20 of the best hip-hop album covers of all time, and what makes them unique

20 of the best hip-hop album covers of all time, and what makes them unique

Hip-hop has been a significant cultural force for over four decades, and it's not just the music that has influenced pop culture worldwide. Hip-hop album covers have also made a lasting impact on design, fashion, and art. Many of these covers have become iconic, and some have even become works of art in their own right.

hip hop album covers
Photo: @cottonbro, pexels.com (modified by uthor)
Source: UGC

Hip-hop music is not just about the sound; it's also about the visuals accompanying it. Hip-hop album covers are essential to the genre, often showcasing the artist's personality and aesthetic.

20 of the best hip-hop album covers

The best hip-hop album covers have left an indelible mark on the music industry, from iconic images that capture the essence of the music to innovative designs that push the limits. Here is a list of 20 of the best hip-hop album covers of all time, focusing on what makes them unique.

1. Take Care by Drake (2011)

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Who else but Drake can make a man's emotions look so appealing? The cover art for his album Take Care is a stunning visual representation of his musical personality. It also features a room adorned with priceless artwork and gilded ornaments, with a lit candle at his side.

2. Get Rich or Die Tryin' by 50 cent (2003)

Best hiphop album covers
Photo: @50Cent
Source: Facebook

Although 50 Cent has had many notable cover art examples, Get Rich Or Die Tryin' is arguably his most famous and unique artwork. This album's cover art includes 50 slick Gucci accessories, a bullet hole, and a blinged-out diamond cross.

3. Aquemini by Outkast (1998)

Best hip-hop album covers
Photo: @Rusti Clarke
Source: Facebook

Aquemini, the third studio album from Outkast, was a concept project meant to represent the two different personalities of Big Boi and Andre 3000. They keep that theme in mind while writing the record's lyrics. Greg Hawkins, Andre's brother, created the cover, which features the two great rappers as poet and pimp in a classic contemporary Black art style.

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4. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by Wu-Tang Clan (1993)

Best hip-hop album covers
Photo: @UpperSoundzVibesRoad
Source: Facebook

In 1993, the debut album by Wu-Tang Clan revolutionized hip-hop by bringing the hardcore underground to a broader audience. Their enthusiasm for Kung-fu serves as the aesthetic's overarching theme. Classic martial arts films inspired the group's name, album title, and artwork.

5. The Blueprint by Jay-Z (2001)

Jay-Z released this seminal masterpiece in 2001 while awaiting two criminal trials. In response to this reality, the cover adopted a gangster aesthetic. It features Jay Z sitting and smoking. He is surrounded by faceless subordinates awaiting instruction. Next to him are various tools of his trade. The image was inspired by a similar picture in the book The Firm by photojournalist Jocelyn Bain Hogg, which documents British organized crime.

6. Illmatic by Nas (1994)

Nas' debut album, released in 1994, chronicles the rapper's formative years in Queens, New York. Its cover reflects that history. A picture of the rapper when he was seven is displayed over a stark urban scene.

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He looks ahead through the eyes of an old soul while wearing an afro and looking far beyond Queensbridge. This is one of the best old-school hip-hop album covers.

7. Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version by Ol’ Dirty Bast*rd (1995)

One of the most peculiar characters in the history of hip-hop created the best rap album cover art ever. While the songs display his uncontrollable eccentricity, the album artwork amplifies ODB's bizarre mindset. The cover is a literal copy of his Public Assistance card, which is both humorous and absurd.

8. Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood by DMX (1998)

DMX led the genre into its most raw-sounding era with a persona that tapped into the intimidating quality of Suge Knight and Death Row. After introducing Ruff Ryders to the world with his debut, DMX went one step further with his follow-up and became even more unhinged. So, with his body covered in blood, the cover represents all of the rage, aggression, sadness and depression.

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9. 808s & Heartbreak by Kanye West (2008)

Best hip-hop album covers
Photo: @MichaelTizon
Source: Facebook

Kanye created this 13-track masterpiece, rooted in vulnerability after his mother died unexpectedly. Compared to the cover art of his previous album, Graduation, which featured a brilliant display of vivid colours that perfectly captured the triumphant soundscape of the album, 808s & heartbreak, adopted a more minimalistic style. So, who did Kanye's album cover? It was designed by American artist Kaws.

10. Death Certificate by Ice Cube (1991)

Best hip-hop album covers
Photo: @VinniePaz
Source: Facebook

In this album, Ice Cube was a spokesperson for police brutality and anti-government sentiment to bring attention to the disenfranchised. On the album cover, Cube stands over a dead body in a pitch-black room that serves as a morgue and strikes a pose that veers between disgust and resistance.

11. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar (2012)

Best hip-hop album covers
Photo: @KendrickLamar
Source: Facebook

Lamar's Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is about growing up on the gang-infested streets of Compton in the 1980s, and the cover brilliantly captures this period of his life. The cover is a polaroid of a young Lamar seated at the kitchen table with three family members. There is also a beer bottle and a baby bottle on the table.

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12. Life is good by Nas (2012)

Life Is Good was Nas' 11th studio album. The rapper released the album after his high-profile divorce from singer Kelis. The cover showed him sitting in a club's VIP lounge in a white suit with his ex-wife's green wedding dress on one knee. Nas claims the gown is the only thing that his ex-wife left in his possession.

13. Man On The Moon: The End Of Day by Kid Cudi (2009)

Best hip-hop album covers
Photo: @OpholaMaseti
Source: Facebook

For his 2009 album Man On The Moon: The End Of The Day, Kid Cudi took the phrase literally. Marvel illustrator Bill Sienkiewicz created the artwork. It took Sienkiewicz a while to finish the project, which delayed the album's release, but the illustration of Cudi's face on the moon is stunning.

14. Ready To Die by The Notorious BIG (1994)

The album Ready To Die had a spooky title because the rapper was shot and killed three years later. The album cover, regarded as among the best hip-hop covers ever created, includes a picture of a child only wearing a diaper.

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15. Flower Boy by Tyler, The Creator (2017)

Flower Boy is arguably one of the best Tyler, The Creator's album covers. The bee seen covering Tyler's face is reminiscent of the apple that covers the subject's face in Magritte's The Son of Man painting. The design alludes to the notion that something always hides a portion of who you are.

16. Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde by The Pharcyde (1992)

Best hip-hop album cover
Photo: @CraigEvans
Source: Facebook

With their 1992 debut album Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, the Los Angeles quartet of Imani, Bootie Brown, Slimkid3, and Fatlip introduced a West Coast-meets-East Coast freestyle hippie vibe. The image of the band on a rollercoaster depicts the upbeat nature of the album.

17. The Melodic Blue by Baby Keem (2021)

The Melodic Blue represents the beginning of something great for Baby Keem. While the artist is surrounded by the tranquil waters of his usual sound, a rainbow-stained wooden jetty interrupts the peace. The rainbow represents transition: new sounds and melodies that Keem is beginning to incorporate into his work.

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18. The Chronic by Dr Dre (1992)

Best hip-hop album cover
Photo: @KvngDc
Source: Facebook

With The Chronic, Dr Dre further popularized hip-hop with the assistance of the then-unknown Snoop Dogg. The only way to symbolize the subgenre they tapped into was to make it a theme. On the packaging for the best-selling joint rolling papers, Zig Zag, Dr Dre solidified his position as the face of a new generation of stoners by jacking the packaging design.

19. The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill (1998)

Best hip-hop album covers
Source: Facebook

The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill marked Lauryn Hill's solo career in the late 1990s. The groundbreaking neo-soul album featured a simple cover with Hill's face etched into the wood. Its simplicity and artistry make it so evocative, with the singer's still gaze drawing you in.

20. Tha Carter III by Lil Wayne (2008)

In hip-hop, it is a time-honoured tradition to include baby pictures of oneself on album covers. However, no one has done it as well as Lil Wayne on the Tha Carter III cover.

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It features a baby version of Wayne posing for a formal portrait while wearing a suit. However, he already has the pinkie ring and a few facial tattoos, indicating his future.


  1. What rappers have the best album covers? Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and Nas are some rappers with the best hip-hop album covers.
  2. What are the top 5 hip-hop albums of all time? Get Rich Or Die Tryin' by 50 Cents, Illmatic by Nas, The Chronic by Dr Dre, Flower boy by Taylor the Creator, and 808 & Heartbreak by Kanye West are some of the top 5 albums of all time.
  3. Who is the most famous album cover artist? Peter Blake is considered the most popular cover artist of all time.
  4. Who won the first Grammy for best rap album? Naughty by nature for their fourth album, Poverty's Paradise, in 1996.
  5. Which rapper has the most number 1 Billboard hits? Drake
  6. Which artist has a yellow hip-hop album cover? Taylor, The Creator.
  7. Which are the worst rap album covers? Chicken-n-Beer by Ludacris and Game Face by Master P are regarded as some of the worst hip-hop album covers.

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The best hip-hop album covers are a hot topic for a good reason. The cover art is a superb representation of how far the genre has progressed and often sets the tone for the album.

Yen.com.gh recently published an article on the top 15 British rappers, making it big in the new age hip hop scene. Over time, British rappers have evolved with diverse styles and dominated the genre in various ways.

British rappers are some of the most followed celebrities in the UK. Some of these rappers include Aitch, Giggs, and Little Simz.

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Source: YEN.com.gh

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