What’s Going On With Future and Cudi’s Abstract Album Artwork?

Above are album covers from Kid Cudi’s latest release, “Confused,” and Future’s selection for DS2. Both venture from the typical covers we usually get from rap and hip-hop releases; a look through the hip-hop album canon reveals almost no abstract album covers, but now we have two in the space of a month.

Some would say that this can be credited to Jay Z and Kanye’s recent campaign to bring a little more class to hip-hop; with their lifestyles and music, they championed the art world through countless references, acquisitions, and loose bouts of transmigration–at times referring to themselves as “art realm reincarnates.” Lupe Fiasco, Jay Z, Mac Miller, and A$AP Rocky have all taken liberties with album artwork, by using images that infer or allude to a particular theme rather than present a more “traditional” image.

abstract Album Artwork

For example, Miller commissioned a piece by his own brother for his debut, rather than hire a notable photographer to produce a simple portrait cover; the cover of Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo & Youth album is an original piece by the artist himself, labeled as if it were hung on a wall in a gallery. Both of these artists chose to present a duo of somewhat reductive and abstract images.

album artwork

In Western art, the first abstract paintings or sculptures appeared after the Renaissance. Going abstract was a way to break away from the norm and a new opportunity to convey what an artist was truly feeling or experiencing at the time of creation. Taking this approach requires the viewer to dig deeper than a spoonfed message. With abstract art, you have to be cognizant of things like movement within the piece, the energy and significance of colors being used, the dialog an artist may be attempting to engage in, and ultimately how your own experience informs your perception.

album artwork

Cudi has always been an artist at odds with his vices and himself, and is one of the more prominent names to openly use his music as a means of therapy or meditation. “Confused” evokes a calm-before-the-storm feel, perhaps even right before the night falls; Future’s DS2 is meant to be a play on the concoction that inspired the name of his album. It was interesting to see Future, like Cudi, opt for imagery that conveyed his overall sentiment of being so consumed by something, that he became it rather than give us something that could be easily forgotten.

Rather than go the typical route and present album artwork that presents them as idols, we may see more rappers take the plunge into the world of curation. In doing this, they engage further with their audience and revitalize the mystique that may have caused you to pick up the album in the first place.

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