10 Hip-Hop Album Cover Cliches
Hip-Hop loves a good cliché and StreetLevel has compiled a list of the ten most hackneyed themes in the history of rap album cover art. If you don’t own at least one of the albums we use as examples, then you probably own a cover that looks just like it. We call that “sampling.”
1. I’m Really Rich (Now Buy My Album, Loser)
Just in case the music and/or music videos didn’t tell you enough, a good push on the cover to remind you of a rapper’s vast wealth is always necessary. How many different things can you charge to the game and throw on an album cover? The answer is “a milli(on)” and we’ve seen them all. At least when they go bankrupt they can stare at their covers and remember the good ol’ days.
2. If My MC Name References An Animal, Then An Animal You Shall See
You’ve decided your lyrical prowess is like that of an animal that lives in the wild or lives in a double wide. That’s fine. It’s always good to embrace God’s creatures and accept the fact that you might act like something other than a human. You’re like Manimal or Marshall BraveStarr. What isn’t fine is visually reminding us of what exactly all of that means. If your name is MC Squid, your album cover doesn’t need rings of fried calamari on it. You really drove the point home with the name. We swear.
3. This Is My Posse Beatdown Face
Screwface, gasface, or an H1N1maskface. There’s always a face in hip-hop.that signifies that there’s a war going on outside that no man is safe from. Ladies clutch your purses when you walk past these album covers. Fellas . . .make sure your boots are on and you’re strapped because these cover are gonna come get you. Not the music or the group–just the album covers.
4. My Car Is Nice
A nice car in hip-hop is like the equivalent to an employee ID badge at your local financial firm. Your first day on the job you better be flashing one proudly or else you don’t look legit — at all. What better way to embody everything that screams “paid” than by showing off a new set of wheels? Then of course there’s always the major problem, much like potato chips, you can’t have just one. That’s what another album is for– to put your other car on it!
5. Check Out My Abs, Son
There’s a theory in rap – if you spend time in the clink you’re bound to come out jacked. So what happens if your only prison record involved that makeshift nameplate you wore with your ball and chain costume last Halloween? Well, get thee to a gym and work it out! That way the ladies will be in awe and the fellas will say, “Damn, maybe I should hold up a liquor store so I can use Rikers Island’s free gym membership. It’s a recession after all.” Each one teach one.
6. I Wear a Suit, Therefore I’m a Gangster
Somebody turn on the Sopranos. When did Tony ever wear a suit? He spent most of his days sweating in velour. Still somehow rap misconstrued that message after watching The Godfather and decided that shirts and ties and blazers signified true gangster status. If that’s the case, somebody needs to speak to waiters and valet car attendants for their false advertising.
7. A Baby Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words
Remember back in school when you were asked to supply a baby picture for the back of the yearbook to show how adorable and/or cool you were since birth? Well, that’s the same reason why baby pictures find their way to rap album covers. It’s to prove that since birth they looked awesome and probably rapped the moment they left the womb. There’s no
way to prove that on a cover, so just a baby picture will suffice.
8. Sex Sells
A valuable lesson learned on the casting couch. Sex can move mountains and album units if pushed properly. Much like the washboard ab theory previously mentioned, female rappers find themselves in the same predicament when it comes to their album covers. The best way to attract the opposite sex? S-T-R-I-P. And if you don’t strip, you straddle. Plain and simple.
9. My Chain Is Really Big! Come See!
Let’s not get into the psychological phallic representation of showing off one’s big chain. What we can get into is how showing their big chain means they have big feet. Wait, that’s not right; it means they have big money. Yes, that’s it. Big money. Small chain, small money. If only life were really that simple.
10. I Can’t Think of Anything Artistic So Look At My Face
A face says a thousand words, especially when it’s expressionless. Nothing screams intimidating, pensive, and refined like a nice face forward shot on an album cover. That’s the reason why you’re seeing this photo. That and the night before the CD went to press, they forgot to make a cover.