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

#5. Ol' Dirty Bastard, Nigga Please (1999)

Jonathan Mannion: “Working with ODB was challenging, but it wasn’t hard. It’s never hard. Sometimes it’s just challenging to convey your vision.

“I think a couple of people had tried to shoot his album cover before, and he just wouldn’t show up. He had a set of crazy influences that were translated. Keep in mind, this is an artist who took the entire styling budget for his previous album cover and got gold fronts.

“I never spoke to him directly before the shoot. I was in contact with Alli Truch—the art director—who was trying to wrangle this whole thing together. She told me to meet her in her office to talk about it and said that he’d demanded a bed and wanted to dress up like Rick James and Donna Summer. I told her, ‘Alright. We’ll have it all for him.’

 

When ODB called back, he said, ‘I want $20,000 to show up to my shoot.’ Alli told him, ‘No. We will draw a stick-figure of you, and that’ll be your cover. This is for you. Come out and have fun.’

 

“I got on the phone with the stylist and said, ‘I need you to find the craziest, bedazzled, Rick James sparkling one-piece that you can find.’ And he came back with the magic that’s on the cover.

“It was a Saturday afternoon, and we were all amongst friends. The stylist was dope, my crew was dope, and we all were thinking, ‘OK, he may or may not show up.’ So we got every set prepared and ready to go, and we kicked back, hoping he’d show up in two or three hours.

“Two or three hours passed, and ODB said he wasn’t coming. Through Alli, we asked him to please reconsider, and he said, ‘OK, I’ll call you back.’ When he called back, he said, ‘I want $20,000 to show up to my shoot.’ Alli told him, ‘No. We will draw a stick-figure of you, and that’ll be your cover. This is for you. Come out and have fun.’

“About four-and-a-half hours into waiting, everybody was getting a little lethargic. We started having a couple of beers, thinking it wasn’t going to happen. So I dressed up in the outfit and gave everyone cameras. I acted like I was on the phone talking shit, and I had put a big sock down my pants, just so we could all have a laugh and let off some steam.

“Three or four of us ended up knocked out, taking a nap on that bed. Finally, he calls back and says, ‘Alright. If you make it $15,000, I’ll show up.’ We said, ‘No. Show up.’ Seven hours later, he showed up and started to push buttons.

“I knew that I had caught the moment before the shoot even started, when I got him pulling up his pants, which is on the back of the album. From there, it was about building trust and talking to him. He was playing with me, telling me when and when not to shoot him, and I just went along with it. I’m patient as hell, so we got along fine.

“For one of the shots, he got butt-naked and said he was really feeling the assistant stylist. We’re like, ‘No, man. She’s working.’ He sat down next to her and said, ‘I’m really inspired by you. Let’s talk about it.’ I wasn’t going to let anything happen on my set, so I nodded to her and asked her to go with it.

“We had about five or six setups. Towards the end, there was a moment when he tried to tell me how to light my shots, and that took it a little to far. I told him, ‘At least let me make you turn out the way you should look.’ We wrapped it up at that point. It was probably the craziest shoot that I’ve had.

“He was so gangster. I don’t want to say it exactly spits in the face of the system, but this was an artist, who did what he wanted. That’s why his music was so incredible. As much as it is unprofessional, I applaud him. Those are the loose-cannons that I want to work with, because I know I’m going to get amazing photos.”

blog comments powered by Disqus