The year 1995 is when Radiohead turned from a British upstart to a five-piece band with nothing but potential. Weird is what they embodied (and every release proved that), but The Bends is the beginning of the off-kilter, alternative sound we know and love from Thom Yorke and Them.
Check Your Head is Beastie Boys’ third studio album and what I consider the NYC rap group’s rebrand. With Check being the second album released on Capitol Records, the crew moved out west and recorded the album in their newly-made studio, G-Son, in Atwater Village, California. To me, the rebrand showed in the music, the look, the interviews, and the videos, but they stayed Beastie. All day, every day.
After his relocation to West Berlin & a period of drug addiction, Low became David Bowie’s first collaboration with producer Brian Eno and a dive into electronic music and an avant-garde approach. My personal favorite of the album is “Always Crashing in the Same Car”, which is probably my favorite Bowie record.
With singles like “Personal Jesus” & “Enjoy the Silence”, British rockers Depeche Mode “reached out & touched faith” with their seventh studio album Violator.
The classic, by Miles Davis. I ain’t gotta say much.
Released at the turn from Black History Month to Women’s History Month, the 4th studio album by Houston singer Solangé is a stripped-down approach with the same mission as the previous album, A Seat at the Table.
The 1999 début album by Brooklyn rapper Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey. After his collaborative effort with fellow Brooklynite Talib Kweli, his solo album stops the show and makes the mark.
The second (and what feels like the first) album by Queens rap group Mobb Deep. Delivered with contributions from Nas, Ghostface Killah & Q-Tip, the duo matures and evolves, with an complete alternative to Nas’ groundbreaking début Illmatic.
The second album by Compton juggernauts NWA. The first album since the groundbreaking Straight Outta Compton (and the departure of chief songwriter Ice Cube), the album is more structured and provides an opportunity for the rest of the group to bring the sonics back to the top of the world.
The upcoming project from Atlanta rapper Gunna. The Young Thug affiliate provides the second installment of the Drip or Drown series, with a single released, entitled “One Call”.
Long Island only had two rap giants: the slick, fresh styles of Rakim (and his DJ Eric B.) and the powerful, majestic delivery of Chuck D. (and his crew Public Enemy). The borough then brought a funk element to the world of hip-hop, titled Strictly Business, provided by Erick Sermon & Parrish Smith, better known as Erick & Parrish Making Dollars, or simply… EPMD.
This album serves as one of the blueprints for hip-hop & beyond. Paid in Full is the party-starter, crowd-rocker, and statement piece for New York rap duo Eric B. & Rakim. Songs like “My Melody”, “I Ain’t No Joke”, and the rap classic “Eric B. Is President” served the purpose and the purpose is to tell the world that Eric B. & Rakim is here to stay.
As the début album from British post-punk group Gang of Four, Entertainment! serves as another punk record that dives into reggae, funk & dub music. Along with The Clash’s London Calling & Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, punk became more experimental as it transitioned into the 1980’s.
Band on the Run is Sir Paul McCartney’s fifth album after leaving the Beatles and his third album with his rock band Wings. For this cover, I paid homage to Apple, as a bridge from that to the record label the album was released on, which is coincidentally named Apple Records.
According to Rolling Stone, Pet Sounds is the second greatest album of all time. “Only God Knows”, to me, is one of the prettiest songs ever recorded.
Regarded as the “penultimate punk rock album”, The Clash’s third studio album pushes their punk roots abroad, with elements of rockabilly, ska, and reggae music.
The incredible ground-breaking EP by Chattanooga rapper Isaiah Rashad. The first project released by the then-newly signed act on Top Dawg Entertainment, the album is a dive into the world of Isaiah, imperfect and promising.
The début album by Staten Island rapper Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan. Featuring fellow Wu-Tang Clan members Raekwon & Cappadonna, Ironman is the alternative to Raekwon’s début album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx to me.
I look at The White Stripes’ third album as the rowdiest, raunchiest representation of blues music. White Blood Cells is a perfect example of what traditional rock & roll music sounded like the 21st century, with songs like “Dead Leaves on the Ground” & “Fell in Love with a Girl”.
The third solo album by Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky, featuring French Montana, FKA twigs, Skepta, Frank Ocean, and more.
The incredible, ground-breaking second album from D’Angelo. With contributions from Q-Tip, Raphael Saadiq, Method Man & Redman, Questlove, James Poyser, and others, this album is my favorite album of all time.
The upcoming 4th studio album from English musician James Blake. 3 years after his last effort, The Colour of Anything, he arrives with appearances by André 3000, Metro Boomin, Rosalía, Travis Scott & Moses Sumney.
