5. Rustie – Green Language
This is an awesome image. Flamingos with ultra-black noses backed by an eerie yet soothing landscape of blues. Rustie didn’t go out and have this commissioned, he used a previously existing photo just like Time Inc. paid to use it in their bookazine, The Animal Mind. The image comes from Simen Johan, from his 2011 series “Until the Kingdom Comes,” which you can see here. Rustie used something that could be found on newsstands at every Rite Aid across the country for his album cover.
4. Young Thug – 1017 Thug 2
I don’t care if Wiz Khalifa laughed it off, this is pathetic. Whether or not Thug’s camp thought they could get away with editing his face on Wiz Khalifa’s body, or they did it because they knew the Internet would find out and it would become a trending story on Twitter, it remains cheap and inconsequential.
3. SZA – “Sobriety”
If this were anything more than single artwork, it would’ve been the worst of the year. The first thing I did was google the other site’s posting the song to see if they had copy-pasted the pantone directives on top of the cover, before realizing the handwriting was over Pantone 161 intentionally. Whoever designed this cover took the Eyedropper Tool in Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator and held it over the image until they found 6 colors they liked. Then they had the nerve to point out where the colors came from. TDE’s design work is suspect more often than not, and this is the worst thing they’ve put out to date.
2. Taylor Swift – 1989
There’s the clear jacking of Kendrick Lamar’s GKMC cover, the Tumblr sweater and the Instagram filter-haze. And to top it all off, T. Swift with her Red cover-model lips bringing to mind T.S. Eliot. This was built to go platinum.
1. (Young) Jeezy – Seen It All: The Autobiography
An illuminati triangle inside a shield/family crest-of-sorts that is made from trendy “graphic design” icons over black skin. Hassaan Mackey did the black skin backdrop in 2011. Referencing the illuminati is tired, and here are a few of the things depicted with those generic icons: Basquiat, Iwo Jima, Jeff Koons. This artwork reflects how little he brings to the table creatively.
5. SBTRKT – Transitions
Before he released his follow-up stinker, Wonder Where We Land, SBTRKT dropped the instrumental EP Transitions on his website: http://transitions.sbtrkt.com. The pattern is fairly simple but mesmerizing and controlled by your cursor. Hopefully it’s one of the first in a string of many innovative covers to come from artists. I would love to see more animated and interactive covers, anything that takes full advantage of the medium.
4. Big Sean – “Paradise”
The G.O.O.D. Music crew/affiliates/DONDA—whatever you want to call them—put great care into the total package of their offerings. A few weeks back they released a Pusha T track, “Lunch Money,” with very simple, impactful artwork of rolled up Benjamins. Kanye’s been preaching minimalism and it really works with these covers. Next to Yeezus and the recent 2Chainz album, this is their best work over the past year. It’s a complete diversion from Sean’s previous art and it matches him sounding like a capable rapper on “Paradise.” The process to take that cloud image and make it look like an explosion of bats is top notch.
3. RiFF RAFF – NEON iCON
If at any point in the future I happen to come across the NEON iCON cover I will 1) Laugh my ass off and 2) Be reminded of exactly who JODY HiGHROLLER was. This image captures him perfectly. The neon lights will remind me of that kitschy photo everybody tried. I’ll remember Jody Husky and the versace braids and the video for “How To Be The Man.” It’s the perfect representation of who RiFF RAFF is and how he lives his life.
2. Fatima – Yellow Memories
This is an outstanding image for a debut. The muted, rosy wallpaper backdrop paired with the blue shirt; the confident stare and Fatima’s style. The underplayed white and yellow lettering blends into the image without detracting from the focal point. Shot by Nina Manandhar and designed by r v x, it’s one of the most stunning covers from 2014. And it’s one of the best albums too.
1. FKA twigs – LP 1
This cover makes me sick to my stomach. It looks like Jesse Kanda turned FKA twigs into a wax figurine that’s being blasted with spray paint at point blank range. It makes me think about celebrity and how people opine and craft an image of who they think someone should be. Yes, it resembles the same “deadpan” look you see everywhere these days, but there’s soul to it: You see sadness, not a pose. There’s no text—a bold, preferred choice—so it looks like it could be hanging in the MoMA. No other cover came close to topping it this year, other than Dark Comedy 😉