Best Album Covers of 2019: Staff Picks

For your reading and viewing pleasure, we have selected our eight favorite covers of 2019.
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In 2019, as with 2018 and all years passed, album art remains a visual treat and a fantastic way to telegraph the narrative of an album. To celebrate hip-hop’s continued efforts to engage our eyes as much as it engages our ears, we had our staff pick their album cover of the year. This list is perfectly subjective, and therefore impervious to critique. Enjoy!

The Rookie & The Vet — Tierra Traniece

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My friend, producer The Pyrvmids, shared a project titled The Rookie & The Vet from Tierra Traniece, an independent artist from Miami, Florida. The artwork captures my heart every time I see it. I don’t know who had the best or most beautiful or most original artwork of the year, but this cover, in particular, spoke to me and still does to this day. The color, the tone, the melanin, the vintage, yet modern feel of the photo. The symbolism speaks to my inner child and grown-up perfectionist. — Ronnia Cherry

Bandana — Freddie Gibbs & Madlib

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I love this artwork as a still image. Still, my appreciation grew to new heights after watching the accompanying animation Madlib and Gibbs made with Adult Swim to promote the album. If I were an executive at the network, I’d greenlight a 12-episode series order based on the strength of this teaser alone. Who wouldnt want to watch a show about the psychedelic romps and whimsical misadventures of these two lovable scamps?! — Hershal Pandya

Sevshaw — Six Sev

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Sevshaw is for Crenshaw, by Crenshaw. The above cover is one of many iconic moments in the District, the day the Space Shuttle Endeavor passed through LA on its way to Exposition Park. In the photo, you’ll see a representation of the ongoing gentrification affecting the region. You’ll see the black-owned Dawah Bookshop holding their ground in the chaos. You’ll even see a dog riding his bike like it was just another Saturday afternoon. The only thing you won’t see in the cover is Six Sev himself because he was behind the camera watching it all take place. — Kenan Draughorne

Anger Management — Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats

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Anger Management didn’t quite grab me at first. Kenny Beats, producer-chameleon extraordinaire, draws out subtle, previously unseen sides of Rico’s brand of freaky catharsis—the back half of the project see the normally fire-breathing Rico purring like a cat, something I was fully unprepared for. What drew me in over and over, until I fell in love, was the “Primal Scream”-inspired artwork. Dom Glover, the creative director of the cover, curated a perfect thesis statement for Rico: Raw femininity and elements of horror locked in an utterly gripping artistic embrace, revealing little but promising unrelenting intensity. The album delivers, but even if it didn’t, I’d still return to the artwork weekly. — Zachary Miller

Mirrorland — EarthGang

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Mirrorland, the year’s most eclectic and kaleidoscopic rap album, is one of the few projects I could best describe through its cover art. Mirrorland’s album art is as fantastical and lush with imagery as the sounds themselves. For an album so dedicated to its grandiosity, it feels picture-perfect to see a cover as daring and inventive as WowGr8 and Olu’s lyrics and concepts. — Matt Wilhite

-Ugh, those feels again — Snoh Aalegra

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Snoh Aalegra understands aesthetic. Her latest album, -Ugh, those feels again, is a pleasant batch of R&B and soul ballads straddling the line between old and new sensibilities of love. The album’s cover takes this idea to the extreme: A stark black-and-white photo with Snoh, out of center frame, clutching her head in bemusement. The image looks torn out of an old French romance film, but the album’s title, captioned in a black box, looks torn from your ex’s latest Instagram story. I can’t help but get lost in its charm. — Dylan "CineMasai" Green

So Much Fun — Young Thug

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We should celebrate acts of superfluous grandiosity as forms of art. Put Gucci Mane in the MOMA, not because he’s a Godfather of Trap Music, but for the time he took all his cars to Miami for Rolling Loud. It’s ridiculous but marvelous. That’s how I feel about the cover of Young Thug’s debut album, So Much Fun. It’s a digital flashmob depicting Young Thug’s smiling face. There’s something royal about it, the kind of imaginative portrait Dr. Doom would have the people of Latveria make in his honor. No, Doom wouldn’t do that, but Thug would, and that’s why it’s brilliant. — Yoh

2019 has been filled with incredible sounds from even more incredible artists. While being enamored with what we hear, we often forget to pay attention to what we see. Album art is like the icing for any album. If the content—the cake—is good, then the icing needs to be even better. My favorite album art of 2019 is So Much Fun. The content, along with the art, is an overall statement from Young Thug reminding us that, although still building, his legacy is making its mark. His face beautifully etched into a green field only enhances the overall message of So Much Fun. — Simi Muhumuza

IGOR — Tyler, The Creator

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Let’s put aside Igor is my father’s name. Let’s put aside my deep love of all things heartbreaking and queer. Let’s put aside IGOR being the album of the year and a late contender for one of the albums of a generation. Let’s put all that aside and admire the cover. The contrasts! The allusions! The alternative cover! The evolution! Looking at IGOR is a marvel, how it captures the bleakness of heartbreak and the spirit of reconciliation. If you think hard enough, you’ll find the entire narrative arc of IGOR on the cover, waiting to be taken in. Don’t mind if I do. — Donna-Claire Chesman

[Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article, Keith Rankin was incorrectly listed as the creator of the Rico Nasty cover.]

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