Animal Magnetism: Rap Album Covers With Animals
November 2, 2009
Inspired by this article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
Weezer's new LP Raditude hits shelves Tuesday (Nov. 2), and the band's album cover with the flying dog has inspired me to find rap album covers that featured animals.
My research was easy at first. LL Cool J's 1989 album Walking with a Panther is probably the most famous rap album cover that featured an animal -- a black panther. Nas' 2001 LP Stillmatic has that goofy-looking pigeon on the cover. But then my mind went blank. I eventually found some more album covers. This is not a definitive list, so if I missed any rap album covers, don't be afraid to say something in the comments. I'll add them to the collection. Thanks.
LL Cool J -- Walking with a Panther (1989)
As I mentioned before, this is probably the most well-known rap album cover that featured an animal. Mr. Smith is posing with a black panther wearing a dookie rope chain. Back then, the album cover was cool (all puns intended), today, it's hip-hop kitsch. Side Note: LL's three-finger ring was the shit back then.
Snoop Dogg -- Doggystyle (1993)
Techincally, this album doesn't qualify to be on this list. But I figured I would include it just in case if any "hip-hop purists" start barking about why this album wasn't included. Looking at the cover art, these are cartoon animals and not real animals. It's still a classic album though and worth mentioning.
Snoop Dogg -- Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told (1998) | No Limit Top Dogg (1999)
During his run on the No Limit Records label, Snoop posed with two different breeds on his album covers. The Doggfather had Rottweilers on Da Game Is to be Sold . . . and he was chillin' with various pitbulls in his ride on No Limit Top Dogg.
Nas -- Stillmatic (2001)
Nas' album cover for Stillmatic is kinda strange. Granted, New York City is known for its pigeon population, but a pigeon giving Nas the side-eyed while he's standing on the ledge is peculiar to say the least. Thankfully, this is one of Nas' finest rap albums.
C-Murder -- Life or Death (1998)
I haven't listened to C-Murder's Life or Death LP. Obviously, the hawk is used to symbolize the "death" theme of the cover. Unfortunately, it doesn't work.
DMX -- Grand Champ (2003) | Year of the Dog . . . Again (2006)
This list would not be complete without including the Darkman X.
If you are familiar with DMX's life story, you would know that DMX has been an avid dog lover since he was a little child. The canine rhyme-spitter even immortalized his deceased pitbull named Boomer with a life-like tattoo on his back. But, DMX's love for dogs also has gotten him into trouble. Earlier this year, DMX went to prison for 90 days on fraud and animal cruelty charges after authorities discovered several malnourished pitbulls on his ranch in Arizona, and dead pitbulls buried in his backyard.
Rumor has it that DMX immortalized his late pitbull Boomer on the cover of Grand Champ, but I can't confirm that. The term "grand champ" usually describes a pitbull's undefeated ranking in a dog-fighting competition. The Year of the Dog cover is nothing special to look at -- X is posing with a growling pitbull (eh...). The term "Year of the Dog" refers to Chinese astrology.
Baby -- Birdman (aka the #1 Stunna) 
Not the most exciting album cover from Baby, the CEO of Cash Money Records. Obviously, he is associating himself with his nickname the "Birdman." The cover is a bad reminder of the weird album cover creations by Houston-based design company Pen & Pixel. The album was bangin' though -- "What Happened to That Boy" (featuring Clipse) is still a classic street joint.
Ghostface Killah -- Fishscale (2006)
This was supposed to be the original album cover for Ghostface's Fishscale album but was changed to this boring album cover. The move to change the cover was probably an executive decision to appease both PETA (slaughtering a fish is a no-no) and Walmart stores (holding a machete is a no-no). Nevertheless, the LP's title is metaphoric for the street term "fishscale," which is often refer to the high quality of cocaine. In this case, Ghost is referring to his rhymes as being of the highest quality. And that is no fish tale. Ha!
Big Bear -- Doin Thangs (1998)
What the hell is this? Four grizzly bears smoking cigars, sipping wine and eating fruit? Damn, this has to be the worst album cover EVER. This is from a rapper named Big Bear; and from what information I could gather, he's a rapper from Omaha, Nebraska by way of the Bay Area. In the end, this rap album cover is an EPIC FAIL.