Art Direction: Adrien Vargas
Photographer: Jonathan Mannion
Illustrator: Cey Adams
After years of making noise on the underground circuit, Jay Z made his first move with the release of Reasonable Doubt, which was originally titled Heir to the Throne. According to Jonathan Mannion, the album cover’s photographer, Heir to the Throne was going to have more of monarchy-inspired look with a flashier Miami Vice feel. But when Jay switched things up to Reasonable Doubt, Mannion and Jay decided to ground the album in a classic, mafia-style Brooklyn vibe.
“At the time, stylistically guys were rocking Versace suits and linen, all the fly guys were rocking that. And I was like let’s do this different. Think Brooklyn. True bosses that move in silence, a sort of mafia vibe. Running shit. That was the mentality I applied to the album," Mannion said.
And as you can see on the album's cover, Jay’s scarf, hat, and cigar hide most of his face, bringing a wealthy, bossed-up, gang-leading hustler image to life—the life Jay struggles to make a clean break from on Reasonable Doubt.