10 Contemporary Nigerian Album Covers That We Love

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As the laws of physics suggest, you’ll see things before you hear them. The same rules apply when it comes to listening to an album or song, as more often than not, before you press play, the first thing that will catch your eye is the accompanying cover art. Nowadays, album and single covers appear as tiny squares on our music libraries and streaming sites. Yet, despite this miniaturization, these visuals still hold sway: serving as a portal into what the listener can expect from an album, and what kind of musician lies behind the creativity.

With the music industry completely over-saturated with artists looking to make it big, it becomes increasingly important for artists to stand out from the crowd. A strong album cover should make a statement, since the imagery is an opportunity to make the right first impression (which the artist hopes will turn into a lasting impression); and ideally, each element of the art should give the listener an idea about what type of music they are going for. Over the years, we’ve seen some uninspiring and unimaginative  album art, and in the same breath, there have been some amazing ones.

From daring covers to strange and meaningful artwork, here are some of our favorite album covers from Nigerian artists in more recent years:

 

Seun Kuti – Black Times

 


A passionate and eloquent songwriter and activist whose lyrics touch on many of the same issues his father did: the battle for racial and economic equality in Africa, the corruption of politicians and corporations, the spiritual poison that is consumerism, and the need for more peace and less war. But it seems that the similarities do not end there. Like his father, Seun knows how to grab your attention, and hold it. Which is precisely what this album cover does — it makes you look. Asides the general appeal of the bold black and white aesthetic, the fragmented structure of the face, directness of the gaze, and the prominent, well-placed cigar all work together to give the image a certain militant feel and gravitas — all of which aligns quite well with the multifaceted themes of the album.

 

M.I. (The Guy) – A Study on Self Worth: Yxng Dxnzl

Touching on important topics such as depression, self-evaluation, and love, this album is a deep dive into the inner workings of the man behind the music, and an introspective body of work. As such, it was important that the cover art captured this message and mood — which makes the all-black and somewhat sombre feel of the imagery a perfect choice. But as hard-hitting and honest as the album is, there is also an underlying theme of self-love, sensitivity and acceptance. This is depicted beautifully by the butterfly perched on MI’s shoulder, which serves as a pleasant surprise, and adds a light and elegant touch to the art. 

 

Obongjayar – Some Nights I Dream Of Doors


To say Obongjayar is unique would simply be selling him short. Making music that is heavily colored in jazz, funk, soul, and electronic synths, many have tried (and failed) to assign him a genre, with some calling his music Art-Pop, while others simply think of it as Afro-Fusion. Regardless of what you choose to call it, there’s no denying that the man’s got talent. Earlier this year, he shared his highly anticipated debut album titled, 
Some Nights I Dream of Doors.

Explaining the message behind the album in an interview, he said, “basically, this project is about the idea of an opportunity, what that means. It’s like ‘when does the dream begin and when does a dream end?’ What does that stuff mean? The dreaming process?”.
In line with this overarching theme and concept, the album does, in fact, sound like an original and dreamy display of passion. The album cover (like many of the songs) depicts an illusion or dream-like state, featuring bright, colorful lights with distorted figures on either side of what appears to be a door that Obongjayar must walk through. It’s all very “on brand” and very distinctive, just like the artist himself.

Tems – For Broken Ears 

Clocking in at 20 minutes, Tems’ seven-track project, For Broken Ears was primarily written and produced by Tems herself (with additional production from Oddio, Spax, and Omeiza). Thus, many have described the project as a self-actualized body of work, and a minimalistic triumph. This quiet sense of “solitude” and minimalism are evenly depicted in the EP’s rich cover art, as a beautiful Tems is photographed against a warm and honeyed backdrop (which does a good job of alerting listeners to the depth and texture of the music they can expect). At its core, For Broken Ears is a lush R&B record, with swirly synths, airy harmonies, and a subtle hint of grit. And without trying very hard or doing too much, the album art somehow captures all of this perfectly.

