J-Zone is a rapper/producer (also rapping resident kingpin of lampoonery) turned opinionated curmudgeon (a.k.a hip-hop's greatest humorist). He's written for Hip-Hop Connection, Ego Trip, Slam, The Source, and is author of the memoir, Root For The Villain: Rap, Bullshit, and a Celebration of Failure

Before you could preview an album on iTunes, you had to buy...erm...the 12" single! Or even more archaic, the cassingle and CD single. But the music on the 12" single was more than a mere glimpse into what could possibly be on the album. Musically you had instrumentals, a capellas, remixes, radio edits and the now extinct unreleased b-side. And then there were the covers. Some labels cut corners by throwing a 12" single in an inconspicuous, no-frills donut hole jacket to cut down on costs. After all, 12"s are only for DJs, right? Wrong.

Labels that opted to shell out a little cash for a quality 12" cover made their promotional tools more marketable to the average consumer. And if you were part of the indie boom of the late '90s, the 12" cover played an even bigger role—you probably never had an album coming out, so you better make this shit good. From the salacious ass of Ice-T's ex girl to the Joe Clark-esque don of discipline and conquerer-of-evil steez of an anti-drug MC Shan—here are the greatest hip-hop single covers. 

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Written by J-Zone (@jzonedonttweet).