This is part of a daily, week-long feature series where we asked legendary designers about their favorite rap album covers from the '90s. Read the full interview with Cey Adams here.
The album cover is supposed to appeal to your most important senses: sight and touch. What your ears eventually hear after breaking the seal on the CD, cassette, or vinyl comes later. Art directors work with a crew of designers, illustrators, and photographers to create an image that accompanies a record—one that will be hopefully hailed as a classic. This was the 1990s as we knew it. What made the releases from the ‘90s so golden was largely the artwork that made the albums as memorable as the musical styles the rappers ushered in.
And while 2013 was a banner year for music, some of the greatest albums from the '90s celebrated 20th anniversaries such as A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders, Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle, and Wu-Tang Clan's debut album. We approached the visual artists behind some classic material to get their take on what made them so special. In this week-long exploration into the rap archives, we interviewed Cey Adams (co-head of Def Jam’s Drawing Board), Kenny Gravilles (former art director at MCA Records), Greg Burke (art director for Warner Bros./Atlantic Records), Bill McMullen (designer and former member of The Drawing Board), and Brent Rollins (Art Director for Complex).
For our first in a series of interviews, we spoke to Cey Adams, one of the most respected names in design for about 30 years. He went from writing graffiti on the streets of NY, to the board room as the creative director of Def Jam from day one in 1984. If you looked at one of the illest album covers or logos from Def Jam or Bad Boy Records during the ‘90s, or logos for Hot 97 and Chappelle’s Show it was probably created by Cey Adams through his design firm, The Drawing Board. Adams designed the book Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label, the decisive history on the legendary label, the Tommy Boy 30th Anniversary poster, and the Sean Jean logo. He also worked on the cover for one of the most beloved albums of all time, The Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die. Here are Cey Adams' 10 Favorite Rap Album Covers of the '90s.
RELATED: The 50 Best Rap Album Covers of the Past Five Years
RELATED: The 30 Best Album Covers of 2013
RELATED: The Best Movies of the '90s
RELATED: The Best 90's Board Games