Has any photographer in recent hip-hop history created more memorable images of the culture than Jonathan Mannion? Since he stepped onto the New York rap scene in 1993, the Cleveland native has produced iconic visuals that indelibly defined a generation of rap, R&B, and reggae artists.

Ask any 20-something kid who ever marveled at the cover of a hip-hop magazine or sat staring at their favorite rapper’s album cover, and it's likely they’ve seen most of their musical heroes through Mannion’s lens. For superstars like Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and countless others, Mannion’s vision, consistency, and ability to innovate has made him the go-to image-maker for the most important projects of their careers.

We recently sat down with the legendary photographer, director, and designer to bring you the stories behind his most memorable album-cover shoots. As he reflected on his personal favorites, Mannion detailed stories involving everything from dropping his pants on the set (in the name of art) to spending precious time with fallen cultural icons. It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but follow along as the top shotta breaks down why his pictures only tell half the story...

As told to Julian Pereira (@Broadway_Jay)