Hip-hop album cover aesthetics follow-up

Posted by Rob Walker on August 29, 2008
Posted Under: "Good Design" (Tyranny of),Music,The Designed Life

In my recent writeup on the aesthetics that I associate with Cash Money records in New Orleans in the early 2000s, I was a little hasty¬† — and, as revealed in the comments to that post, a little sloppy.

Peter pointed out that the No Limit records also had the look, and that the look in many cases came from Pen & Pixel, a design firm in Houston. And Tree Frog passed along this Pen & Pixel retrospective from earlier this year, in which Not A Blogger declares the firm to be “the John Waters of the Hip Hop album art world.”

Apparently Pen & Pixel’s founder himself weighed in to that retrospective, to say that while that company is still around, he and other originals are gone, and now have a firm called Rapid Design Concepts.

He also says:

The company at its peak (1998-2001) was billing almost 6 million dollars a year and was producing more that 23 covers per week. Yes, some were cheesy, some were insane and some were amazing…but the main thing to remember was PPG was a business enterprise, its function was to please the customers…we had thousands of maverick ideas that would have pushed and developed Hip-hop graphics further and faster…but the clients demand for the “same ol’ Bling Bling, Ho’s and cars kept the monster fed.

Then other comments started coming in, many with questions about how particular covers were put together — what was intentionally “less finished” looking, etc. Pretty interesting.

One last bit from another of the P&P founder’s comments, speaking rather directly to the aesthetics issues that interest me:

I also find it funny when people comment on how terrible the covers were, yet these are the same covers that helped the largest hip-hop artists make Billions! (not millions) And are now featured in museums and galleries. The same covers that set a time period in musical history. So we were doing something right!

Thanks for the comments, Peter & Tree Frog.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Well… the covers have left a weird legacy. To those who bought the albums, yeah, they’re pretty distinctive, but often leave an impression of being over-compensating noveau riche or just plain goofy.

I’ll see if I can dig up some more about the aesthetics of hip-hop album covers, like the hyphy stuff.

#1 
Written By Tree Frog on August 31st, 2008 @ 2:43 am

thanks for the shout out!

#2 
Written By peter on October 30th, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

please check out the new blocksavvy election widget – http://knowwhatimsayin.com/blog/?p=488 – haha shameless plug i know

#3 
Written By peter on October 30th, 2008 @ 2:03 pm
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