Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city
A picture is worth a thousand words, an adage thatparticularly proves itself true when a vintage photograph evokes such mystery,especially one that looks like a Polaroid. Who are these people? That you, Kendrick? Most definitely is, in his uncle's arms, and it looks like he's got something to say. The caption reads "A Short Film By Kendrick Lamar," and the album tells the story of the aftermath in light of the L.A. riots (i.e. Kendrick's youth years). The photo denotes the beginnings of a memory, and keeps in the same vein as Nas and Lil Wayne exploring this theme before him, they who so ubiquitously used baby pictures on their album covers. The deluxe edition features a van, which he refers to in the first track, as his getaway to go pick up his crush.
Aesop Rock - Skelethon
Beautiful cover. Aesop Rock has released a slew of videos where he takes his dead cat Whiskers for a walk through San Francisco, avoiding the Grim Reaper - literally a Skele-thon. A nice homage to a feline friend.
The Game - Jesus Piece
Arguably Game's best work yet, the album cover for Jesus Piece garnered criticism from the moment it was revealed, which is par for the course when you tinker with religious imagery. But if you put aside thecontroversy it sparked, the cover is actually brilliant. It presents anoverview of the Compton native's life, an upbringing replete with churchgoing and later gang affiliations, and his eventual success and life of leisure (hencethe coconut trees). Plus, Game claims that's not Jesus wearing a bandana, it'sRick James, bitch. Sacrilegious stuff! Game eventually chose this cover for the deluxe version, going with a picture of his deceased brother, which provideseven more insight into his life. All bases covered. Game plays it right.
Curren$y - The Stoned Immaculate
Abraham Lincoln's body lays lifeless in a theater, withsmoke curling out of his head. It's an accurate depiction of the scene of the crime, with a brazen title to match, as the 16th President of the United Stateswas known to enjoy a weed pipe on occasion. Evocative and appealing to the eye.
The-Dream - 1977
1977 marks Terius Nash's date ofbirth, i.e. a beginning, and like most break-up albums, the premise is to startanew. The black and white cover features all four card suits, with The-Dream posing as the (Love) King. Ain't it all a game anyway? The car's bumpers look like bullets, too - convenient, as he claims he would've taken a bullet for his ex, Christina Milian. The original cover, a scene depicting God, Jesus and the twelve apostles was also beautiful, though a little too Kanye.
G.O.OD. Music - Cruel Summer
Kanye West's label boasts a roster of great artists, and this highly-anticipated compilation album was no disappointment. The album wasmeant as a look into G.O.O.D. Music's talent and what they're capable of, and the artwork feels like an unfinished work made of stucco, pointing to the development of a new project. It mirrors the operatic production West conducted, as well as being reminiscent of the art for Watch The Throne, fully reflecting Ye's aesthetic and eccentric taste (just look at how he dresses Kim).
ScHoolBoy Q - Habits & Contradictions
At first glance, it might not look like much is happening here. But upon closer inspection, you'll notice ScHoolboy Q's neck being grasped by a woman wearing a balaclava, wearing a four-fingered ring and licking his face. Nothing necessarily profound or particularly thought-provoking, but its value comes in its sexy, brooding stylishness.
Big Krit - Live From The Underground
The album cover for Big Krit's Live From The Underground is "a representation of how I feel about underground vs. mainstream music. At times I feel like mainstream music operates on a totally different planet. This illustrates how I’ve crash-landed into the mainstream to bring the sounds from the underground back to the forefront." I wouldn't have read so much into it, but it's a striking image nonetheless.
Nas - Life Is Good
Nas and Kelis were one of the hottest couples in hip hopuntil their split three years back, when Kelis was still pregnant with hischild. It's been publicly nasty, as well as a roller coaster in termsof niceties and rude remarks. Amidst claims that they've been trying to forge a friendship, Nas apparently sexted his ex-wife, propositioning her this fall and jetting off on a romantic trip.The cover of this album shows him holding her wedding dress, the only thing sheleft behind when she moved out. A pretty bold statement on her behalf, but alsoon his - though Nas claims that Life Is Good, I'm not convinced. No signs of closure here, and though it mains the austerity we've come to expect from his album covers, it's a far cry from his previous artwork, as it's far more personal and telling.
T.I. - Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head
It's nothing new for rappers to dabble in gunplay, but thisparticular cover was ill timed. The art for T.I.'s Trouble Man resonates strongly in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. In any event, guns are always a touchy subject, and T.I. did time for carrying one in 2007. He explained that it's just a drawing, as Tip is still on probation and shouldn't be near any firearms, adding that the gun is a representation of all the thingsthat can get a man in trouble. I'd be hard-pressed to disagree. The cover is beautifully drawn, and the gun is made up of money, women, dice and cars - things successful rappers are all too familiar with.
2 Chainz - Based On A T.R.U. Story
It doesn't get more literal than this. Tity Boi keeps it simple.
Action Bronson - Rare Chandeliers
In the "honorable mention" due to its status as a mixtape cover, is Action Bronson's memorable Rare Chandeliers. The artwork has elements of any great action flick and is larger than life, much like Bronson himself. His wolf head-piece establishes him as the chief, spearheading a brat pack of criminals through a scene out of Grand Theft Auto, set at the cusp of the 70's and 80's. You certainly can't go wrong with a dead-ringer for Bruce Lee winning under the watchful eye of a wizard. My personal fave is the babe's sword-wielding hand and her hold on a row of sausages, like a homemaking Rose McGowan out of Planet Terror. The whole album displays good humor, too, a major plus.
HNHH presents the best album covers of 2012.
Album covers are probably one of the most fun round-ups of the year. It doesn't really matter if the album was any good, if it was well-received, or even who the artist is or what the genre is - anyone can appreciate a good visual. Of course, when the cover reflects the album, it's even better. HNHH tallied up the best hip-hop album covers of 2012 for your hungry eyes.