So basically this is a countdown of my top 14 favourite hip hop album covers of all time.I found that a lot of my favourite covers were actually debut albums. There’s a lot of dope covers in there let me know what you think, what would you have in your list? Enjoy.
Album: Medicine Show No.5 (History of the Loop Digga)
History of the Loop Digga was a part of Madlib’s Medicine Show series which consisted of 13 album’s released over a period of two years. The album was the fifth in the series consisting of previously unreleased Madlib productions dating as far back as the 1990s. The artwork was hand drawn by Stone Throw’s art director Jeff Jank who actually coordinated the visuals for all 13 of the albums in the series.
Album: Blazing Arrow
Blazing Arrow is the second album from California duo Blackalicious. The incredibly cool artwork was created by artist Brent Rollins who has also worked on album covers for the likes of Dilated Peoples, Lyrics Born and Black Star. Brent Rollins’ artistic style is one of my favourite and I particularly like his work on Blazing Arrow because of its unique design and the fact that it shows that hip hop is universal.
Artist: The Roots
Undun is The Roots thirteenth studio album and is an existential concept album told through a reverse chronological narrative about the tragic life of a fictional character named Robert Stevens. The album cover features a black and white photo of a child in mid-air performing a back flip on a rugged torn up mattress. A powerful image for a very powerful album.
Album: Ready to Die
Artist: The Notorious B.I.G.
Considered one of the greatest debut albums of all time Ready to Die put Biggie Smalls on the map. The album features timeless classics such as Juicy and Big Poppa amongst others and was sadly the only album Biggie would release while alive. The cover depicts a young infant who resembles BIG which relates to the album’s concept of biggie’s life from birth to death.
Album: Mm.. Food
Artist: MF DOOM
Coming in at number ten is the masked hip hop veteran with his second full length album under the MF DOOM persona. Mm.. Food which is actually an anagram of MF DOOM was released in 2004 and features many food related samples. Jason Jagel is the artist behind this cool cartoonish cover which was part of a series consisting of scenes of MF DOOM eating breakfast and mixing chemicals in a forest. Dope!
Album: Midnight Marauders
Artist: A Tribe Called Quest
You couldn’t have a greatest hip hop album cover countdown without at least one Tribe album and what better cover to choose then this absolute classic. The cover artwork for Midnight Marauders was released in three separate variations, one green frame, one red frame and one black frame and they all featured the faces of different hip hop artists. They don’t make them like this anymore.
Outkast’s sophomore album ATLiens is one of the most recognizable album covers in hip hop history. Released in 1996 the cover showcases Big Boi and Andre as if they were comic book characters trying to take on the world. Because hip hop didn’t really come from the South back then people saw the duo as aliens hence the title. D.L Warfield who was head designer for Tommy Boy Records’ clothing line was appointed the job of creating the cover and I have to say he nailed it!
Album: Bobby Digital In Stereo
RZA’s debut solo album as his alter ego Bobby Digital was released in 1998. The epic cover work was created by artist Bill Sienkiewicz and depicts RZA (Bobby Digital) as a superhero with a big ass fucking gun. The James Bond inspired cover also features plenty of women, guns, explosions and of course the classic Wu symbol, what more could you ask for? Epic!
Album: Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star
Artist: Black Star
Artist Brent Rollins features again, this time for his 70’s reggae influenced cover for Black Star’s self-titled debut album. Mos Def and Tailb Kweli who make up the supergroup feature on the cover with heroic looks on their faces as if they are carrying the weight of their hometown Brooklyn on their shoulders. The powerful and colourful cover represents the passion that was used to create this amazing album.
Album: Liquid Swords
Rounding out the top 5 is Wu-Tang member GZA with his 1995 sophomore album Liquid Swords. Considered to be one of the greatest hip hop album covers of all time, the idea for the artwork struck GZA obviously while he was stoned. The Wu-Tang member said he came up with the idea whilst playing chess against fellow Wu member Masta Killa. The artwork represents chess pieces coming to life and battling it out on the board, definitely one of the coolest concepts for an album cover!
The newest album cover on the list comes from MF DOOM and Bishop Nehru’s collaborative album titled NehruvianDOOM. The amazing illustration was created by Adventure Time artist Ghostshrimp and features the duo inside the cartoon world of Ooo. The detail is phenomenal, it’s the type of album cover you stare at for a while finding new things to look at each time. There is no denying that this was by far the dopest hip hop album cover of the year which is why it has made its way to number 4 on my list of greatest of all time.
Album: Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
Artist: The Pharcyde
Another debut album to feature on my list this time from legendary group The Pharcyde. Their 1992 masterpiece Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde is considered to be one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time as well as one of the best covers. The Fat Albert-ized artwork shows all four members of the group crammed in a carriage roller coasting their way into some sought of funhouse. The cover represents this album to a T as it really is a fun and bizarre ride from the very first track to the last.
Blackalicious make their second appearance on my list with their 1999 debut album Nia. Artist Brent Rollins who has already featured twice on my list created this incredibly dope artwork which features two children playing with some recording devices. I really love this album cover because it represents everything about hip hop from the vinyls to the turntables even to the kids’ afro. Everything about this cover is dope which is why it’s my second favourite hip hop album cover of all time.
Artist: Snoop Doggy Dogg
My number one all-time favourite hip hop album cover goes to Doggystyle, Snoop Dogg’s (then known as Snoop Doggy Dogg) classic 1993 debut album. Created by Snoop’s Cousin Joe Cool the artwork represents exactly who Snoop was at the time. I love everything about this album cover from its humour to its use of colour and its cartoonish style. There really could not have been a better way to show the world what they were in for. Hands down my favourite (not just hip hop) album cover of all time.