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Storytelling, Pen & Pixel style.

May 25, 2010

While Pen & Pixel covers often consist merely of grandiose displays of wealth, other times they tell a story. Sometimes this story has a complicated, morality-based theme. A good example of this is Crazy’s I Shed Tears For The World.

Sometimes it’s a pretty simple, easy story. One of my all-time favorite rappers, Gangsta Boo, went the “two conflicting personalities melded into one diamond-studded yin-yang” for the cover of her second album, Both Worlds *69.

But usually the story is really weird. I often find myself wondering about the graphics designer who sat with the artist as he (it’s usually a he) described what he wanted to see on the cover of his next album. I imagine that the artist likely nodded silently, worked very hard to stifle laughter, gave a few pointed suggestions, then went home and told everyone in his house about the bizarre design he had to create at work the next day.

Case in point: this guy. “My album is about letting the games begin, so I want to do some Gladiator-style shit against a guy in a metal suit while a bunch of statues in togas peep the action! And make sure he has a chain mace, because those things are badass!”

Despite the fact that the music of New Orleans rappers Kane And Abel was not particularly romance-centered, they were always popular with the ladies because 1. they’re freaking gorgeous and and 2. they’re freaking gorgeous twins. Perhaps as a result, for the cover of their Most Wanted they went The English Patient route.

(How did they manage to crash that plane right smack dab in the middle of those train tracks?)

This album cover reminds me of Prison Break. Maybe. Except that the guy escaped to a church, and I’m not sure if the guy in the hat is going to hug him or kill him.

And then you have this man, who’s trying to show us how multi-faceted he is. Except, y’know, it’s difficult to tell exactly what these facets are (or, titularly speaking, ‘who da hell’ he is). All I can tell for sure is “graduate of something” and “businessman”. The first one might be “just plain guy”, or perhaps it’s “basketball player warming up”. The last one is one of three things: “pimp”, “hospital patient roaming the halls”, or “man who just got out of the bathtub and is taking his time putting all of his clothes on.”

Openin’ Doors features, of course, a partially opened door. The door is mysterious; what does it open to? My guess is Wonderland, and that all three members of BHC drank the potion marked “Drink Me.” I love references to creepy Victorian children’s literature!

And then there’s this guy, who takes the whole storytelling thing to another level.

C-Loc’s story isn’t really plot driven; it appears to center around a whole mess of complicated characters. Maybe it’s a murder mystery? My money’s on “the ghost did it”, while the guy with the “don’t ask me 4 sh t!” shirt will likely be the one to solve the crime. “It was C-Loc on the street corner with the 40 in the paper bag!”

On this cover, the surveillance  screen tells us that robbers in ski masks are coming, and that they are brazen enough to stare right into the security camera. This does not bode well for Legend Man. To add to his problems, his gold safe is open and he already has some stacks of $100 bills on his desk. Why is he sitting around drinking champagne and smoking a cigar when some really bad stuff is clearly about to happen? Also, why is that strawberry levitating over the glass? Shouldn’t he at least call the police?!

I keep trying to think of something eloquent and witty to describe A Letter From Tha Grave, but I really have no idea what is going on here. Something is going on, yes. But what? The most important question I have is this- did those skeletons fire that gun before or after they were skeletons?

I can’t tell which is the album title and which is the band name here. I presume the album title is Aggravated, because these guys look like they are trying to convey a sense of aggravation. Why are they aggravated, exactly? They have all the weapons, money, CDs and champagne. They even have tiny missiles! Clearly, they have already won.

This one is great. It makes me wonder what charges he has been federally indicted on, and how many.

As usual, I have saved the most exemplary candidate for last. This group misspelled every word on their album cover, displays a dead guy (or maybe a weirdly angled shot of a guy doing jumping jacks?) AND a guy who carries a wooden club, most prominently features a bulldog that can extract blood from a compact disc, and seriously fucks with my depth perception. Kudos, Pen & Pixel.

Check in here for more Pen & Pixel magic. Next episode: understatements, lessons, and lost opportunities.

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