Rhymesayers, the nearly-twenty year-old independent Minnesota record label, is home to many great talents. Artists such as Atmosphere, MF DOOM, Brother Ali, Evidence and more call it home, and have released plenty of music through the label. That may be, at least in part, because the label shows some passion when it comes to releasing product. It’s important, as an artist, to know your art matters to people, and there’s no better way to show support than by pumping some cold hard dollars into those shiny circle things.
While the rise in digital sales continues, there is still a market for physical editions of albums, and perhaps none understand this market better than Rhymesayers. Throughout the years, the house Atmosphere, Musab and Brent Sayers built has released some extremely inspired pieces of art (that also house some pretty good music). Here are the five coolest album designs Rhymesayers has ever put on the shelf.
P.O.S. – Never Better
P.O.S.’s follow-up to 2006’s Audition found the rapper in pieces — at least in the album packaging. Never Better includes six transparent inserts, ranging from a skull to a snake to the SMPTE color bars. In addition to those, there are 16 solid inserts that come stitched together, and can be pulled apart and laid under the transparent inserts, making for some crazy images (as well as alternate album covers when re-inserted into the case). Think of this as a cooler version of your grade school arts and crafts projects.
Grieves – Together/Apart
Grieves’ Rhymesayers debut comes housed in a folded digipak that, when pulled apart, showcases some pretty great graffiti art. Unfolding the next two panels reveals the “Together” portion, which holds the CD, while the bottom grid (“Apart”) houses a bonus biographical DVD titled “Present/Tense.” While this may not be the most visually-striking album on the list, it gains points on the concept alone. The listener is finally “together” with Grieves on the CD, while being “apart” from him his whole life on the DVD.
Atmosphere – The Family Sign
Think of the packaging for Atmosphere’s sixth studio album as a classier version of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. You get seven inserts emblazoned with lyrics written in silver foil and the digipak itself doubles as an actual picture frame so you can house each of the panels, giving you the option of seven different covers. Nothing classes up that empty mantel above your fireplace more than some smiling rappers. Also notable is Atmosphere’s previous album, When Life Gives You Lemons…, which includes a children’s story written by Slug.
MF DOOM – MM..FOOD?
MF DOOM has always been one of the most enigmatic figures in hip-hop, so it was only appropriate that the Rhymesayers re-issue of his long-awaited follow-up to Operation Doomsday would come in nothing but a plain foil wrapper. Playing off the “Food” title, the packaging is reminiscent of pop tarts and other food sold in microwave hazardous material. The nutritional information-themed label not only gives buyers a small hint as to the contents — but it is also a scratch and sniff sticker that smells like hamburgers (yes, really). As if that wasn’t enough of a novelty for every Williamsborough-residing hipster to scour eBay for a remaining copy, the inside of the album also includes a vintage diner poster, as well as an MM..FOOD? coaster.
Freeway & Jake One – Stimulus Package
Designed by the legendary Brent Rollins, Freeway and Jake One’s Stimulus Package is a crowning achievement in album design from any label, in any genre. The album features four Freeway dollar bills, along with four Jake One dollar bills, housed in a wallet. The wallet also has a slot for a digital download, in the form of a credit card. The whole thing is wrapped in a currency strap, featuring the album title. This may be the only album to make your wallet heavier.