Jonathan Mannion, a photographer who has defined hip-hop with his lens, has revealed the source of JAY-Z's iconic cover for The Black Album.

Though the cover we all know is a blacked-out affair, the actual image it's pulling from is a much more colorful shot fitting for its early '00s time period. Even though he famously claims to not wear jerseys on the mid-album mic-drop "What More Can I Say," the cover art is actually Jigga in an oversized New York Jets kit.

That's because the shot that would become the cover came from photo sessions around The Blueprint. Via the expanded shot, you can see that Jay is wearing a Wayne Cherbet jersey, his Roc-A-Fella chain and several armbands.


"THE ORIGINATOR. Photographed for The Blueprint in 2001. It became the actual blueprint for The Black Album. ROC chain. @waynejchrebet jersey," Mannion shared on his Instagram, laying the cover over the original shot. 

Given the subject matter of the classic album, namely leaving the past behind and moving on to the next phase of you life, the cover magic makes a certain kind of sense. It literally turned JAY into his 30-plus, grown-man aesthetic with a well-placed filter. Check it out up top.