Before the blog boom, the magazine was the principle information source for hip-hop heads. In those days the publication world was merely a reflection of the hip-hop industry and a driving force within it. Frequently their most memorable component was the gift wrap on every issue—the cover.

Cover images burned forever into the hip-hop consciousness. They were pasted to lockers and bedroom walls, as well as autographed at shows. They broke stories and told stories. They fueled beefs, squashed beefs, and then mourned the consequences of those left unresolved. They bolstered identities and sometimes even created them.

In celebration of the form, we took a look back at 50 of the greatest magazine covers that hip-hop ever produced. And yes, we included a few of our own, although we did our best to be as objective as possible.