For being such a visceral and visual genre, hip-hop has gotten minimal attention given to its album covers. This is no longer as Andrew Emery makes a commendable effort to catalogue the hits, misses and everything in between with The Book of Hip Hop Cover Art.
Emery catalogues the covers chronologically, as well as thematically, with a format that is sure to conjure up back-in-the-day memories for some, and what-were-they-thinking moments for others. A diverse selection of artists are represented, from old school trivia like Dr. Dreâ€™s World Class Wreckinâ€™ Cru days, to all the Pro-Black bandwagon tagalongs from the Afro-centric era. Emery also features great interviews with Chuck D, whose group, Public Enemy, blazed visual trails for all hip hop, and George Dubose (art director to many a classic Cold Chillinâ€™ cover). And like the music, Emery has a chapter pointing out the many times hip-hop artists have sampled cover art as well.
Though many classic covers are profiled, not all receive equal billing. For a book of album cover art, each cover deserves at least a page of prominence. The other issue, and itâ€™s not Emeryâ€™s fault, is that many hip-hop album covers are weak â€“ generic photos of artist and posse/car/hoâ€™s. Still, Emery manages to track down many of the more memorable covers in hip-hop history, including one of the greatest of all time in any genre: The Geto Boyâ€™s We Canâ€™t Be Stopped. Seriously, does it get any better than Willie D. and Scarface pushing a celly-totinâ€™ Bushwick Bill, with freshly shot-out eye, on a gurney?
While not all the covers are classics, indeed, many are painfully terrible, The Book of Hip Hop Cover Art is valuable for a visual history of the music â€“ especially for the times when an album cover was truly representative of an artist.