3. Nas, Illmatic (1994)

Art Direction: Aimee Macauley, Danny Clinch
Photographer: Uncredited
Label: Columbia

Like the album itself, the Illmatic cover is purposefully straightforward, superimposing a photo of young Nas on a landscape of his Queensbridge Projects. Nas' demeanor as a seven-year-old doesn't seem all that different from his adult days, thanks to an unsmiling, slightly menacing calm. The font selection— reminiscent of Olde English—is unexpected for a rap record and gives the whole project an appropriately regal vibe. This was a young king claiming his throne.