I walked through a gallery in the city of sin and stood before my first ever Takashi Murakami painting. I remember seeing art by Liudmila Kondakova, Kerry Hallam, even Andy Warhol, but it was Murakami that I felt the most connected to.
Staring at paintings by the man who illustrated Kanye’s Graduation cover was astounding. I’m aware he has done much before and much after Graduation, but it was the that purple, colorful cover that introduced me to him. I wrote last year about how hip-hop has been an unexpected guide into becoming acquainted with various painters and visual artist. How Jay Z brought me to Basquiat, Mickey Factz sparked my interest in Keith Haring, Kendrick Lamar sent me searching for more interviews by Dash Snow and Big K.R.I.T is the bridge that brought me to the art of Miya Bailey. The collision of illustrated art and hip-hop is a beautiful thing.
I’m not the only one with an admiration for the two art forms. Rick Egidius, an interactive designer from the Netherlands, came up with this brilliant concept to crossover classic paintings from ancient history and modern rap album covers. Strategically, he pairs the album art with paintings based not just on visuals but on meaning. It reminds me of how producers approach sampling, taking something old and merging it with the sound of today in holy matrimony.
Rick isn’t just cutting and pasting together classics. Each illustration is done purposely. I love how he paired J. Cole’s Born Sinner with Michelangelo’s “Creation Of Adam.” He takes the concept of being born a sinner and pairs it with the forefather of sinning. Both Adam and Cole have had a taste of forbidden fruit.
An even better biblical pairing is Kanye’s Yeezus and Pieter Lastman’s “Crucify.” The end result is Jesus nailed to the cross with Kanye’s Yeezus font and red tape right above him. It’s the kind of controversial cover that would send a wave of disruption throughout the world. If you thought having God featured on a song was bad, imagine having his only begotten son hanging on your album art. Both disturbing and daring, it's an idea that no label would allow.
The other covers aren’t nearly as audacious. Drake’s Take Care meets a self portrait of Rembrandt Van Riji, Hov’s Magna Carta adjoins Leonardo Da Vinci’s legendary Last Supper, and A$AP Rocky’s psychedelic ALLA becomes even trippier by crossing over with Gustave Courbet’s El Desperado. Three days ago Rick updated his Instagram with a fresh illustration of Big Sean and Picasso so there’s hope that even more will be brought together in the future.
Album art is supposed to mean something, it’s the first impression and the window to an album’s soul. The same with a painting. By merging the two Rick is reminding us that a little ingenuity and creative thought can go a long way with sending a message. Hopefully this will inspire musicians out there to treat their album covers as works of art, not just whatever image they steal from Instagram that grabs their eye.