Rapper Action Bronson and producer Party Supplies’ latest joint mixtape Blue Chips dropped this past week and was accompanied by a piece of cover art that pays homage to the 1994 Nick Nolte-Shaquille O’Neil-Penny Hardaway film of the same name. The cover features an animated image of producer Party Supplies, decked out in a basketball uniform and resembling a young John Stockton, dunking an MPC machine on a non-existent hoop, while an animated, shirtless, and bearded Action Bronson is captured mid-scream in the background. The mixtape track list features songs that are, for all intents and purposes, unrelated to Blue Chips the film, and according to almost any rubric of design, the concept behind this cover is patently ridiculous. In fact, even the people who watched and actually liked a film where Nick Nolte chews on scenery doing a mediocre Bob Knight impression for 108 minutes can probably admit this is a insane image to slap on the face rap project in 2012. But, in the pantheon of hip-hop mixtape cover art; Blue Chips could be considered a model of subtlety.
MC’s are an unusually prolific lot, sometimes completing multiple mixtapes in addition to a full-length, officially released album within a year’s time. With a production schedule like that, any linear, rational approach to design gets thrown out the window. Lucky for us, this allows today’s hip-hop stars to turn mixtape cover art into weird, unmitigated representations of their imaginations. And, as it turns out, a lot of these guys have pretty colorful imaginations to work with, coherence be damned. With that in mind, we couldn’t help but bring you the five most ridiculous mixtape covers of recent memory.
1. Serius Jones, Serius Bizness 2
With his thick, baritone flow and penchant for rapping about the violent lives of street level drug dealers, Serius Jones has no problem playing the badass. However, it seems Jones was worried his fans didn’t take him seriously enough on his first Serius Bizness mix tape. We get it. He’s insecure. Good thing the cover of Serius Bizness Vol. 2. has Jones suited up, chomping on a cigar, and flipping the bird while standing in front of small arsenal of weapons that includes a rocket launcher and a good variety of assault rifles. Problem solved.
2. Waka Flocka Flame - Lebron Flocka James 2
Listening to Waka Flocka Flame’s break through 2010 single “Hard in the Paint,” you could safely assume he was a basketball fan. But, according to the cover art of Waka’s early mixtape LeBron Flocka James 2, it seems basketball and narcotics trafficking hold equal places in his heart. Discounting the shoddy Photoshop job that puts Waka’s head on LeBron James’ body and makes him look like Kel Mitchel in Good Burger, playing basketball on a court littered with kilos and mounds of cocaine also doubles as a pretty effective status symbol. Up until seeing this cover, we always thought Waka and his crew called themselves the ‘Brick Squad’ because they hated practicing free throws.
3. Smoke DZA, Sweet Baby Kushed God
Falling in line with similar pot-worshiping MC's like Domo Genesis and Wiz Khalifa, Smoke DZA makes no qualms about his intimate relationship with Mary Jane. In fact, this relationship is so intense, it drove him to craft a Christmas/weed-themed mix tape in late 2011 with the amazing titled Sweet Baby Kushed God. The track list features instant holiday classics like "Smokey Klause" (which cribbed Tchicovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plums" for the beat) and "Christmas in the Trap," but it's the cover art that really cements the project's status as a new, yuletide tradition. The image of a spliff-smoking baby DZA (we're assuming) recalling the birth of Christ, complete with Cheech and Chong-like cherubs holding a couple ounces between them, is almost too precious to behold. Hallelujah, DZA, we are truly thankful you could give the world this Christmas miracle.
4. Gucci Mane, Gucci 2 Time
“Mind-blowing” is really the only adequate adjective that can be used to describe Gucci Mane’s cover art for his 2011 mixtape Gucci 2 Time. Even if you ignore the barrage of images that populate the edges of the cover (the general “South Beach-on-acid” vibe, a buxom woman confidently loading a Desert Eagle, Waka Flocka Flame superimposed awkwardly in the corner), the center shot of Gucci is simply incredible. To reiterate: Gucci is standing on the hover board from Back to the Future Part 2 projecting a hologram of himself from his watch standing on the hover board from Back to the Future Part 2. This is like the M.C. Escher drawing of mix-tape covers, if Escher was really into southern rappers with ice cream cone face tattoos.
5. Lil’ B, Bitch Mob, Respect Da Bitch Vol. 1
Frankly, if we wanted to, we could populate this entire list with Lil’ B mixtape covers. The Bay Area rapper produces far and away the most material of any MC working today, and possesses a runaway imagination on par with a surrealist painter, or say, Gucci Mane. But, if there is one choice cover to represent Lil B at his most ridiculous, Bitch Mob, Respect Da Bitch Vol. 1 is the clear winner. Recalling the now iconic Death Row Records Vibe Magazine cover, Lil’ B decided to put four images of himself, all with slightly different poses, in place of the slots previously occupied by Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Tupac, and Suge Knight. Oh, and to really tie the cover together, the gleaming, diamond encrusted “LIL B” is flanked by two gold plated Jason masks. It makes perfect sense if you stare at it long enough.