Built For The Streets: 10 Grimy Album Covers That Shaped The ’90s

12.11.12 5 years ago 24 Comments

A couple of weeks ago, we took some time to highlight some black and white music videos that dominated the ’90s. We were so into our stroll down memory lane that we decided to dedicate some time to a few iconic rap covers from the era that stand out as being particularly grimy.

Let’s take a trip through rap’s golden era and pay homage to some legends.

This post is sponsored by Lugz: Built For The Streets

Ice Cube – Death Certificate (1991)

Depicting the death of Uncle Sam, Ice Cube’s Death Certificate cover was the perfect introduction to the west coast legend’s second album. Shorn of his jheri curl like a recent military recruit, but still bearing his trademark scowl, Cube appeared ready to go to war with any threat to the inner city black community, even if those threats were internal.

Smif-N-Wessun – Da Shinin’ (1995)

A more sinister twist on Roy Ayers’ 1971 album, He’s Coming, the artwork for Smif-N-Wessun’s Dah Shinin’ fit the album’s grimy, Brooklyn-centered content, like a set of brass knuckles.

Redman – Dare Iz A Darkside (1995)

Nothing says grimy like being buried neck-deep in dirt. This is the most Redman album cover ever.

Geto Boys – We Can’t Be Stopped (1991)

Taken in a hospital after group member Bushwick Bill recovered from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the eye (an incident Bill would describe in great detail on the song “Ever So Clear”), the documentary style cover photo for We Can’t Be Stopped represented the title in the most literal terms possible. With group members surviving brushes with death, mental health issues, and the everyday struggle of being young black men in America, the group proved that nothing would get in the way of sharing their respective stories with the world.

DMX – Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998)

Once again, you can’t say “grimy” without mentioning DMX. He followed his world-smashing debut with a cover that depicted him covered in all blood. What else would you expect from an album whose first lines are “I got blood on my hands and there’s no remorse.”

Public Enemy – Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age (1994)

Public Enemy always had a message and this is no different as the crew used the album cover to depict all of our ills: liquor, politics and perpetual mental suicide. And they did so in truly gripping fashion.

Ol Dirty Bastard – Return To The 36 Chambers (1995)

In his tribute to his fallen brother, entitled “Russell Jones,” Raekwon the Chef claimed that Ol’ Dirty Bastard invented the term “keep it real.” Well whether he invented the term or not, he embodied it with the album cover for his classic debut. The welfare ID card against a stark, white, background was the perfect visual representation of a man who spoke in straight forward terms, and without shame.

Kool G Rap – Live And Let Die (1992)

Imagine opening a door and seeing this crazy sh*t staring back at you. We have a few guys hanging, some dogs and semi automatics. Just start running and hope the wind dries the pee in your trousers.

TRU – TRU 2 Da Game (1997)

Black masks covering some pretty sick skulls with a money vault behind them? That’s good old-fashioned No Limit goodness. That era of southern album covers produced some of the most iconic images of grime you’ll ever see and this was at the forefront.

Eminem – Slim Shady LP (1999)

Well, he put his dead wife in the trunk of his car while he and his daughter looked over the dock of the bay. Presumably to find a place to dump the body. This is grimy, disturbing and twisted. Just like we like it.

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