3. 2 Chainz – Based on a T.R.U. Story
2 Chainz is known for being over the top and exuberant, but he decided to keep it real simple for his album cover. While everyone was expecting something flashy, 2 Chainz kept it literal with a black background and two dangling gold rope chains. He enlisted Kanye West and his DONDA creative team to help create the black and gold masterpiece. The sheer simplicity and irony of the cover is why it has to be a shoe-in for album cover of the year. You walk past the album in the stores, you see the two gold chains and you know right away whose album that is.
It’s hilarious yet real at the same time. There is no need for any dramatic cover art. Keep it straightforward and let the music speak for itself. It is genius on 2 Chainz part and it’s clear that it worked since the album has gone gold. Gold chains, gold records…clearly 2 Chainz is doing something right.
2. Action Bronson – Rare Chandeliers
Bronsolino’s methods of teaming up with producers for his projects has helped the Queens native gain his ground in hip-hop. With burning curiosity from the media, Queens on his back and love from his peers (see “1 Train”), Bronson knew that 2012 was his for the taking. And his artwork for his last project spoke volumes. Unclear volumes, but volumes nonetheless.
His latest mixtape, Rare Chandeliers, is a joint project with the producer the Alchemist and the album cover looks as if Bronson was explaining to a sketch artist the depiction of an animated crime scene or hallucinatory trip where he was the left standing … the hero with a hat made of wolf.
The album graces images of a faux Nicki Minaj, conquering a metropolis with nothing but sex appeal, sausage links, and a you-goin’-to-jail-now uppercut in front of a wizard on the top right. Burning cars and light-saber fights via BMW sunroofs are no match to the tuxed-up Bronson who’s effortlessly smoking a spliff while his double-barrel shotty releases in fiery bursts. It ain’t nothing to him.
We all know Bronson for his off-the-wall, borough-heavy braggadocio raps, but the artwork comes even more left-field than his rhymes. It’s tough enough to visualize some of the rhymes he spits, but imagine him seeing this image and saying, “Yep, that’s perfect. That’s the cover right there.” The thought process in that point in time and imagination behind the artwork earns him our most generous kudos.
1. Nas – Life Is Good
“I want to be the guy with the best album cover story,” Nas told MTV shortly after the cover art debut of his tenth studio album. Well, mission accomplished: the Life is Good album cover is the best album cover of the year.
The cover features the the Don lavishly sitting like the Thinker, with his ex-wife Kelis’s green wedding dress draped over his knee. The cover illustrates tha, while things aren’t perfect following his six year hiatus and messy public divorce, Nas has moved on his life, and is using those old memories to make his best music to date–as well as a super dope album cover to match.
Nas summed up the entire concept behind this years winning cover in the last few minutes of his Rap-Up interview:
Life, love, joy, anger, celebration. There’s so many things you can see on that album cover. You see my life. My life is on that album cover. my mindset was to pull out a side of me that people haven’t heard in a while and give ’em that feeling that they haven’t felt in a while- a feeling that I love. And some of that feeling is 90’s-esque, some of that feeling is 2015. It’s just a feeling that I feel to be a timeless sound. So I just let it flow. The cover is like an old blues man talking about his life.
Nas revealed that at first Kelis thought he was dissing her with the art work. “First she was like, ‘Are you dissing me?,’ Nas told MTV, “But I was like ‘C’mon shorty, we grown. There was a time when there was turmoil, but I’m not tryna play you. I’m just showing what people know. The divorce was public [and] people knew about it.” But eventually Ms. Rogers came around, saying, “I feel like, especially someone in hip-hop to really kinda be genuine and honest, whatever the honesty is about, I think it’s awesome,” she said. “It’s just the fact that as an artist, I can respect that he wears his feelings on his sleeve. I like that.” Yeah, we like it too, Kelis.