The cover art is perhaps the most important aspect in the presentation of an album. Nobody likes to admit it, but people do judge books – or albums for that matter – by their covers. If the cover makes a striking statement, like many of these do, it begs the consumer to listen. The philosophy behind great cover art is simple: to suggest to the listener that what’s inside the package is as good as what’s outside. While that wasn’t always the case, here are our favorite covers of 2013.
10. Papoose – The Nacirema Dream – While Pap was at the center of many controversies this year – each usually having something to do with Kendrick Lamar – he also saw the release of his long-awaited LP, The Nacirema Dream. For a guy that has about 30 bad photoshopped mixtape covers in his catalog, he really knocked it out of the park with this one. Eye-catching simplicity at its finest.
9. World’s Fair - Bastards Of The Party – The relatively unknown Fool’s Gold Beast Coast crew made a nice little splash on BOTP, and this clean, well composed cover gave us a glimpse of each of the group’s members. There’s bits of influence from each Gravediggaz 6 Feet Deep, Leaders Of The New School’s Future Without A Past and N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton on this cover; maybe that’s why we liked it.
8. Killer Mike + El-P – Run The Jewels – Severed zombie hands, one telling you to “run the jewels”, the other willingly giving them up. Coupled with the fact that this was one of the best albums of the year, this image will forever be embedded in our brains with good memories.
7. Lil Wayne – I Am Not A Human Being 2 – While this album was pretty disappointing at the end of the day, boy did this cover set it up well. The pared down image of the blood red butterfly against a black-as-midnight backdrop evokes the slightly disturbing feeling of the original Silence Of The Lambs movie poster. A fitting cover for Wayne.
6. Action Bronson + Party Supplies – Blue Chips 2 – We have to admit, we’ve heard better mixtapes from Bronson (rapping over Phil Collins, yo?), but the duo really outdid themselves with this album cover. Action made this list last year, ranking even a bit higher with his Rare Chandeliers LP with Alchemist. This one is a nice spiritual successor to it.
5. Aupheus – Strictly Scientific – Probably the most little seen cover of the year, but one that definitely struck a chord with us on many levels. Aupheus’ spaced-out mixtape mixed classic hip-hop tracks with futuristic beats for Sage Francis’ Strange Famous Records. While this cover nails that concept, it also says something about how far ahead of their time that Run DMC was. It’s also created with some pretty amazing precision. We had to double check that there wasn’t some random Rolling Stone photoshoot in 1988 with Jason, Darryl and Joe in space suits. Well done.
4. 2 Chainz – B.O.A.T.S. 2: Me Time – 2 Chainz’s original Based On A T.R.U. Story album cover was our #1 pick last year, despite the album receiving a @@ on our rating scale. This wasn’t our favorite album this year either, but damn if DONDA didn’t do their thing in executing the concept a second time. The extreme close-up of two crystal clean fat, gold ropes, boldly says exactly whose album this is.
3. Q-Tip + Busta Rhymes – The Abstract & The Dragon – Busta and Tip really took a risk with this cover, suggesting that this mixtape release was going to capture the sound of The Low End Theory with the “Scenario”-era Dungeon Dragon style of Busta Rhymes. Considering the mixtape delivered on all fronts, there couldn’t have been a more appropriate, well executed cover for the project.
2. Pusha T – My Name Is My Name: Deluxe Edition – Now this is more like it. Yes, the standard version of this album cover made our “Worst Cover Art” list for 2013, with the lousy UPC stamp placed against a white background. This, however, takes the cake. The angle of the shot and the contrast of all-black-everything Push gives him the image of the deadliest insect predator; a metaphor for his role as the hood’s supplier.
1. Ghostface Killah + Adrian Younge – 12 Reasons To Die – Quite easily the best Wu-Tang LP since Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Links 2, every detail of this project was fully realized by Adrian Younge, extending well past the music, and onto the cover itself. This cover not only evoked the feeling of early Wu videos that hid Ghost’s features, but also the Italian movie soundtracks the music is influenced by.
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