Photo: Brad Barket(Getty Images)
Regardless of what you think of Kanye, there’s no denying that the man is very artistic and that he cares about all aspects of art he creates. That is one of the reasons why Kanye West album covers are so well-known, some beloved and sometimes even controversial. The earlier ones are going to invoke the nostalgic feel as much as smelling grandma’s cooking, while the newer ones will garner as much criticism as, well, Kanye’s quotes nowadays.
We take a look at all of the Kanye West album covers from
all of his seven solo albums The College Dropout (2004), Late Registration (2005), Graduation (2007), 808s & Heartbreak (2008), My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), Yeezus (2013), and The Life of Pablo (2016). And also the cover from the duo album Watch The Throne (2011) Kanye did together with Jay-Z.
Kanye West Album Covers
All Kanye West album covers explained.
Kanye West Album Cover - The College Dropout
Kanye's debut album featured what will become an avatar for the early stage of his career - the Dropout Bear. But the actual bear costume wasn't planned, it just happened to be in the school on the day of the photo shoot. So Kanye used it to even better illustrate one of the main aspects of education according to him - loneliness. A bear looks even more out of place than a human, and education was one of the main themes of the anti-gangsta album. The album cover even has the golden ornaments to depict elegance and style which gangster-led artist of the time didn't have according to Kanye.
Kanye West Album Cover - Late Registration
The Dropout Bear reprised his role on Kanye's second album, where he is seen yet again wearing a collegian outfit and opening the door of Princeton University. But no, Kanye didn't study here. The Dropout Bear was used as a marketing tool throughout the album's promotion, fittingly so as Kanye's "chipmunk soul" production style which is heard in most of his early songs, goes great with the anthropomorphic teddy bear mascot. West's drew inspiration for the album's artwork from the work of American satirical painter
Kanye West Album Cover - Graduation
Possibly the most liked Kanye West album cover and unfortunately the last time the Dropout Bear was featured on the front of the CD. The cartoonish version of him, alongside with the rest of the cover, was designed by a Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami. Since the praised album was inspired by indie rock bands and house music, it's not surprising that the cover art has a much more vivid, colorful style. The third album in Kanye's college trilogy also features the Dropout Bear leading college life as Kanye saw it.
Kanye West Album Cover - 808s & Heartbreak
As did the music on it, the album cover for Kanye's third album 808s & Heartbreak made a significant departure from the first three albums. The electropop/R&B sound made for probably the most-loved Kanye album and had some of the
best songs Yeezy ever made. A deflated heart is as straightforward as symbolism can get, especially combined with the name of the album. The cover follows the minimalistic vibe of the album faithfully, but the contrasting colors made it memorable, besides the awesome music on it, obviously.
Kanye West Album Cover - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
This is where things got weird with Kanye West album covers, but the name of the album suggested it already. The album cover caused a lot of controversies as it depicts a painting of Kanye having sex with a winged monster that is supposed to be a phoenix. It's a deliberately provocative cover, and the artist who did it, George Condo, later revealed Kanye wanted a cover that would be banned. Which it was, and some stores released a pixelated version of the cover. Some used a different image from the artwork book, that of a ballerina from the movie/song
Runaway. Even the red frame color on the cover was there to be provocative.
Kanye West Album Cover - Watch the Throne
The least inspiring, interesting, and noteworthy Kanye West album cover comes from his collaboration album with Jay-Z - Watch the Throne. The symbolism is clear here, the golden ornaments are supposed to be royal, but a modern version of it, for the new keepers of the thrones. It was designed by an Italian designer Riccardo Tisci. It evokes the album's present theme of materialism, something that old Kanye shunned.
Kanye West Album Cover - Yeezus
Kanye needs to be different and to be creative, and he tried achieving that for the album cover of Yeezus by not making it. The physical edition of the album was released in a clear jewel box, with a piece of red tape and a sticker on the back. Mimicking the album's minimalistic approach. It was surely also a dig at the corporations which banned his previous album cover. He could've just sent them his amazing
Kanye West Album Cover - The Life of Pablo
The last album Kanye dropped has a peachy orange backdrop, the name of the album listed in abundance, and the phrase "which one" as well. Along with two pictures, one of a black family wedding, and the other of a curvaceous white woman's behind. So basically, Kanye has the feeling of choosing between the two. Nothing is centered or seems neatly organized on the cover, it's supposed to be a mess. As we stated in the breakdown of
best songs from The Life of Pablo, the repetition of the phrases on the cover is, yet again, mimicking the style of music on the album. Kanye keeps repeating the same things sometimes even too many times on his tracks.