Album covers don’t mean as much as they used to since the
internet took over the music industry, but back in the day before you could
listen to peoples shit all day online, album covers influenced purchases. I
think the last time a dope cover provoked a purchase without any knowledge of
the artist was Cunninlynguists’ first album. Similarly, I’ve certainly passed
on albums – even one’s that ended up being good – because the cover was wack.
So because we’ve got nothing better to do, Andreas Hale and I (J-23) bring you some of the
best, worst and so bad they’re good album covers.

The ‘Good’

Nas – Illmatic

So symbolic for the beginning of an era. With the murky and sinister New York
backdrop behind the young face of a budding emcee, Illmatic’s artwork delivers
a message that says “innocent on the outside, sinister on the inside.” And
after you removed the shrink wrap from the CD (or cassette), the music
delivered beyond expectations and forever burned this image into our brains.

Outkast – ATLiens

Sometimes you look at an album cover and say “Fuck…that’s dope.” Outkast’s
ATLiens was one of those albums. While Andre was in mid-transformation while
going into the sophomore effort, the ATLiens artwork spoke loudly in regards to
the artist expression and change coming in the music. The slick comic book artwork captures the street
essence of Big Boi and the artsy fartsy changes Andre Three Stacks was going
thru. From this point on, Outkast would always be on some next level shit.

GZA – Liquid Swords

There aren’t a whole lot of albums better than Liquid Swords, and the same can
be said for its classic cover. Done by a DC Comic artist, the deadly chess game was a
perfect representation of both GZA and the album. Rumor has it, one of the
characters being massacred originally had Cold Chillin’GZA’s former label – written
across his chest.

BDP – By All Means

After the unfortunate loss of Scott La Rock, KRS-1 had to make a statement both
musically and visually. By recreating the infamous Malcolm X portrait of him
peering through a window with weapon in hand, KRS put an exclamation point on
an album full of classic material such as “My Philosophy” and “Stop The
Violence”. Doesn’t get more symbolic
than this.

Ice Cube – Death

Ice Cube’s foremost masterpiece remains one of the most controversial albums of
all-time. Shit, pictures of the man were banned in the entire state of Oregon
during the album fall out. As great album art does, Cube captured the attitude
of the album perfectly on the patriotic cover. Cube’s mock homage over the
toe-tagged Uncle Sam draped with an American flag will always be one of hip
hop’s most enduring images for me.

Bonus… KMD – Black

In light of the all the race coverage that seems to inundate our news these
days, taking a look back at the KMD cover for Black Bastards and the symbolism
literally jumps out at you. The sambo looking character being hung by what
seems to be a failed game of hangman speaks so loudly in so little words. Unfortunately, an album cover like this would get ran into the ground by Al
and company today – regardless of the symbolism.

The ‘Bad’

Skullduggery – These
Wicked Streets

Let’s be honest, this cover isn’t all that bad except for…yes, that fucking
dog! Why not a Pitbull, Rottweiler, German Sheppard or a Doberman? You know,
something that looks the part when going for intimidation (though you would
think a name derived from pirate slang would do the trick)? No Limit’s Skull
instead opted for this small mut – which can’t weigh more than 15
pounds – give it some vampire teeth and some bright red eyes. If the giant
looming skulls behind him don’t get’cha, rest assured the rabid squirrel dog

Big Bear – Doin

Big Bear was definitely doin’ thangs, unfortunately what he was doing was
creating one of the most unintentionally hilarious album covers ever. If the
name Big Bear wasn’t bad enough on its own, this man felt the need to have a
few grizzlies join him on the album cover. And what else do you do with a
couple 1500 pound predators but throw silk robes on them, grab them a golden
pimp cup, a couple cigars and a pair of sunglasses? Oh, well I guess you would
just give them robes and have them stand guard in the background otherwise.
Don’t forget the funniest part though, that this man’s idea of “doin thangs” is
politickin with pimped out grizzly bears.

Sweet P – I Toast

Man…WTF are we looking at right here? I see some titties with a “Sweet P”
tattoo on ‘em and some chump in a glass getting liquor poured on him like he’s
a video ho in the “Big Pimpin” video (shout outs to Dame Dash). Oh…I get it. “I
Toast Myself!”
Ummm… nah fuck it…I don’t get it.

