We’ll admit it: while we admire the lyrical genius displayed on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the musical elasticity of Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Left Foot, we have a certain soft spot in our heart for the halcyon, pre-recession days of southern rap. You know, when three cars were always better than two, and rappers whose names we can no longer recall sported Rolexes the size of Rick Ross.
This is why, when news reached us recently that Lil’ Romeo was relaunching that paragon of hedonisitc dirty south rap, No Limit Records, under the online-distribution-only moniker of No Limit Forever Records, we immediately became nostalgic for that very thing which online-only distribution obviates: the tactile CD experience, and in particular No Limit’s over-the-top cover art. While few may know Pen & Pixel, the Houston-based art studio responsible for many of the label’s most memorable covers, by name, its unique style is synonymous with extravagant rap excess. (The studio’s motto is, after all, “We do CD covers, posters, flyers, websites, videos & logos and still find time for sex.”) So, in tribute to No Limit, we’ve gathered up ten of our favorite Pen & Pixel album cover creations.
Master P, Da Last Don
Possibly the most iconic album cover in Pen & Pixel history, on Da Last Don, Master P’s lenticular bling shakes at you even as P himself implores you to say “ugh.” This album would go on to be the best-selling record of Master P’s career.
Bukshot, They Still Don’t Love Me
As you can see, it’s very dangerous not to love Bukshot. So, if you’re inclined to show him some affection, you can find him on Twitter as one of the few rappers on this list who has successfully navigated A) still recording music B) the internet.
Magnolia Shorty, Monkey on tha D$ck
Bounce rapper Magnolia Shorty was killed recently in a shooting in her New Orleans neighborhood. In addition to her legacy of great, solid booty-rap, we choose to remember this amazing record cover.
Cold Blooded, How Cold Am I?
It’s easy to see how this album, at least visually, influenced Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy… if you squint. Hard.
Big Bear, Doin’ Thangs
We’ll admit: this is our absolute favorite Pen & Pixel creation of all time. It perfectly embodies everything ridiculous, weird, and awesome about the true brand factory the studio is. We just wish some rapper would pick up the phrase “doin’ thangs like Big Bear.”
Carlos Mencia, Mind of Mencia
We enjoy this one simply because it confirms Pen & Pixel’s authority: they’re the studio you go to when you’re a Comedy Central star and you need to be hard, stat.
Mersonary Killaz, Blood Thirsty
Note how the strong images perfectly counteract that fact that, basically, we’re looking at a thuggish version of the Backstreet Boys.
Po’ White Trash: Po’ Like Dis
We simultaneously applaud and are appalled by this cover’s ability to force every single southern stereotype into one place. Also what, pray tell, does a “trailer park symphony” sound like? We’d ask Lil Jon, the album’s producer, but we hear he’s busy with The Celebrity Apprentice.
Mercedes, Rear End
There is genuine discussion on rap message boards, the gist of which is that this album cover proves the genius of Pen & Pixel, via their decision to have Mercedes against the front of the car, so there can be no doubt as to what “rear end” the album’s title refers to. That’s just wonderful.
Lil’ Flip, The Leprechaun
This has to be what Lil’ B sees in his dreams, right?