Let's face it: Hip-Hop is losing its edge. In an age where Rihanna's "Rated R" album cover drums up more controversy than the average rap song, it's no wonder why we turn to the past to recall unfiltered moments of self-expression. While most statements nowadays are made with the help of three publicists and a lawyer, let's take a look back at the real messengers with Hip-Hop's Most Controversial Album Covers.
Warning: the images you are about to see might make you think. Don't be scared; we know it's been a while.
2 Live Crew - As Nasty As They Wanna Be
Looks like your typical bootylicious rap cover, right? Well, this album was the first to embrace the risque factor in album art. 2 Live Crew's "As Nasty As They Wanna Be" was briefly banned, and returned "As Clean As They Wanna Be" with a sign blocking the girls' bottom halves. Mission Accomplished? Not quite.
Eminem - The Slim Shady LP
When Eminem stepped on the scene, he came with built-in issues that were instant fodder for his sinister rhymes. This cover shows Em and his daughter/accomplice Hailey standing by the docks while a body (presumed to be his wife Kim) lies head first in the trunk of his car. Nice.
Ice Cube - Death Certificate
Ice Cube came from a place that challenged the American Way through NWA. As he ventured into his solo career, Cube maintained politically gangster undertones, as seen on the "Death Certificate" cover where Cube stands over a toe-tagged Uncle Sam with his hand over his heart.
KMD - Black Bastards
Before MF Doom had his metal face on, he was a member of KMD. In 1994 KMD's album "Black Bastards" was shelved by Electra Records due to this album art of a minstrel cartoon being hung, and KMD ultimately were dropped from their label. MF Doom got the message out in '01 when he released this album independently.
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Live And Let Die
Another controversial cover involving images of people being hanged. Kool G Rap and DJ Polo took stickup kids to the next level as they stood with leather gloves and ski masks watching their victims hang and seducing rottweilers with raw meat. It resembled a still from a crime movie.
Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz - Put Yo Hood Up
Before Lil Jon was shouting "Yeah!" and sipping from the pimp chalice, he was setting Confederate flags on fire below the Mason-Dixon line. While this album produced one semi-hit "Bia Bia" and probably had the KKK thrilled over the cover art, Lil Jon hung up his "revolutionary" coat and just stuck to music about grills and girls. Imagine if he actually made music that coincided with this cover? There'd be no Crunk.
The Coup - Party Music
The remarkable thing about this album cover was that it became a chicken vs. egg investigation. The Coup, known for making upbeat music, designed this album cover in 2001 around the time of 9/11. The images were nearly spot on to those seen in the World Trade Center footage. The point of this cover, much like the music of the Coup, was to deliver political undertones using the type of music that moves the people. And move they did as The Coup's entire career was probed because of this one photo. After much questioning, the cover was chalked up to coincidence and the art was switched to a lit martini glass. Go figure.
Geto Boys - We Can't Be Stopped
There are few images as disturbing as a one-eyed little person on a gurney talking on his Zack Morris phone. Geto Boys held no punches when it came to graphic imagery, and frontman Bushwick Bill always managed to be at the heart of it. In their video for "My Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me" Bill punches concrete until his knuckles bleed. That's just the kind of guy he is. He even shot out his eye after pleading with his girlfriend to kill him. This album cover reflects that dreadful incident and still Bill and the Boys can't be stopped.
Tupac/Makaveli - The 7Day Theory
Up until yesterday people still believed that Tupac was alive. The reason for their skepticism about his death was all due to this cover, where Pac is crucified like Jesus (who according to Catholics rose from the dead in three days). He also calls himself Makaveli, loosely referencing philosopher Machiavelli, who wrote about faking one's death to dupe their enemies. The theory was only supposed to last seven days. How much longer must we wait?
Nas - Untitled
Originally supposed to be titled the N-word (as seen in the first cover before the jump), Nas was rebuffed by his label Def Jam and switched the title to "Untitled" with a cover displaying whipmarks on his back in the shape of an N. Nas tells the story of the album change on its lead single "Hero":
This universal apartheid
I'm hog-tied, the corporate side
Blocking y'all from going to stores and buying it
First L.A. and Doug Morris was riding with it
But Newsweek article startled big wigs
They said, Nas, why is he trying it?
My lawyers only see the Billboard charts as winning
Forgetting - Nas the only true rebel since the beginning
Still in musical prison, in jail for the flow
Try telling Bob Dylan, Bruce, or Billy Joel
They can't sing what's in their soul
So Untitled it is
I never change nothin'
But people remember this
If Nas can't say it, think about these talented kids
With new ideas being told what they can and can't spit