 

Blaqbonez – Bad Boy Blaq

 

Arguably one of the most versatile artists in the Nigerian hip-hop scene at the moment, Blaq Bonez’s 2018 album is a 10-track offering that shows off different sides of the artist’s personality. In a similar vein, the cover art seems to also be an ode to the young star’s versatility and overall ‘Bad boy’ persona. Showing up in the form of an ultra-cool collage (which includes condom wrappers, booty cheeks, and flashy cars) the cover art, like the songs in the album, gives us a glimpse into Blaqbonez’s immodest and often controversial intentions, but also the hopes and dreams he has for himself. The use of color, style, and space is commendable and very attractive, making this one of our favorite album covers from him.

 

Show Dem Camp – Clone Wars Vol. IV “These Buhari Times”


Now here’s a striking, evergreen album cover that holds 
a special meaning for many young Nigerians in particular. One glance at this well-thought-out and socially charged cover and the storyline/creative direction become clear: the ‘honorable’ members vs the ‘lazy’ Nigerian youth (the collective name we were all given by President Buhari a few years ago).

The fact that Buhari is still the country’s  President only serves to remind us of the artwork’s relevance nearly three years after its release, since we are still very much in these “Buhari Times”.  The depicted Umbrella (PDP) and Broom (APC) represent the two main political parties in Nigeria, with the members’ representative looking confident and relaxed, while the youth’s representative appears to be under pressure and worried about the next move. The image helps to capture the comfort and ease enjoyed by the old and powerful political class, in comparison to the youth whose futures are not guaranteed.

From the heavy rain clouds looming ominously in the sky to the younger man standing on the side of the members, not a single element was wasted in this cover, and for that reason, it must be commended. Everything is as heavy with meaning as the punchlines and poignant lyrics contained in the album.

Prettyboy D-O – Everything Pretty

 


One thing we know about Prettyboy D-O? His music will get you moving. Just about every song seems charged with a certain raw energy, offering a refreshing take on classic R&B and Dancehall, underpinned by the deep African rhythms and alté vibes fans have come to know him for. This electric nature is mirrored in the artist himself, recognizable through his vibrant wardrobe, colorful hairstyles, and charismatic persona — and the cover art for his 2018 album
Everything Pretty puts this all on full display. Much like his music, the cover is compelling, translating into art that features his noir-edited headshot in a surreal and spacey frame that aptly reflects his eccentricity and style. Very pretty, indeed.

Cruel Santino – Mandy & The Jungle 

Released back in 2019, Mandy & The Jungle is a vivid, genre-blending mix of trippy production, interesting features, and lyrical dexterity. The album cover and the alternate artworks do a good job of capturing the artist’s more quirky side by depicting the album’s story in a comic strip style, with distinct typography. Sharing the cover art alongside the track list shortly before the album was released, Santino tweeted: 

https://twitter.com/cruelsantino/status/1125121367618224129?s=21&t=aDvUmMTrI7F9izzA_j34bQ

The artwork is a good representation of the alté aesthetic we’ve come to associate him with, and serves as an acknowledgement of the boundless possibilities that can happen when young creatives are given the room to fully be and express themselves.

 

ReubenRane – Fish Roundabout


Fish Roundabout
is the debut mixtape of ReubenRane, released in 2019. The title of the album was inspired by a demolished fountain (of the same name) in his hometown of Minna, Nigeria. Although the mixtape remains mostly under the radar, the simple brilliance of the cover art deserves more praise. The artwork is an ode to Dr Ladi Kwali (who passed away in Minna back in 1984), the famous potter featured on the back of our 20 naira notes. But this time, rather than molding clay (as is depicted on the Nigerian bank note), Kwali is seen scratching on a turntable like a DJ, with rolled-up denim sleeves peaking out from under her dress. The concept is simple, but original and amusing, providing the perfect green-hued backdrop for the Hausa-inspired music contained in the tape. 

 

The Cavemen – ROOTS


As the name of the album suggests,
ROOTS was produced in reverence to The Cavemen’s Nigerian heritage and the music that colored the country during its most turbulent times. Their roots are reflected, not only in their nostalgic Highlife sound but also in the album’s lively and emotive artwork (which came courtesy of Atide Studios). According to the brothers, the album art, in all its vivid green glory, represents community and togetherness — themes that flow into each of the songs on the album. 

The music on ROOTS has all the radiance, nostalgia, and ancient wisdom that came with the Highlife sounds that predated this one, and this is very much the vibe one gets when looking at the cover art. Both the album and the art pull us back to simpler times when music and dance made life a deeply memorable affair.

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