The début album from Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon, co-starring Ghostface Killah. The sole appearance outside of the usual Wu-Tang Clan features is Queens rapper Nas. Produced by the brainchild RZA, this album is the illest album in the Wu-Tang Clan catalogue.
The anticipated third studio album by Los Angeles rapper Earl Sweatshirt. Released months after his father’s death, the 25 minute opus is a single trip through the wonkiest and dustiest dimensions of Earl’s mind, with a primary rap sound and a lo-fi, avant-garde approach.
Modern Vampires is the 3rd studio album by NYC indie rock band Vampire Weekend. Known for their African-influenced indie pop sound, Ezra Koenig & Co. used this album as a “departure record”. The album became largely successful and critically acclaimed, with Pitchfork & Rolling Stone giving the album the top spot.
The second album from Atlanta rapper Playboi Carti. Pi’erre Bourne did amazing on the production. A rowdier vibe than his first album, but serves the same purpose.
Many consider Californication the album that pushed the Red Hot Chili Peppers into superstardom. The return of guitarist John Frusciante changed the sound of the band & the singles “Scar Tissue”, “Otherside” & “Californication” propelled the band, making the album the most commercially successful studio release for the Peppers.
The début project by rapper, producer & Top Dawg associate Baby Keem. Executive produced by Cardo, The Sound of Bad Habit is a 22-minute product of absolute chaos and disorder, represented and expressed in a super dope way. It reminds me of punk music. I paid homage to Vlad Sepetov, who designed the cover for Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., who threw the parental advisory label in an unconventional manner.
The début album by Wu-Tang Clan rapper (and NYC icon) Ol’ Dirty Bastard. To me, this album is something that sounds so fresh and new, that at first you don’t like it. This album grows on you like a fungus.
The 5th album by California rapper & producer Tyler, the Creator, released July 28th, 2017 on Columbia Records. “Boredom” is my favorite. Really pretty chords. The photo I used for the cover had these effects on it (I forget who shot it, sorry) so I did a minimal take on it.
The 4th album by English musician Dev Hynes under the name Blood Orange, released August 24th, 2018 on Domino Recordings. “Chewing Gum” is my favorite so far. Project Pat sounds good on it. I figured if you picked up this album cover at a record store & saw Dev’s eyes, it would say something to you.
The 4th album from Florida singer & songwriter Ariana Grande, released August 17th, 2018 on Republic Records. Pharrell did half the album. “R.E.M” sounds amazing. I pitched it down a couple semitones. That’s how much I love the song. She’s just been engaged to Pete Davidson & you can hear it in the album so I thought… “Let’s make Pete’s body the album cover.”
The landmark 1996 album by French electronic duo Daft Punk. Laced with melodies and swings, the 2 DJs (unmasked, unusually) move the crowd for weeks and weeks without breaking a sweat.
Distributed as an “audiovisual” project (with accompanying videos), the début from Philadelphia rapper Tierra Whack is one word: POTENTIAL. With 15 songs, each a minute long, the world realized that Tierra can make great music in little time and also, she can make even better music with a full-length album.
The début album by Los Angeles punk rock band X. Produced by original Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, Los Angeles is a punk rock staple and a 1980s classic, with a cover of a Doors classic, “Soul Kitchen”.
The 1991 magnum opus from Aberdeen legends Nirvana. I decided to make the cover haunting by showing Kurt Cobain’s house moments after his suicide.
The eighth studio album by Chicago rapper Kanye West. Filled with dragon-energy, it’s a 7 song album filled with hope and havoc. Most Kanye fans hate it but I like the album.
The 2nd album from American experimental hip-hop group Death Grips, released October 1st, 2012 on Third Worlds / Harvest Recordings. “Stockton” makes me wanna go crazy & “Lock Your Doors” makes me wanna drive really really fast. MC Ride is probably the most abrasive rapper in years and this pose he’s doing on the cover looks abrasive. The album is… abrasive. Let’s make the colors and grains… abrasive.
The 2000 album by Staten Island stalwart Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan. It’s looked at as the complete sequel to Ironman, where he donned the mink coat with the trademark Wallabees.
Isaiah Rashad cruises through the sun-kissed streets of LA in The Sun’s Tirade, the début album. After a heavy bout of depression and drug abuse, Isaiah crawls out of the proverbial cave with a new mind, a new lease on life, and the same trunk-thumping, soulful, Tennessee hip-hop sound.
The debut album from Maplewood, New Jersey’s own Solana Rowe, better known as SZA. Released June 9th, 2017 on Top Dawg Entertainment & RCA Records, it became the soundtrack for black women all around the world. “Doves in the Wind” is my favorite. Solana has a nice face so I gave the album my own version of what a Donna Summer or Chaka Khan album would like in 2017.
