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How Colorful Are Hip Hop Album Covers?

Published: November 23, 2016 in Strange Music by

album-cover-colors-blog-header

Thanks to the folks at Spotify, with the help of web developer Peter Margaritoff, we can now see how colorful a genre is based off of their album covers.

Peter Margaritoff looked at the top 2,000 songs on Spotify and divided them up into genres. In the image created, he designated one row for each genre. From there, he sorted each row by the hue of the album cover. Granted, this project is only based off of the top 2,000 songs as of September 2016, but the result below makes for a wonderful piece of art.

In no particular order, the genres of the top 2,000 songs were as follows:

  • Hip Hop
  • Metal
  • House
  • Pop
  • Rock
  • Jazz
  • Indie Rock
  • Country
  • Alternative Rock
  • Latin
  • Classical
  • Folk.

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Now comes the fun part. Looking at the above image, knowing each row represents a different genre, can you guess which row is hip hop? We’ll give you a few hints below to make it easier.

Think back to some of your favorite Strange Music albums as a reference. Most of Tech N9ne’s albums tend to be on the darker side of the color spectrum. Many of our artists have released albums with dark hues (with exceptions).

album-cover-colors-blog-image2

Stop scrolling until you have your guesses. Below are the final results, each row labeled with its respective genre. Did you pick out any of the genres correctly? Or did you just scroll all the way down as soon as you opened this article?

Based on these results, hip hop album covers tend to be darker and use more neutral colors. Although this seems trivial at first, it’s somewhat telling of hip hop culture. Hip hop is rooted in the streets. Life seems bleak. For those who grew up poor, surrounded by violence, fighting against social injustice and racism, it’s only natural for artists to reflect that life in their music.

Hip hop was and still is a voice for the voiceless, the disenfranchised. House, by contrast, is a genre focused on energy and dance, originating from the gay and African American communities. The colors used in album covers are much more vivacious, with bright greens, blues, purples, pinks, reds, and yellows.

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Maybe we’re reading too much into this, but based off of our own experiences in speaking with artists on our label and outside our label, it’s safe to assume most put a lot of time and effort into creating a meaningful album cover.

Artists generally choose their album art to convey a particular message or theme, which in turn acts as the cohesive glue that holds an album together. Read about Rittz’s inspiration behind the album cover of his most recent release, Top Of The Line.

For simplicity sake, let’s look at the top 50 selling rap albums of all time, as of December 2014. You’ll notice only a handful use vibrant colors, and those that do only contain a small portion of said colors. Most use darker shades or neutral colors.

Top selling rap albums: #1-25

top-25-rap-albums-collage

Top selling rap albums: #26-50

25-50-rap-albums-collage

Though there are obvious exceptions to the generalization that hip hop albums are darker in tone, there is some partial truth to this, and worth taking a deeper look.

  • Do the colors used in an album cover reflect an album’s tone or overall message?
  • Or are we digging too deep?

Let us know!

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