If you haven't yet read my commentary over at Complex for the 50 Greatest Hip-Hop 12" Single Covers, I suggest you peep that first. This is for the Gz. This is for the hustlas. This is for my fellow rap nerds who go a little deeper and more obscure with their 12" (or cassingle) artwork. Once you've peeped those, come back here and scroll through to check out six of my personal faves that didn't make the cut over at Complex.
6. EPMD - "You Had Too Much To Drink" (Fresh, 1989)
Subtleties galore. You'd never associate EPMD or anyone down with them ordering a martini. And those pretzels could possibly be Combos, which are a perfectly ratchet juxtaposition to the martini. Ghetto bourgeois at its best. And the drunk dude on the song, Frank B, deserved some type of award for this. Especially in the video. That's by far the best cameo on a hip-hop record ever recorded. Nas on "Live At the BBQ" is the only thing that even comes close. I'd buy a Frank B solo album. I used to use that same line on girls in high school: "You're starting to remind me of that superstar... Paula Abdul." This record is so dated and terrible that it ends up being great - artwork, video, music, everything.
5. The Lil’ Bastards - "Bitch Get A Job" (Livin' Large, 1992)
As noted in the Complex feature, rappers brandishing weapons other than guns on album covers is a lost art. Sickles, machetes, sledgehammers, lead pipes, canes, bats... when it comes to putting toughness and the propensity for violence on display, you can always count on rappers to take it a step further into hyperbole. Shit, Buckshot Shorty threatened to "shoot the crossbow inside the hoe" and "get on my skateboard and do a muthafuckin' drive-by." At one point in rap history, you had to maim and mangle in unorthodox ways and make it believable or you’d be eclipsed by the next psycho with a record deal. This one-song group (there’s not even a b-side on the 12”) took a stance against lazy, materialistic, unemployed gold diggers with “Bitch Get A Job,” but the ultra-long hammers / gavels the Lil’ Bastards are flaunting in the stairwell of an unspecified NYC public housing project always perplexed me. They never claim to batter or bludgeon the unemployed women they date in the song, so who really knows why the Bastards are strapped? Well, shit done changed. You won’t see young goons toting these mysterious weapons in rap these days and the updated version would probably be called “Bitch Get A Loan.”
4. J-Zone - "5-Star Hooptie" (Fat Beats, 2003)
Rarely will I ever place anything I’ve done in a rap list, but shooting the photo for this was my lone positive experience with police in 35 years of living. Shot in front of the 113th precinct in Queens, nearby officers just laughed as photographer Andrew Unknown shot me channeling the ghost of Xzibit on an abandoned jalopy (that was technically NYPD property). Fuck what I was doing and whether it was legal or not - they should’ve arrested me for that And 1 Mixtape / Lil Bow Wow fashion sense. I'm glad that phase of my life is over.
3. Master P - "I’m Going Big Time" (No Limit, 1992)
I’ve noticed something about older rap songs: The artist hasn’t officially “made it” until they can pull up to the local high school in a luxury vehicle and put the pipe down on some fresh jailbait. Remember when LL said, “I went to the high school about 3 o’clock, to try to catch a cutie, to ride my jock”? Well, they did that out West, too. Here, we see a not yet big time Master P telling us he’s going big time on the cover of his “cassingle” - and he proves it by pulling up to the local high school in a 1947 Phantom Rolls. But he brought sand to the beach, in the form of a pair of vixens in bikini bottoms and referee shirts. And it also looks like he did this on a Sunday Morning - nobody’s around. The Ice Cream Man knew he was going big time and wanted to show us, but he didn’t want to risk it all by being true to the rapper persona and getting locked up for a statutory. Smart man.
2. Disco Rick & the Wolfpack - "Wiggle Wiggle" (Luke, 1992)
Nothing like a private show in a janky Miami strip club at 2 o’clock in the afternoon - that place is completely empty. Homeboy on the right is mesmerized by the stripper’s tush, but our man in the Charlotte Hornets gear looks like he’s zeroed in on a dingleberry. He wants to tell his man... or the stripper... but he just can’t seem to find the words. Let’s just hope it didn’t fall into his Heineken.
1. Tim Dog - “Bitch With A Perm” (Dis-Stress, 1994)
This widely-ignored response to “Dre Day” (there was really no response for “Dre Day”) was a bit tepid for Tim Dog standards, but the cover on its own is enough to make it worth the price of purchase. The cartoon Snoop from Doggystyle is mocked and thrown for a RuPaul-style sex change that puts it in the same arena as Eazy-E’s 187um It’s On EP (although not quite that good). But the kicker? Tim Dog paid the designer to remix the cover for the actual remix of “Bitch With A Perm,” which was issued as a separate release in Europe. The mysterious rodent in the Tim Dog fan club t-shirt that appeared on the original cover is nowhere to be found on the remix cover. My guess? He got gaffled and ganked by Suge Knight and Dat Nigga Daz and never made it to Europe. There was really nowhere to go after this but to an online dating site.