The 2018 album by Buffalo rapper Westside Gunn, with appearances from Benny the Butcher, Conway, Jadakiss, Anderson .Paak, Busta Rhymes, and more.
The 5th (and last, sadly) album by Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller. His best album ever. One of the most honest rappers ever. Rest in peace.
The 1976 classic from Marvin Gaye, which is known for its sultry and sexy nature. Produced by Leon Ware, the album is basically a myriad of sexual desires for a woman named Janis Hunter, who eventually became his wife and the woman on the cover.
The debut album by Atlanta upstart J.I.D, released March 10th, 2017 on J. Cole’s own Dreamville Records. “NEVER” still gets me, man. I saw this photo & thought “All this needs is composition, more tone & a PA label.” Boom.
The start of everything for the Wu-Tang Clan: The RZA, The GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, U-God, Masta Killa, Ghostface Killah & Method Man.
Last Day of Summer is a collection of short songs from a small Atlanta bedroom, written and performed by a long-haired, tatted, distinctive, young black girl ironically named… Summer. Clocking in at 28 minutes, it provides a world that has every intention to calm, ignite and satisfy the young millennial black woman.
The good goon of the A$AP Mob, A$AP Twelvyy, released his debut album on August 4th, 2017 on RCA Records. I played this whole album for the first time in the Bronx (Twelvyy’s hometown) & it’s a visual representation of the Bronx. Dope album.
The 2nd album from Vince Staples, released June 23rd, 2017. Incredible textures on this album & to be honest, it’s a traditional hip-hop album. Hip-hop was, at most times, electro in its infancy and this is that. Just better.
The punk classic by American punk band, Minutemen. Released in 1984, it became one of the records I would play along with Milo Goes to College by Descendents as a way to get into punk.
Minimalism is my thing so I epitomized it for the classic sophomore album by the imperfect sweetheart from London, Amy Jade Winehouse. Rest well Amy.
The debut album from Maryland singer Brent Faiyaz. I consider this as the male equivalent to SZA’s CTRL. He is the next Static Major to me, but he has his own thing for real.
The 1973 funk classic from The J.B.’s, James Brown’s band. It literally sounds like talented, black, beautiful people enjoying each other. I decided to go completely left-field and make the cover of the album funky, with a punk kinda vibe.
One good mixtape by Harlem spitter Dave East. “Type of Time” gets me in a trance.
The debut from Philadelphia spark plug Lil Uzi Vert. He grew on me. I didn’t like him & I love him now.
Playboi Carti’s debut mixtape. I have so much fun playing this tape, so I devoted my minimalistic approach to a piece of music I really love.
The now-classic single from California rapper Earl Sweatshirt, featuring Casey Veggies & Vince Staples. Released on Earl’s debut Doris, it serves as a backdrop for Earl to do the usual, which is go crazy, and for Vince to pretty much let everyone know that he’s an incredible rapper.
To me, this might be the illest hip-hop album of the 1980’s. Beastie Boys & Eric B. & Rakim are the only competition but Ricky D’s first album is effortlessly dope. The beats and the flow is what we love most about hip-hop.
The debut album by California ska punk band Sublime. The most feel-good, careless, incredible debut of all time. Rest well Bradley Nowell.
The most recent album from Atlanta legend 2 Chainz. “Trap Check” is the one, man.
This is to me, the alternative to It Was Written by Nas. This is a perspective of Brooklyn in the year 1995, written by one Anthony Cruz, better known as AZ.
My second favorite album of 2016 (after Blonde by Frank Ocean), A Seat at the Table by Solange Knowles.
Another alternate look into the denizens of Queens by the poetical prophets, Mobb Deep. Rest well Prodigy.
The classic mixtape by (to me) the best artist in the world, Frank Ocean.
The infectious single by NYC-based singer & rapper G-BABY GVVAAN, produced by Queens elite Pi’erre Bourne.
One of the first covers I did that made me say “Okay I’m kinda nice at this.” I think I made this on my iPhone. Not to mention, Vince Staples did a great job on this EP.
The album that got me in a deep rabbit hole of punk music. I wanted to make the classic from the Descendents to be puuuuunchy, so I did. Just threw the band’s logo and the record label and left it alone.
One great song from Offset, the flow of the Migos. Quavo is the star quality of the group and Takeoff is the identity of the 3, but Offset sets the tone for the team and more.
I recreated Kenny Gravillis’ iconic cover of The Roots’ magnum opus with a modern twist. I did this when Charlottesville was in a frenzy so I threw the picture with the template Gravillis made for the 1999 album.