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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
Album: The Last Zulu
Release Date: TBA
Over the last few years legendary MC Q-Tip has been hard at work behind the scenes working on production for artists such as Kanye West, Jay Z and John legend just to name a few. Recently its been reported that he will be working on kanye’s latest album this year however; 2014 also looks set to be the year he releases his fourth solo album titled “The Last Zulu”. The album is set to be released later this year with rumours it will feature Busta Rhymes and fellow tribe members Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White.
Album: F.I.L.A (Fly International Luxurious Art)
Release Date: September 16th
Wu-Tang veteran Raekwon has been a busy man this year and only seems to be getting busier after the announcement of a Wu-Tang reunion with an album scheduled to drop later this year. On top of that he’s been working on his own highly anticipated sixth solo album “F.I.L.A (Fly International Luxurious Art)” which is set to hit stores on September 16th joining fellow hip hop artists 50 cent and the Game who also have albums dropping on the same date. It’s the chefs first solo effort since his 2011 album “Shaolin vs Wu Tang” which is why I’m so damn excited and if the albums first release “Call of Duty” which features R&B artist Akon is anything to go by we should be in for one hell of an album.
Artist: The Cool Kids
Album: Shark Week
Release Date: TBA
The Cool Kids are back! The creative minds of Chuck Inglish & Mikey Rocks have reunited to bring us their second studio album titled “Shark Week”. The funky duo from Michigan who have been on hiatus for almost three years told XXL magazine that they expect the album to be out later this year. Rumours are circling about who is going to feature on the album with Tyler the Creator topping the list. Earlier in the year they released the track “Computer School” which has their signature Cool Kids sound that really highlights the duos essence and is expected to be on the album. Their style is so fresh and so unique it’s exactly what the hip hop world needs right now.
Album: Doe or Die II
Release Date: TBA
Coming from the legendary man himself, AZ has announced that his upcoming LP “Doe or Die II” will be his last and final album. It’s been 19 years since the Brooklyn rapper released his debut LP “Doe or Die”, in that time he has produced eight incredible solo albums and is considered to be one of the most underrated rappers of all time. In an interview with Hiphopdx earlier in the year AZ stated that “Doe or Die II” might just be his best work yet and whilst he has yet to set a release date for the album it is expected to drop later this year. In a career that has spanned over nearly two decades and seen him collaborate with artists such as Nas, Raekwon and Dr.Dre, I think it’s safe to say AZ will go down as one of the greats and hopefully “Doe or Die II” will be a legendary send off.
Artist: Jay Electronica
Album: Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn)
Release Date: TBA
It’s being called the most anticipated debut album in hip hop history and whilst there is still no official release date the album is expected to drop later this year after Jay spoke to Hiphopdx promising his fans that 2014 is the year. It’s hard to believe that this will be the debut album from Jay who first came to life back in 2007 after the release of his mixtape “Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)” which is considered to be a timeless classic. The track list for “Act II” was released by Jay back in 2012 and featured artists such as Jay-Z, Kanye West and P. Diddy. In a recent interview with Hiphopdx Jay stated that the track list has changed slightly but only by a“few centimetres and a few new records”leaving us all anxious with anticipation.
Artist: Ice Cube
Album: Everythangs Corrupt
Release Date: October 21st
The king of gangsta rap is back and judging by the name of his latest album “Everythangs Corrupt” it seems the don mega has a strong political message to share with us all. Earlier in the year the hip hop veteran released the hard hitting track “Sasquatch” accompanied by a terrifying film clip portraying a bloody Cube as a serial killer hunting down a group of people as if it were a horror movie. His latest release titled “Drop Girl” however; is the complete opposite and has caused much up roar with his hard core fans who have labelled the track as commercial garbage. Cube replied by posting a video to his fans saying for everyone to “relax its just one song”. Love it or hate it there is still no denying that Ice Cube is one of the greatest to grace the game which is why I can’t wait for this album.
Artist: Statik Selektah
Album: What Goes Around
Release Date: August 19th
Coming in at number eight is the only non-rapper on the list; I’m talking about the very skilled and very talented Mr Statik Selektah. This will be the sixth studio LP from the legendary producer who has gathered up some amazing guests to feature on the album. The mix of old school legends such as Pharoahe Monch and Snoop Dogg with new school maestros like Joey Bada$$ and Freddie Gibbs is what makes it one of the most anticipated albums of the year. The first track released from the album is titled “Carry On” which features Joey Bada$$ and Freddie Gibbs rhyming over a soothing jazz influenced beat with a Classic Nas sample for the hook. Whoever said hip hop is dead needs to listen “Carry On” right now!
Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Release Date: TBA
He’s one of the biggest names in hip hop right now and rightfully so after receiving worldwide success from his critically acclaimed debut major label album “Good kid m.A.A.d city” back in 2012. Two years on and the Compton rapper is preparing to release his sophomore album which currently does not have a title or release date however; it is expected to drop before the end of the year. In a recent interview with complex, Lamar stated that he has recorded around 30 to 40 tracks for the new album which will feature a few producers including beat maestro and mentor Dr.Dre. Kendrick’s unique style and amazing story telling ability is a breath of fresh air in a time where hip hop is being overshadowed by mainstream mediocrity, “GKMC” shook the rap game up let’s hope this album can shake it up a bit more.
Artist: Wu-Tang Clan
Album: A Better Tomorrow
Release Date: TBA
2014 has been the year of big reunions in the hip hop world we’ve seen the likes of Outkast, Bone Thugs and even G Unit get back together however; none have been quite as big as the reuniting of the mighty Wu -Tang Clan. Earlier in the month all living members (plus a ODB t-shirt) reunited on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to talk about their new album and perform a new track titled “Ron O’Neal”. The track features quality verses from Meth, Inspectah Deck, Ghost and RZA with an R&B inspired hook that you wouldn’t normally expect from the Wu. Nonetheless it sounds dope and whilst no official release date has been set the album is expected to drop later this year. It’s been 21 years since their classic debut album “Enter The Wu -Tang (36 Chambers)” let’s hope they can bring the ruckus back.
Artist: Joey Bada$$
Release Date: TBA
If there is one artist you should be listening to right now its Joey Bada$$! His whole style and raw flow makes you feel like you’re in the 90s again which at times I bet we all wish we were. “B4DA$$” will be the Brooklyn rappers debut studio album with rumours speculating a mid-September release. Earlier in the month Bada$$ released the first single from the debut album titled “Big Dusty”, a very dark and hard hitting track that really highlights the rappers unique flow. Some big names have been lined up for production on the album with Q-Tip, DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Statik Selektah all working on the album. These days it’s rare to find artists like Joey Bada$$ however they are out there you just have to look in the right places.
Artist: Bishop Nehru & MF Doom
Release Date: September 23rd
What do you get when you put a hip hop legend together with one of the games dopest up and coming MCs? You get NehruvianDoom, hip hops newest collaboration that looks set to flip the game on its head. Young gun Bishop Nehru and hip hop veteran MF Doom have teamed up to deliver one of my most anticipated albums of the year. The nine track LP will be Nehrus first feature on a major studio release, prior to this Nehru has released a few mixtapes which really got people talking due to his fresh style and solid flow. Doom will be producing the entire album and whilst he features on the hook for the duos latest release “OM”, fingers are crossed we will also hear the supervillain spit a few verses. For all the hip hop heads out there this is defiantly one album you don’t want to miss.
Artist: Busta Rhymes
Album: E.L.E.2 (Extinction Level Event 2)
Release Date: TBA
Back in 1998 hip hop legend Busta Rhymes released one of his greatest albums “E.L.E (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front”, 16 years later and the New York rapper is preparing to release its highly anticipated sequel “E.L.E.2 (Extinction Level Event 2)”. Two tracks have already been released from the album including “Thank You” ft Q-Tip and “Calm Down” ft Eminem; both tracks are pure fire that showcases the vigorous energy that’s been missing from his recent work. On the production side of things Busta has recruited Swizz Beats, Rockwilder, Nottz and DJ Scratch who all appeared on E.L.E, along with some new beats from DJ Premier, Dr.Dre and the late J Dilla. This will be the rappers tenth album and whilst no release date has been set it is expected to hit stores later this year.
Artist: Shady Records
Album: SHADY XV
Release Date: November 28th
To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Shady Records, founder Eminem has decided to release a two disc compilation album featuring past and present artists from the label. One disc will feature several of labels greatest hits whilst the other disc will feature new music from the labels current artists Slaughterhouse, Yelawolf and D12. Yes you heard right, rumour has it D12 will be showcasing some new music on the album; this will be the group’s first release since the death of fellow member Proof back in 2006. Last month Eminem released a new track titled “Guts over Fear” featuring Sia which will appear on the album, the song shows the more serious side of Slim Shady who raps about his place in hip hop by looking back on his career. “Shady XV” is defiantly an album to get excited about; I mean new D12 material how could you not get excited.
Artist: Method Man & Redman
Album: Blackout! 3
Release Date: TBA
If there’s one thing the hip hop world needs right now it’s red & meths highly anticipated third album “Blackout 3!” Ever since the pair released their debut record “Blackout!” back in 1999, hip hop fans like myself have been craving that raw sound. Ten years later we got our fix when they released “blackout! 2” and now with confirmation of “Blackout! 3” the hip hop world eagerly awaits for yet another fix. Whilst not much has been said about the album it is expected to drop this year with rumours circulating it could feature production from artists such as RZA, Rockwilder and Eric Sermon. Method Man & Redman are the definition of hip hop, the chemistry between them is like dynamite and it explodes when they get on the mic. I’m going to go out and say this will be album of the year!