Mafiosos – Take Cover

Ok, so what do we have here? Some gangsta ass fools ready to set trip right?
Upon closer inspection you’ll notice that this could be classified as the homo
thug before the disease was widely spread. Note the arm draped over his man’s
shoulder and how close his cheek is to his thugged out homeboy. If that ain’t
the most gayest of gangster embraces then I don’t know what is. And is he
holding this dude’s hand? Pause.

Lil Flip – The

I don’t know how this didn’t murder Lil Flip’s career before it even got off
the ground. A fucking Leprechaun? Look, I get that they were trying to be
clever with this cover and trying to play off the Lucky Charms cereal box, but
some things just need to be left alone. That’s like Method Man recreating the infamous
Lil Kim Hardcore album pose for his next Tical installment. This shit is
George W Bush with down syndrome retarded. 

Bonus… Devastatin
Dave – Zip Zap Rap

Isn’t it baffling how the term “zip zap rap” didn’t catch on. Maybe, it has to
do with the man slingin’ the slang; Devastating Dave, The Turntable Slave. Just
check those leather nut huggers, you just know “zap” is covering up a mean
moose knuckle. That isn’t the best part though, neither is the jheri curl
mullet, it’s the mean mug and double point combo that really does it for me.

Bonus #2… Kilo – Too
Cold To Be A Hot Boy

This is probably my favorite cover of all-time. There isn’t a whole lot to it,
just a gigantic fucking polar bear on a chain. Words can’t really do it
justice. I just get this great visual of the man eating bear waking up, looking
at the 3 foot chain, then ripping Kilo’s head off without even getting up. It
may be too cold to be a hot day, but it’s never too cold to have a pet polar
bear tear your flesh off.

The ‘So Bad It’s Good’

Mercedes – Rear End

I don’t know what the hell she’s promoting (album or ass…a ha! BOTH!) but I do
remember as a young lad I wanted both Mercedes and her “Rear End.” I recall
many of my sex deprived high school friends trying to cop this just because of
the picture. Most of No Limit’s album covers sucked some major ass and were
downright laughable but this shit right here? With such a clever play on words
it’s so bad it has got to be good!

Luther Campbell – In
The Nude

Look…another album that the cover truly surpasses all the music Luke has ever
done. If this ain’t selling sex then I don’t know what is. Either way, looking
at Luke in the tub with some naked honeys makes every man feel like they need
to step their game up to be like the gap-toothed-booty-music phenom. My only question
– what in the fuck is ol’ girl in the
front so happy about? Doesn’t she just ruin the sexiness of the cover? Oh wait,
another question – Did Luke fuck all of
them that night or did they just get out the tub and move along with their day
after the last pic was taken? I’ll opt for the former.

HWA – Az Much Ass Azz
U Want

Don’t even ask me that question. Until I saw these Hoes With Attitudes the
answer was a lot. Now? You can keep all that ass. Well…maybe after a bottle or
three of MD 20/20 or St. Ides Special Brew would these self proclaimed “hoes”
look appealing of a good romp. Regardless, the name and album cover caught many people’s attention.
But do I remember a single song these “hoes” ever had? Hell to the nah.

Babygirl from HWA –
I’ll Put It On Ya

Now that’s more like it. One of the Hoes With Attitude (gotta love a
justifiable excuse to call women hoes) with a lotta ass but no face. Babygirl
was telling all you dudes out there “Holla At Me, I’ll Put It On Ya” with this
album cover. Lace cat suit with her donkey visible? Check. Ugly ass face hidden
so it doesn’t ruin the booty shot. Double check. Unfortunately, the future
copies of this album had that nice Parental Advisory sticker hiding her ass and
made the CD absolutely worthless. 

Kool Keith – Sex

Ignoring that he is leaning on a Cadillac that is apparently floating in front
of a cheap motel with a big booty girl leaning on him. Keith is rocking a pink Kangol with matching pink and black speedos. Only Kool Keith, crazy


#1 The Sensuous Black Woman Meets the
Sensuous Black Man

We ain’t even gonna touch this one with a ten foot pole

#2 Richard &
Willie – Funky Honky, Nasty Nigger

This would make Michael Richards, Don Imus, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Al Sharpton
& Nas proud.