Hip-Hop is a music genre that thrives on controversy along with raw, undiluted visual & lyrical content. In the following list, we present to you ten of the most controversial album covers ever released by rap artists.
There is quite a lot to see here: overtly sexual images, blood-soaked rappers and other types of provocative, skin-cringing visuals. In some cases, these album covers paved the way for the rappers to sell tons of records. And in other cases, the over-the-top covers ended up taking away from the exemplary content on the album. Without further ado, check out the list below.
10 Eminem – The Slim Shady LP
One of the recurrent themes on the record was the hatred Eminem harbored for his child’s mother, Kim. The cover art of the record also conveyed this theme. It featured Eminem standing on a pier with a dark-colored car also in the frame. Jutting out from the car’s trunk was a pair of legs – apparently of a dead body (perhaps representing Kim). Needless to say, there was a lot of uproar about this album’s cover art.
9 Action Bronson – Saab Stories
Queens rapper Action Bronson has been going through a tough time this summer. Ever since he came in the rap game, he has received charges for sounding and rapping exactly like Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan. Tension between the two rappers recently exploded, but that’s a story for another day.
In 2013, Action released an EP called Saab Stories and the cover was sexist, racist and even misogynistic. It featured the rapper standing in a bathroom door with two almost-naked Asian women in submissive positions near the toilet and in the shower. We’re finding it hard to imagine how his record label allowed this image to actually be released.
8 Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
In November of 2010, Kanye West released his fifth studio album – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It was the album he released after a lot of controversy and scrutiny about his huge ego and rude public behavior. Many consider the album to be the best in his catalog, and the production and overall concept of the LP was quite brilliant.
For the cover art, he enlisted the artist George Condo to create a disturbing painting of a naked Kanye West being straddled by a demonic looking nymph with wings. He wanted people to be viscerally disturbed by the painting and his wish came true.
7 Ice Cube – Death Certificate
These days, Ice Cube is an actor, writer and movie producer responsible for funny movies like Are We There Yet and 21 Jump Street. But back in the early '90s, he was one of the most prominent gangsta rappers on the scene.
His 1991 album was called Death Certificate, and it went platinum very soon after it was released. The album cover was extremely controversial. It featured Ice Cube standing in a morgue with a covered cadaver lying on the gurney. The toe tag on the dead body was very visible and it read, “Uncle Sam.” Now if that isn’t a big middle finger to America, we don’t know what is.
6 2 Live Crew – As Nasty As They Wanna Be
This album holds a special place on this list because it’s the only album that was ruled to be legally obscene by a United States District Court. The title of the album was As Nasty As They Wanna Be and it was the 3rd album by Miami Hip-Hop group, 2 Live Crew. The album went platinum and was the center of intense media and political scrutiny because of its highly sexual content.
The cover featured 4 voluptuous women in bathing suit thongs with their behinds facing the camera. In between their legs were the posing faces of the Miami rap group. This happened right when rap music was hitting the mainstream, and that’s one of the main reasons why it caused so much social uproar.
5 Nas - Untitled
Regardless of the new crop of talent who emerges in the realm of Hip-Hop, Queensbridge rapper Nas will always be considered as the golden child of rap. His debut album Illmatic, released in 1994, is still considered as the holy grail of rap albums.
In 2008, he released his ninth studio album that he controversially titled with a racial slur. However, the backlash from this decision was so strong that the title was ultimately changed to “Untitled.” The album cover was extremely graphic. It featured the letter “N” brandished on Nas’s back in painful looking scars. It was meant to depict the whippings, physical abuse and suffering African slaves endured in the United States.
4 Ice T – Gangsta Rap
In 2006, Ice T, then going by the nickname Ice Berg, released his eighth studio album titled Gangsta Rap. The album didn’t really create a lot of ripples, but it did cause a sensation for its overtly sexual album cover.
The album featured Ice-T and his very endowed and curvy wife Coco naked in bed in a very suggestive position. The sexual image was presented in a gilded gold frame but that minor design touch didn’t add any class to the cover.
3 DMX – Flesh Of My Flesh
In 1998, DMX released his second album, Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood. It was an extremely successful album that eventually went 3X Platinum. It moved an impressive 670K units in the first week alone.
The album cover was extremely gruesome and it featured a bare-chested DMX standing against a white background with his entire upper torso completely dripping with blood. The bloody climax of the movie Carrie comes to mind. Either way, this grotesque album cover helped him sell a lot of records and make a ton of money.
2 Nicki Minaj – Anaconda
This single cover had to be included in this list. As we all know, Nicki Minaj is one of the most popular rappers in the realm of Hip-Hop. In December of 2014, she released her Pink Print album that ended up being extremely successful.
The lead single for the LP “Anaconda” was released last summer and the cover art was completely NSFW. It featured Nicki squatting with her gigantic butt in full view. Her attire included bright colored sneakers and bubblegum-pink bra and thong set. It was extremely provocative and it went viral as soon as it leaked.
1 The Coup – Party Music
This album leads the list because it literally has one of the most incendiary album covers ever to be used to promote an LP. The music group is the Coup and the album is the 2001 album, Party Music. The lead emcee of this alternative Hip-Hop group is Boots Riley, and he is known for making politically-charged, rebel-themed music.
The album cover featured smoke and fire coming from the Twin Towers of NY’s World Trade Center. This cover was released months after the tragic terrorist attack of 9/11. The cover was apparently created in June of that year, 3 months before the actual attack.