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An Ode to Pen & Pixel Album Covers

Major labels got you art direction. Indie rappers got Pen & Pixel to photoshop them on to a pile of gold holding a Glock.

Yesterday was great because any day where I spend over an hour looking at Pen & Pixel art is a great day. First my friend Marko put up every Pen & Pixel cover he had, then I found an even bigger archive while trying to track down one Marko didn't have. It is 65 pages of photoshopped flames, lens flares and blinged-out letters from before "bling" was a cliche. It is the best thing you will see all month.

To bring everyone up to speed, Pen & Pixel is a graphic design firm based in Houston who made their name doing album art for rappers, primarily in the South and Southwest. The golden age of Pen & Pixel was the late 90's and early 00's (especially when No Limit had a new album in stores every fucking week). You know the style even if you don't know the name: a typical Pen & Pixel cover involves the artist surrounded by photoshopped cars, weapons and women usually in the hood but sometimes in a graveyard or a church, under grandiose typography depicting their name. It's actually hard to say what a "typical" Pen & Pixel work looks like because their process is very hands-off; they are more or less happy to do whatever their clients want. Not anything, as they explained in the Ego Trip Book of Rap Lists (nobody goes on the cross!), but their concerns were about politics not taste. No amount of computer-aided thuggin or computer-aided stuntin' was over the line.

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