These are 15 of the Best Rap Album Covers Ever
Roc-A-Fella / UMG / McCormick Family Trust / Warner Records
The best rap album covers are a hot topic, and for good reason. The genre has come a long way, and the cover art is a great testament to that. The album cover often sets the tone for rap albums, and some of music’s best visuals come from hip-hop. From classic references to stunning illustrations, iconic artwork spanning different decades has become engrained in our memories when we hear certain songs or artists.
RELATED: 16 of the Best Collab Albums of All Time
Whether it’s eye-popping neon light imagery or powerful images that make you think twice, rap album art is a truly unique form of self expression. Here are 15 of the best rap album covers ever created!
15. Dr. Dre - '2001' (1999)
Aftermath Entertainment / Interscope Records
One of the most iconic and influential figures in hip-hop, Dr. Dre has earned a revered reputation for not just his hard-hitting samplings and punchy beats but also for the comprehensive - often intense - visuals that accompany his music. From lyrical explanations to bold critiques of society or mixing up dystopian sci-fi vibes like on "The Chronic" to setting out extravagant conventions with video clips or album artworks; there’s one cover artwork which stands out as an absolute classic – 1999’s “2001”. Released 20 years ago today, it encapsulated everything new about hip-hop in its high level production value but mirrored what was happening musically at the time too. The simplicity of it just worked so well, and is one of the most memorable cover arts of all time in rap.
14. Westside Gunn - 'Pray for Paris' (2020)
Westside Gunn's Pray for Paris album cover was the perfect reflection of what the music within represents. Just like the songs are somewhat of a hip-hop renaissance, the artwork gives a similar impression of a renaissance era piece. It just fits perfectly, and is very memorable, not to mention the minute details within, like the cuban link chain with the pendant on the left character's neck.
13. Kendrick Lamar - 'Good Kid, m.A.A.d city' (2012)
Aftermath / Interscope Records
One of the most incredible examples of (relatively) recent album artwork in hip-hop is Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city project from 2012. Not only was the music within classic, but the cover has gone on to be of the same status. The photo depicts his gang-affiliated family members holding him as a child, surrounded by subtle indications of the culture that surrounded him at the time.
12. Kanye West - 'Yeezus' (2013)
Kanye West has several iconic examples of cover art, a few which didn't make the cut for this list. One of the most incredible examples of his cover art prowess is his Yeezus album art, which was created by Virgil Abloh, Justin Saunders, Joe Perez, Matthew M. Williams, and Kanye West. One of the primary areas of symbolism it was meant to embody was the death of the CD era in music. Surely, Ye took a major step forward for music with this project.
11. Jay-Z - 'The Blueprint' (2001)
The simplicity of Jay-Z's The Blueprint was iconic to say the least. Similar to some of his other top albums, this project's artwork showed off Hov's boss nature, while redirecting attention to where he really wanted it to be: the music.
10. Wu-Tang Clan - 'Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)' (1993)
The Wu-Tang Clan's top album ever has one of the most easily identifiable cover arts of all time. Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was dropped in 1993, and was way ahead of its time. The mystery behind the group was reflected in the cover, which proved to work wonders for them and their incredible music.
9. A Tribe Called Quest - 'The Low End Theory' (1993)
A Tribe Called Quest has an easily identifiable sound, and the cover art which they've selected for their albums over the years has been notably akin to their sound. Two of theirs legendary albums have made the cut in our list today, and for good reason. At number nine on our list, we celebrate The Low End Theory, one of their most eye-catching cover arts of all time.
8. Nas - 'Illmatic' (1994)
Columbia Records / Sony Music Entertainment
Nas' Illmatic has gone down in hip-hop history as one of the most memorable projects to date. Not only is the music something to remember, but so is the album artwork, which sets the stage for exactly what the music accomplishes: introducing the artist to his fans, and telling his vivid story of his upbringing in Queens, NY.
7. 50 Cent - 'Get Rich or Die Tryin'' (2003)
Shady Records / Aftermath Records / Interscope Records
50 Cent has had many notable cover art examples, but arguably his most famous is the artwork for Get Rich Or Die Tryin'. This album artwork features a bullet hole (which really stood out on the CD covers at the time of its release) and 50 rocking Gucci accessories and a blinged-out diamond crucifix.
6. Ol’ Dirty Bastard - 'Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version' (1995)
At number six on our list is Ol' Dirty Bastard and his Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version album. This artwork was a testament to Dirty's bizarre nature, and yet was so simple at the same time. Gracing the covers of vinyls and CD's it was easily one of the most notable examples of album artwork for the 90's and in general.
5. Drake - 'Take Care' (2011)
Who else can make a man being emotional look as good as Drake does? Not many can. His Take Care album cover perfectly encapsulates his musical spirit in a photo. A room filled with classic art and gilded items, not to mention a candle lit besides him.
4. A Tribe Called Quest - 'Beats, Rhymes & Life' (1996)
As we mentioned earlier in this piece, A Tribe Called Quest doesn't mess around when it comes to their album art. Well, at number four on our list is Beats, Rhymes & Life, their 1996 album which featured "The Hop" amongst many other classics.
3. Chance the Rapper - 'Acid Rap' (2013)
Ah, to be back in the 2010's. A time when music was breaking barriers, both sonically and systemically. Chance the Rapper was at the forefront of the musical movement at the time, which was largely situated on SoundCloud. This cover art represented a huge step forward for him and music. His music would go on to inspire artists like Lucki and others from Chicago (and beyond) to do their thing. Acid Rap just so happened to be one of the coolest covers of all time, not to mention the music was incredible.
2. Mac Miller - 'Faces' (2014)
McCormick Family Trust / Warner Records
Mac Miller's 2014 album, Faces, was dropped on SoundCloud and was closely cherished by his flock of fans. This jazzy approach to what was modern music at the time was brilliant, and the same could be said for the corresponding artwork. Did we mention this unbelievable piece was created by his brother? This album is timeless, and is a testament to the insane creative ability had by both Mac and his brother.
1. Kanye West - 'Graduation' (2007)
Finally, we've reached the number one spot for our list, which features none other than Kanye West and his 2007 Graduation album. The cover art was designed by Takashi Murakami, at a time when the majority of the world was not nearly as familiar with him as they are today. Kanye by no means is a perfect role model, but it is undeniable that he has a knack for art - creating it, curating it, and more. The selection of art for this project was iconic in that it perfectly aligned with his futuristic sound and tied into both of his previous albums, The College Dropout and Late Registration.
Did you like this article?