This year our hometown hip-hop heroes Rhymesayers Entertainment mark two decades of indie rap domination. But while Rhymesayers' legacy of music is rightfully spotlighted, one element that's overlooked in the digital age is the artwork.
From the early Headshots cassettes to countless singles and even their tour posters, Rhymesayers' visual elements have always been on point. Here are our picks for the top five Rhymesayers album covers.
Before we begin, we had to limit the field to official album releases. As cool as many of the tapes, singles, and digital-only releases have been, for this go-round we had to highlight the full-lengths. Given that Rhymesayers has always taken great care of their physical presentation and flat-out does not put out bad cover art, this was an incredibly tough call.
5) P.O.S. - Never Better (2009)
Starting things off we have the Eric Carlson-designed cover for P.O.S.'s third Rhymesayers album, Never Better. While the added feature of the customizable multicolored sleeves gave fans the opportunity to interact with the packaging, Carlson's cool semi-imposed skull and face image left a lot open to interpretation. The conversations that the image creates are as compelling as the music found on P.O.S.'s album, making it a great one to put on display.
4) Semi.Official - The Anti-Album (2003)
Perhaps most known as the voice of Tha Micranots, MC I Self Devine showed how diverse his talents were on his 2003 collaboration album with DJ Abilities, The Anti-Album. Also co-producing some of the tracks, I Self Devine drew the art for the project himself, depicting the images and chaos heard on the record. With the concept of the album being a 2003 throwback to hip-hop traditionalism, his strong graff hand further emphasized the hallmarks of the culture present on the release.
3) Eyedea and Abilities - By the Throat (2009)
It had been five years since Eyedea and Abilities released a project, and as cool as the cut-out first pressing of First Born and suitable-for-framing red splashes on E&A are, we had to highlight the Michael Gaughan-created cover for By the Throat. The art's symbolism fits comfortably alongside the duo's lyricism, turntabilism, and imperialism, and the way the image plays with depth perception matches all the provocative boundary-pushing elements of the record.
2) MF DOOM - MM...Food 2004
By the mid-2000s, hip-hop fans and Doom devotees had found a familiar charm in MF DOOM's persistent jacking of Marvel Comics panel art for his releases. It would have to take something special to replace that copyright-inciting fun, and Jason Jagel's excellent painting for MM...Food did just that. Aside from just looking great, the image offers constant rewards for Doom stans, with several hidden references to the villain's previous releases scattered all throughout the image.
MF Doom's MM..Food: 10 Years Later
1) Brother Ali - Shadows On the Sun (2003)
It was 12 years ago when Brother Ali's Shadows On the Sun hit store shelves, and a dozen years later it's still an immediate eye-catcher. The artwork George Thompson supplied utilized a lot of colors not really seen on rap releases, along with an arrangement of images with a tapestry as deep as the stories and emotions Ali would present on the music inside. A beautiful image whether on CD, vinyl, or poster, it's one of the many reasons why the Ali album is an essential part of any Rhymesayers collection.
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