Jonathan Mannion Tells All: The Stories Behind His 25 Favorite Album Covers

#16. Busta Rhymes, The Big Bang (2006)

Other works include: Blessed

Jonathan Mannion: “Busta and I have been working forever. When I was just starting out in New York, he did a song with Bounty Killer and Junior Reid, called ‘Change Like The Weather,’ and I shot some behind-the-scenes stuff.

“We knew of each other for a long time. I had pictures of him with Biggie and Jay-Z and on-stage at record release parties and stuff, but the first time I had a real conversation with him was when I shot him for a story in XXL.

 

You are not showing up with your shaved dreads. Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to get Panch—Hype’s cameraman—and we’re going to shoot a one-minute piece of you shaving your dreads from about ten different angles.

 

“When I showed him my work, he was like, ‘I am bugging the fuck out right now. I knew you as you, and I knew this other kid Jonathan Mannion, from his work, but I didn’t know y’all were the same person!’ That sort of made the friendship.

“From then, we did album cover after album cover. One day he called me up and said, ‘J, I’m going to show up with something special for you this time.’ I said, ‘Alright. Tell me what you’re going to do, man. He wouldn’t tell me, but I told him he had to, in case I had to document it.

“He said, ‘I’m going to shave my dreads.’ I said, ‘You are not showing up with your shaved dreads. Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to get Panch—Hype’s cameraman—and we’re going to shoot a one-minute piece of you shaving your dreads from about ten different angles. You’re going to do a score underneath that just says your mindset in this moment, and at the end it’s going to say The Big Bang, with no tag-lines. I’m going to document it photographically, and we’re going to do the before and after at the same time.’

“I stopped speaking, and then he said, ‘That shit is fucking crazy!’ I had to convince him that this was a bigger moment than having his cousin shoot it on some handycam that happened to be around the house.

“I demanded it, and I got it. We executed in the moment, and now it’s forever. That’s one of my favorite commercials that I’ve done. It’s like a little piece of film.

“The rest of The Big Bang stuff showed the transformation. From the last picture of him with the dreads, on the block, on Surf Avenue, in Brooklyn, to the new and improved Busta Rhymes, the leader of the next new school.

“He was focused, and it paid off. It was really that moment in his career, where he was like, ‘I’m one of the greatest.’ He’s a legend.”

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