Wiz Khalifa & Ty Dolla $ign's upcoming EP, Talk About It in the Morning, isn't actually designed by Pen & Pixel, but it's a clear ode to them. From the stock beachfront background, to the shimmering block letters--the artwork is wonderfully dated, and it brings us back to the days when this aesthetic was the norm in Dirty South hip-hop. In the foreground, an old-school whip attempts to cross some of the Taylor Gang's stickiest terrain. Appropriate.
The 10 Greatest Pen & Pixel Album Covers
Snoop Dogg - Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told (1998)
Snoop's first album after coming to No Limit, titled after the classic player's mantra. Snoop sits in front of his mega-estate, which he's named Snoop World. Joining Snoop in Snoop World are two Rolls Royces and three actual doggs--rottweilers with diamond-studded muzzles.
Mystikal - Unpredictable (1997)
Mystikal's first record on No Limit. Pen & Pixel managed to cut the New Orlean's rapper's face into jigsaw puzzle pieces, though they put him back together in a mean way.
Master P - MP da Last Don (1998)
Master P's best-selling record (4x platinum) also has his most iconic cover. P stands in front of a lavish foyer, tinted all the way green, and the cover is printed in lenticular style, so the bling hits you no matter what angle you're looking from.
B.G. - Chopper City (1996)
B.G.'s debut album with Cash Money was huge in New Orleans and helped lead to a major deal with Universal. The album artwork attempts to depict Chopper City literally, with larger-than-life bullets raining down around young B.G.
B.G. - Chopper City in the Ghetto (1999)
B.G.'s Chopper City in the Ghetto went platinum and ended up being the best-selling record of his career. At the time, Cash Money and No Limit's album art was notorious for portraying extreme violence, as with the first Chopper City. Major stores refused to sell their albums, so Cash Money and Pen & Pixel were forced to go a different route. Baby still wanted to give B.G. a popping image, so P&P decided to go all-out with the diamonds and the "star blasts" that glimmer off of each karat. Baby saw that shine and called it "bling," hence the beginning of "bling bling."
Juvenile - 400 Degreez (1998)
Juvenile's 400 Degreez still stands as Cash Money's best-selling release of all time, and it's the biggest project Pen & Pixel ever got their design team on. Juvie appears twice on the cover, once in the foreground in a Frankenstein-like stance and again as his head explodes out of the gold-encrusted ceiling. Below, there are models positioned throughout Juvie's mahogany-clad library. We don't know exactly what's going on here, but it's Pen & Pixel to a tee.
Lil' Flip - The Leprechaun (2000)
The Leprechaun was Houston's Lil' Flip's debut album, released on the independent label Sucka Free Records, and we don't know if it's the cover or the music that got him noticed. The album cover doubles as a cereal box for a platinum, non-edible version of Lucky Charms. And Lil' Flip himself plays a pretty good iced-out Lucky the Leprechaun.
Big Bear - Doin' Thangs (1998)
You've probably never heard of Big Bear, and if you have, it's probably because of this ridiculous album cover and not his skills on the mic. Big Bear (the human) sits in the middle of the composition, and he's surrounded by four actual bears in matching pimp suits. The bears are enjoying everything a high-class grizzly could possibly want--nuts, berries, Cognac, cigars. And the title font is dripping honey.
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The greatest (most ridiculous) album covers created by Houston design house Pen & Pixel.
In the late 90s, a design firm in Houston, TX called Pen & Pixel defined the aesthetic of Dirty South hip-hop as the genre catapulted its way into the mainstream. The early versions of Photoshop allowed P&P to grab all sorts of images that wouldn't normally--or possibly--be able to fit into the same shot. Pen & Pixel also allowed rappers to resize themselves into the mis-en-scène, allowing them to become the larger-than-life personalities they rapped about in their music.
Cash Money was the first label to put Pen & Pixel on the map. Then, Master P came to Houston and made P&P the house design team for No Limit. Soon, Pen & Pixel's signature diamond-encrusted block letters were inseparable from the South. Pen & Pixel went on to commission artwork for Three 6 Mafia's Hypnotize Minds, Rap-A-Lot, Suave House Records, and more. In today's digital age, it's hard to appreciate album art, but back in the day, rappers would constantly try and one-up each other's artwork, leading to more explosions, more honeys, and, last but not least, more "bling bling." Oftentimes, the best Dirty South records came equipped with iconic P&P design.
Here are the greatest examples of Pen & Pixel ostentation from the firm's storied run in the late 90s.
Anyone think the "bling" aesthetic can make a comeback?