Some of 2017’s most powerful album covers reflected an unmistakable social and political awareness. Angaleena Presley skewered country music sexism with the cover artwork of Wrangled. Joey Bada$$ and Eminem appropriated images of the American flag to offer biting commentary on the political and social landscape. But it was Kendrick Lamar’s expression of frustration and anger on the cover of his Grammy Award-winning DAMN that created the most striking statement.
Kendrick Lamar has a lot on his mind on DAMN, and if you saw his performance on the 60th Grammy Awards January 28, you know what I’m talking about. On DAMN, he takes Fox News to task for the network’s condemnation of hip-hop, laments the current political climate, and confronts racism. DAMN is also a highly personal album, whose song titles (such as “Lusk,” “Love,” and the Grammy-winning “Humble”) reflect Lamar’s inner journey. Lamar’s searing music practically explodes off the album cover. What makes the image work so well is its simplicity. The straightforward design forces your eyes to focus on Lamar and a piercing gaze that confronts and inspires. The plain white T shirt and red brick background form a stark contrast that feels jolting. The cover of DAMN doesn’t invite: it provokes. And Kendrick Lamar delivers with his music.