gonna be bearfooted. That to me is hip-hop, not accepting what you see on MTV. I “love” Nas,JayZ,Em, but unstead of pushing the envenlope. They sorted stagnited. They feel in love with the position they are at(being a rapper & making money). To them (as well as the recording industry) its all about numbers now. Leaving out what is true in hip-hop, that is to never settle.

  10. album cover use to make a statment. How different and unique the album cover was means the artist was different and unique and that good you were in for a treat now everybody album cover and the artist is same tried originally is at a low

  11. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE JOKING! THESES ALBUM COVERS DONT EVEN COME CLOSE TO GREAT HIP HOP ALBUM COVERS! PLEASE STOP IT. YOU NEED TO GO BACK TO THE LAB AND BRAINSTORM. DID WE FORGET MIDNIGHT MURADERS BY TRIBE. BIZARRE RIDE 2 BY PHARCYDE DEATH CERTIFICATE BY ICE CUBE THINGS FALL APART BY THE ROOTS JUST TO NAME A FEW! WHO EVER MADE THIS LIST NEEDS TO REALLY GET THEIR GAME UP! THATS THE PROBLEM WITH HIP HOP NOW A DAYS, TO FOCUSED ON GOOD ART THEN GOOD MUSIC. ALBUM COVERS SHOULD REFLECT THE MESSAGE OF THE ALBUM NOT ONLY SATISFY THE ARTISTIC PERSPECTIVE! GIVE ME A FREAKIN BREAK.

  12. Yo! Any chance you could put in the names of the album cover designers? I think they should get some credit for the work they put in. Cool post, thanks!

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