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DAR Hip Hop: 10 Classic Hip Hop Magazine Covers

By @TrueGodImmortal

Once upon a time, hip hop magazines were the thing to have. Going to your local Rite Aid or supermarket usually led you to the magazine that gave you all the news and interviews for your favorite artists. The first thing that grabs your attention about the magazine however, is the cover. The image that gives you the inspiration to pick up the magazine and give it a read. The image that lasts in time. Today, I wanted to look back at some iconic hip hop covers over the years and why they meant so much to hip hop readers way back when and even now. Let's get into it.

(June 1999, Murder Inc)

-If we go back to 1999, we know two things to be true: hip hop was well ahead of the game and that the two biggest rappers at the time were DMX and Jay-Z. As the Hard Knock Life Tour was rolling on, the two headliners and Ja Rule would be on the cover of XXL to seemingly introduce the next era for all three men, which would be a potential supergroup, Murder Inc. This cover sticks out to me as one of the most popular and iconic in history.

*Ego Trip
(1997, The Notorious B.I.G.)

-One of the more memorable images of his career, Biggie would be in the iconic red leather jacket holding his cane, and that picture itself is a moment in time for Big. Ego Trip was a slept on magazine as well, and of all their issues, this Biggie issue remains their most important cover.
*The Source
(November 1992, Dr. Dre)

-Controversial as always, the Death Row lead artist at the time would be featured on the cover of The Source holding a gun to his head. During The Chronic era, Death Row was all about controversy, and this was extremely controversial for the time and even now. It's the greatest solo magazine cover for Dr. Dre.

(April 1999, Cash Money)

-I love this cover. If you know me, you know I'm the biggest fan of Cash Money and that their 1998-2002 run is one of the greatest if not greatest of all time. Of all the covers they have in the XXL history, this might be my favorite one. It shows the Cash Money crew in their prime, nearly 20 years ago in the middle of New Orleans at the height of their popularity.

*The Source
(July 1995, Notorious B.I.G)

-The iconic King of New York cover. Biggie was staking his claim as the King of NY and this cover was the solidifying factor of his new title. Before the East vs West battle kicked off, Biggie stood on the mountain top and let the world know what he was about and that he was king.

(February 1994, 2Pac)

-As the legend of Pac was beginning to grow, he would begin to have numerous classic magazine covers. Perhaps there is none better than this one, as he was photographed in a straitjacket and the question was posed whether or not he was crazy or misunderstood. The article itself was poignant, but the cover remains one of the most infamous in VIBE history.

*The Source
(September 2002, Roc-A-Fella)

-If anything, this cover represents the last time we saw The Roc as a truly collective unit. I remember that at the time, I began to sour on The Source, and it was this issue that gave me new life as a reader. It was in depth and an honest look at The Roc, but the cover is what sticks out. There are two covers, one with Cam'ron, Dame Dash, Jay-Z, and Memphis Bleek (the most recognized), alongside a second cover with Jay and Dame next to Beanie Sigel and Freeway. If anything, this showcases the fact that The Roc was damn near unstoppable at the time. This cover symbolizes that.

*The Source
(October 1999, Hot Boys)

-Another Cash Money cover? Absolutely. If anything, this is a bit more iconic than the XXL cover. I remember my cousin buying this one and giving it to me. It was the epitome of the CMR era. The Hot Boys during their Guerrilla Warfare era discussing the 30 million dollar deal, the new album, and everything in between. The Cash Money dominance was in full effect.

(March 2003, 50/Em/Dre)

-During the height of the Shady and Aftermath era, this cover was the most iconic of the time. 50 as his star was rising, Eminem was the biggest of them all, and Dr. Dre was a true legend. Putting them on the cover together was like a changing of the guard in hip hop and XXL was ahead of the curve of the era of Shady, Aftermath and G-Unit with this cover.

(February 1996, Death Row)

-Would you expect any other VIBE cover besides this one? The most famous VIBE cover ever features four legends from that time (three if you think about Suge), and there's never been a cover quite like this one. Pac, Dre, and Snoop together as the West Coast attempted to assert their dominance? This is the greatest hip hop magazine cover ever.


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