Hip Hop Album Art Gets a Facelift (and a Boobjob)

Kanye’s Controversial Album Cover Design

It wouldn’t feel like a Kayne West album if there wasn’t some sort of controversy attached to it, and true to form, the design for the cover of the artist’s upcoming release is already causing a few raised eyebrows. Here’s why Kanye’s latest album is already causing a stir, weeks before its official release date.

The album in question is actually a compilation titled, Cruel Summer, and will no doubt feature a number of Kanye classics. There are also a number of tracks included from acts which Kanye has signed to his G.O.O.D Music record label, such as Mr Hudson, Kid Cudi and Big Sean. However, this time around it is not the lyrics to his music which are causing controversy, but the image on the album’s cover. The design in question features what appears to be the top half of a naked female angel or goddess, who is protecting her modesty using her hand. The image might seem relatively tame compared to those conjured within Kanye’s infamous lyrics, but that hasn’t stopped it gaining a significant amount of attention before its release.

Despite some objects to the risqué design, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to fans of the artist. Not only did one variation of the cover art to his 2010 album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, featuring another nude design, but Kanye himself is no stranger to being surrounded by scantily clad ladies in his music videos. Either way, the eye-catching cover to this compilation release is more than likely to provide the release with a significant amount of press attention. Cruel Summer was originally scheduled for a US release on 7th August, but this has now been postponed until 4th September.

The cover is very reminiscent of Farrow’s simplistic ‘Let It Come Down’ concave plastic design for the recently re-invigorated group Spiritualized. It also has that element of mythology that brings to mind the Roman Goddess Minerva (equated with Minerva in Celtic Britain), aswell as a leafy surround that captures some of the retro-pagan iconography of past few years. Even though Kanye’s cover is very tame to the point of non-issue, I can still appreciate how middle American Walmart goers might get their Jesus keychains in a twist.

But I’m glad hip hop’s big hitters have taken a more mature approach to design than in previous decades, with all that material chest beating. When you’re at the top you can take stock and chill out a bit, giving space to thoughtful design and a more considered point of view.

One of the original greats Large Professor has previously gone on record as saying his music, lyrics and flow is more akin to a painting, while the best of his rhymes, like with anyone searching the deeper layers of hip hop, is pure poetry. The legendary Eric B & Rakim and Nas producer has just released a new album entitled Professor @ Large, featuring a kaleidoscopic self portrait that really shines when seen within the limited coloured 12″ package.

Jay Z famously has a say in all creative processes for his label and had a hand in creating the  ‘Blueprint 3’ cover, cleverly designed (watch video below) by photographer Dan Tobin Smith, while his ‘Watch The Throne’ collaboration with Kanye, designed by Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, looks almost Old Testament powerful. Lupe Fiasco brings art gallery inspired anarchism with Lasers (which actually stands for ‘Love Always Shines Everytime, Remember 2 Smile’). So it appears the attitude across a huge chunk of mainstream output has mellowed to a point, very distant from the mid 90’s gangster origins, which can be heard in the lyrics and found in the samples that draw from many deep creative sources.

Whilst the international underground and releases on smaller more homespun labels have always had a more artistic take (often through necessity), the next generation of mainstream cover art has started to reflect that feeling also.

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