Virgil Abloh is a celebrated artist and creative director who has made his mark on the music industry through his unique album cover designs. Virgil’s artistry can be seen in covers for albums in the hip-hop and rap space, all of which are distinctively eye-catching and thought-provoking. In this article, we will take a look at Virgil’s impressive portfolio of album covers, exploring each one in detail to get an insight into Virgil’s creative vision. From Kanye West’s ‘Yeezus’ to Kid Cudi’s ‘WZRD’, Virgil has created some truly memorable works that have left their mark on popular culture. Let us dive right into Virgil Abloh’s captivating world of album artwork from best to controversial
Abloh’s work on Yeezus is one of the most influential album covers in history. With help from Justin Saunders, Joe Perez, Matthew M. Williams, and Kanye West, it underwent different refinements until they decided to go with an ultra-minimalist design that Abloh saw while visiting Printed Matter in NYC. A clear case was selected but not just any old cover – a plain case with a red tape piece signified an “open casket” for the end of physical CDs format as we knew them!
#2 Watch The Throne
Abloh achieved critical acclaim for his work on the gold-foil album cover of Kanye and Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne project, which was designed by Riccardo Tisci – Givenchy’s then Creative Director. His artwork earned him a nomination for Best Recording Package at the Grammys, but sadly he lost out to Caroline Robert who created Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs’ record package.
#3 My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Virgil Abloh’s prolific success as Art Director for Kanye West’s 2010 album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was due in part to his electing of renowned artist George Condo. Notably, Condo painted multiple outstanding covers for the record that included one with a nude phoenix sans arms – though Walmart deemed it unfit and instead opted to go with the celebrated ballerina painting we all recognize today.
#4 808s & Heartbreak
The artwork for 808s & Heartbreak was a match made in heaven, deliberately crafted to echo the minimalist style of the album. Virgil Abloh and Willo Perron sourced Kristen Yiengst’s image of a deflated, heart-shaped balloon as its cover art. Meanwhile, renowned pop artist Kaws created an exquisite deluxe edition package design which also included snapshots taken by photographer Willy Vanderperre and Danny Clinch’s picture of West kissing his mother on the cheek. Its elegantly curated aesthetic earned it accolades from Complex magazine which named it one of the best rap album covers within five years!
Before the release of ASAP Rocky’s debut album, Long.Live.ASAP., Virgil Abloh was already making waves as a creative director behind the scenes; his name was featured in the credits and he also designed set designs for Rocky’s concerts! His influence would soon be seen within Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise project by G.O.O.D Music, 2 Chainz’ Based on a T.R-U Story collection plus Pusha-T’s My Name is My Name tape – all released under Virgil’s distinguished direction! Notably, it was during this time that Abloh conceived and directed the “Fashion Killa” video—his first-ever music video masterpiece!
#6 Luv Is Rage 2
Virgil Abloh crafted the cover artwork of Lil Uzi Vert’s debut studio album, Luv is Rage 2, with a signature touch – his iconic Off-White branding tape. Fans will undoubtedly recall this detail for years to come! But that’s not all; Virgil also directed the music video “XO Tour Llif3”. No doubt he outdid himself again and delivered another masterpiece!
#7 Based On A T.R.U. Story
Virgil Abloh worked on 2 Chainz’ Based On A T.R.U. Story album in 2012, for which he partnered with Kanye Wests DONDA creative agency to craft a very special album cover that featured a minimalistic 2 Gold Chains which ranked #2 in best album covers of 2012 by Complex.
#8 Dark Sky Paradise
With creative and art direction spearheaded by Mike Carson and Virgil Abloh, Big Sean’s “Dark Sky Paradise” was released with great success. The album featured desaturated contrasty imagery with a run of rain seen in promotional materials; all visual aspects including rollout, performances, and music videos were overseen by Mike Carson.
Virgil Abloh and Kid Cudi had a long-standing friendship—the iconic designer even featured the rapper in his first Louis Vuitton runway show. To pay homage to their bond, Virgil created one of his earliest album covers for WZRD in 2012.
#10 Pray For Paris
Abloh was requested to create a cover design for Westside Gunn’s Pray For Paris project, with the goal of capturing the city in an “grimy” way. In conversation with Complex magazine, Gunn spoke about three options provided by Abloh – one which included an altered image of himself adorned with his signature chain jewelry. Ultimately though he decided on David and Goliath as it had a certain aesthetic that could be found only in Paris itself.
Octavian the British rapper has been featured prominently in Louis Vuitton’s runway shows and advertisements, so it made perfect sense for Virgil Abloh to create a custom cover art for Octavian’s mixtape “Spaceman”. Taking inspiration from starry skies, Abloh crafted an image of two swords intersecting against a celestial canvas as the album artwork.
#12 Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon
Virgil Abloh’s design for the posthumous album of Pop Smoke, Shoot for The Stars, Aim For The Moon caused a stir among fans in 2020. Before his death, Pop Smoke and Virgil had grown close and it was evident when looking at the original cover art that portrayed him as a rose growing out of Canarsie’s gritty streets – but unfortunately, it did not resonate with listeners who demanded its removal shortly after its debut in exchange for an alternate concept.
What’s Your Favorite Virgil Album Cover?
Virgil Abloh has designed some of the most iconic album covers in recent memory. What do you think is his best work? Let us know in the comments below!