10 Great Album Covers, Chosen by Tarjas White of HiFi Project

Red Hot Chili Peppers, A Tribe Called Quest, Quincy Jones and more

To me, music has always been a source of inspiration in my life. I sold my first beat at 16 and have had between 400-500 tracks placed in various television shows. This very early introduction into the fusion of music and visuals cemented in me that the album cover was an essential piece of the listening process. While it is the music that we may remember, the thoughtful artwork that serves as an entree to the music truly makes the full musical experience.

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Californication (1999)

This album was very instrumental in the diversification of my music taste. I was in about 7th grade when it was released but got into it more the following year. When I look at this album cover, I'm connected with my first visual and audio image of life in California. It was one of the first times I truly began to romanticize the idea of living in California concretely after always wanting to live there since I was a kid. It was also one of the first albums that I bought myself and having that tactile experience of choosing the CD in the store is a special nostalgic reminder for me.

Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)

This cover was a very polarizing piece of art that could stand on its own as an independent work of art. This music to go along with it was a bonus.

Seeing Sounds (2008)

This album marks the beginning of me defining my adult taste in music and my music style and aesthetic. This is one of my favorite bands for a lot of different reasons. This album cover is iconic to me because it shows their growth artistically. The first couple of covers are polaroid group shots and this was a level up artistically and creatively, which aligns with their musical evolution. Overall, a lot of the visuals for this album align with a common theme, which adds depth to the music.

Michael Jackson
Off the Wall (1979)

This is such a classic album featuring some of my favorite songs of all time. To me, this album cover marks the "humble" beginnings of Michael Jackson before he truly achieved superstar status as a solo artist. The photo was taken by famed photographer Michael Salisbury and the simplicity of the photo with him standing against a brick wall in a tux and an afro shows what an icon he has always been. The maturity of his going from a child star to a solo artist stands out to me on this cover. It marks the beginning of a legendary run.

Take Care (2011)

This takes me to a very specific time and place in life and it turned out to be an iconic cover for the artists eventually but was an instant classic album for me. 

Sergio Mendes
Timeless (2006)

This album opened up a whole new world and genre as a music fan (Brazilian jazz). So many songs, artists, and moments came from the discovery of this album that a friend referred to me thinking the vibe of the genre might be something I would enjoy.

This cover is so magnetic. The photo of him is from when he was very young, but the art direction behind it is so cool, giving it a modernized edge without losing the classic feel. The album features contemporary artists like the Black Eyed Peas, John Legend and will.i.am, who bring new life to his classic songs. The album came out in 2006, and his most famous work is from 1966. It's amazing that 40 years later he was able to reintroduce his music to a new audience with a fresh contemporary spin with these artist collaborations. The artwork is both captivating and polarizing and is a great representation of the vibrancy and sophistication of the music.

A Tribe Called Quest
Midnight Marauders (1993)

I was young when this album was released but it inspired a lot of music that eventually inspired me and once I reversed engineered how I got to those songs, this album always came up. I was able to tap in and enjoy the album and understand and appreciate it years later. This album cover is a time capsule of this moment. The individuals on the front and back are all major icons of that era including the Beastie Boys, Busta Rhymes, Dr. Dre, P Diddy and other artists. It shows the camaraderie of this new genre that was coming up into the mainstream and the changing musicality of hip-hop. The samples and themes that they put out were the first of their kind in terms of the genre. The way that they incorporated all the big artists of that time was impactful, and being able to look back now and see how they all came up from there is always inspiring. 

Snoop Doggy Dogg
Doggy Style (1993)

Snoop's cousin drew the cover to this album. A very cool story is that he later bought the rights to the cover from his cousin but doesn't own the rights to the album. He gets to sell anything regarding the artwork and I think it's cool that he found a way to own a piece of the legacy of this classic album.

Nevermind (1991)

One of the most iconic album covers ever. Every time that I see this, I wonder: what is that baby doing now?

Quincy Jones
The Dude (1981)

There's little doubt about the musical chops of The Dude, but what I find most fascinating is the album's artwork. The morphing "Dude" creates a visual illusion that matches the shifting styles heard throughout the record and is perfectly set against a simple black frame. It's one of the best album covers from the era and immediately captures one's attention. You can imagine just how fascinating it would have been seeing it on the shelf in your local record store in 1981. He made the album in the middle of his historic run with Michael Jackson.

Art of the Album is a regular feature looking at the craft of album-cover design. If you'd like to write for the series, or learn more about our Clio Music program, please get in touch.

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