Kendra Gaines November 2nd, 2011

Artistically Inspired Urban Album Covers

Music is probably the number one inspirational source for a lot of artists and designers. Music can express great emotions that will often move its creative listeners to try and capture and convey and those feelings in their own art. Regardless of your favorite genre, music is sometimes key to the creative process.

The second greatest part of music for most designers is the album cover and/or packaging. This is the bit that essentially tries to sum up the feel and the message behind all the music on an album; and it also becomes the iconic look for a classic album (think Pink Floyd and Aerosmith, just to name a few). These types of artistically and creatively fueled album covers provide lots of inspiration for various artists.

A genre that many people pass over for album cover inspiration is urban music (hip hop, r&b, pop). In those genres, most of the album covers are quick and easy and use some sort of glamour shot of the artist on the cover. Very rarely do you find something that really captures the soul of a project or is artistically charged–there isn’t a ton of creativity. Fortunately, we did some digging and have come up with some great looking, artistically inspired urban album covers from famous rap, r&b and pop artists.

The Album Cover Inspiration

9th Wonder – The Wonder Years
Cover Artist – Princess Spencer (see how this cover came about).

The Airplane Boys – Where’ve You Been
Cover Artist –  Justin ‘Create’ Toledo of LiveBeauMonde

Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh
Cover Artist – EMEK

The Notorious B.I.G. – Duets: The Final Chapter
Cover Artist – Elizabeth Rosen

Blake Carrington – Dare to Dream
Cover Artist – Deadly Del Mundo

Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops & Hooligans
Cover Artist – Nick Bilardello

Common – Finding Forever
Cover Artist – Electric Heat 

Flight Distance – Bad Information
Cover Artist – Jesse Winchester

Fortunate Ones – Sleepless Nights and Numb Hearts
Cover Artist – Lou Ros

Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere
Cover Artist – Kam Tang

Headnodic – Red Line Radio
Cover Artist – Matt Linares

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey – Race Riot Suite
Cover Artist – Peregrine Honig

Jay-Z & Linkin Park – Collision Course
Cover Artist – The FLEM

Kanye West – Graduation
Cover Artist –  Takashi Murakami

Kosha Dillz – Gina & The Garage Sale EP
Cover Artist – Chuck U

Mac Miller – Blue Slide Park
Cover Artist – Redtape Design

Mac Miller – On and On and Beyond
Cover Artist – Unknown

Michael Jackson – Michael
Cover Artist – Kadir Nelson

Musiq Soulchild – MusiqInTheMagiq
Cover Artist – Nick Bilardello

N.E.R.D. –  Seeing Sounds
Cover Artist – Jun Hirota

Outkast – Stankonia (Limited Edition Cover)
Cover Artist – Unknown

A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
Cover Artist – Zombart JK

Sims –  Bad Time Zoo
Cover Artist – The Pressure

CunninLynguists – Strange Journey: Volume One
Cover Artist – Unknown

T.I. – Paper Trail
Cover Artist – Ian Wright

Travis Barker –  Give the Drummer Some
Cover Artist – Pushead

Wiz Khalifa – Rolling Papers
Cover Artist – Greg Gigendad Burke

Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne
Cover Artist – Ricardo Tisci


Kendra Gaines

Kendra Gaines is a young freelance designer for Norfolk, VA. Visit her online portfolio at and follow her on twitter @TheGainesColl.


  1. As I was scrolling down the list, I was thinking CunninLynguists’ cover art would fit right in. Didn’t expect to actually see them in the list =]
    Nice to see some underground hip-hop in there.

  2. Oh Kendra… You have the keys to my heart :) What a fantastic way to spice up the standard “inspiration for designers” post format. The Badu album cover looks like it should be on a 12″ vinyl record. Very reminiscent of Spyro Gyra and the artwork they used to release. The Low End Theory is still a favorite cover to this day. Own the vinyl as well…. Fantastic post. Great examples.

  3. The Low End Theory cover is surely looking amazing! I am really impressed, i guess this is called imagination!

  4. Outkast – Stankonia (Limited Edition Cover)
    Cover Artist – Unknown

    If I’m not mistaken Andre 3-Stacks is the cover artist. Dude doesn’t make it known enough that he’s a dope illustrator on the low.

  5. What I really loved is the variety of methods and directions each artist took to represent the music/album. Thanks Kendra great post!

    @SGD-Design – I had no idea 3000 did illustration, I knew he was involved in cartoon series but thought he was just a producer or something. Learn something new everyday.

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