Last night, Drake tweeted out his new Nothing Was The Same album release date (September 24), along with two album covers done by painter, illustrator, and writer, Kadir Nelson. In the art world, Nelson's name is a familar one; he's had numerous successful exhibitions and has been commissioned by the United States House of Representatives, the U.S. Postal Service, Michael Jackson, Sports Illustrated, Coca-Cola, and Dreamworks. He's also written and illustrated a number of best-selling, award-winning books that tell the stories of iconic figures like Nelson Mandela, Joe Louis, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Similar to the work of photorealistic history painter Kehinde Wiley, Nelson's paintings reveal the strength and humanity of his subjects, who carry piercing gazes and appear triumphant in all of their poses. For Drake's covers (reminiscent of Tyler, the Creator's photorealistic illustration for Wolf by Mark Ryden from last April), Nelson paints two sides of him, both which are his profile against bright, cloudy backgrounds. The younger, child version of himself looks slightly up and to the right, while the adult version of himself looks out and to the left. His younger self is adorned only with an afro comb in his hair, and his older self has a gold chain. These two images may be glowing and full of color, but they are also serious and contemplative. They also recall iconic hip-hop album covers like Nas' Illmatic, The Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die, and Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, where the rappers shared images of themselves as kids.
Whether Drake is torn between or best represented by these two chapters of his youth or not, the clear focuses are his profile, expression, and minimal adornment (i.e. not what or who he's wearing). Kadir Nelson depicts both sides of him in such a powerful way, and he's been doing it for years. Read these 10 Things You Need to Know About Kadir Nelson for an important overview of this multi-talented artist's career.