Doing It Wrong: Sophomore Album Covers That Missed the Mark
The staff here at The Booombox took a look at 10 artists with disappointing sophomore album covers. While these rappers and R&B artists had some great music the second time around, their album covers suffered a slump on their own.
Missy Elliott, ‘Da Real World’
After Missy Elliott’s super happy debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, she returned to the scene with her second offering, Da Real World. If the album cover was any indication of what Missy thought the “real world” was like, we should’ve all been concerned. Missy sits at a polished office desk, glaring at the camera as she clutches a cell phone. Lightening flashes in the dark sky behind her on this cover is as ominous as it gets. If this is Da Real World, we’d rather stay in the Supa Dupa Fly fantasy.
Foxy Brown, ‘Chyna Doll’
Def Jam had found a hitmaker in Foxy Brown when she released her 1996 debut LP, Ill Na Na. By the second album, Chyna Doll, it’s apparent that the Brown Fox thought she could get away with anything for her cover artwork. She went with a minimal look, quite literally. Against a stark white background, Fox Boogie crouches down in an awkward position, clad in only a purple, feathered bikini and a pair of hideous sandals. The only other image on the cover is a set of Asian characters that we can only hope translates to Chyna Doll.
50 Cent, ‘The Massacre’
50 Cent had been shot nine times before releasing his debut on Eminem’s Shady Records imprint, and he was sure to let the fans and critics know that in every interview and song he did. He even spoke on his son’s affinity for calling him Superman. Undoubtedly, the Queens rapper was a hitmaker. He’d arrived and subsequently dominated the hip-hop arena. But the cover art for his sophomore LP,Massacre, was mismatched with the newest chapter of his career. The cover featured a very buff 50, who appeared shirtless and rocking baseball gloves. His “super hero” profile is outlined as if sketched by a comic book artist — yet another reference to his miraculous recovery in the past, but no connection to his present success in the game.
R. Kelly, ‘R. Kelly’
Although this self-titled album was only R. Kelly’s second solo effort, he’d been in the music industry for years already — as the frontman of R. Kelly & Public Announcement. With that said, he should’ve known better than to release this dreary excuse for an album cover. Kelly stands beneath city skyscrapers on a marble staircase, glowering at the camera, his weight shifted onto one leg. Is he in an office building’s back park? Is that why he’s frowning? We’ll excuse the baggy leather pants and trench — they hint to the ’90s R&B era. But that floating head turtleneck? No sir, Mr. Kelly.
E-40, ‘In a Major Way’
In 1995, E-40’s second offering, In a Major Way, debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s R&B and Hip-Hop charts. It was a special album that put E-40 at the forefront of the Bay Area’s rap movement, but the artwork was incredibly bizarre: a gold watch rimmed with diamonds and E-40 on the face. The Vallejo-based rapper was dressed simply in a brown skullie, his signature glasses and a white T-shirt while he stood over an old stovetop, stirring a pot full of white stuff. His music may have been hitting in a major way, but the artwork was lacking — in a major way.
Drake, ‘Take Care’
Drake has had a phenomenal run since his pre-debut mixtape So Far Gone. That winning streak continued with his Young Money LP,Thank Me Later, earning him even more fans, but also making him one of the most polarizing characters in rap today. His detractors loudly claim him to be “too emo.” In true rebel fashion, he went even further left with the Take Care cover. He sits at a dinner table alone, with a golden bird figurine and a candlestick. A single candle is lit as Drake mopes, wearing a black button-down, which is just barely opened to display several gold chains, as he stares down into what looks like a gilded goblet. Thumbing his nose at his critics, Drake created artwork that was so bad it was laughable.
Tyrese, ‘2000 Watts’
In 2001, singer-actor Tyrese Gibson released his second album, 2000 Watts. As talented as he is, the cover could’ve been a bit more understated. Gibson’s hometown is in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. We get it. The cover is an image of Ty standing between the Watts towers. OK, we get it already. Just to add a bit more class to the artwork, the crooner stands in a leather outfit, looks to his right and reaches for his genitals. He should’ve stopped at the towers.
Chris Brown, ‘Exclusive’
Chris Brown proved himself to be an enormous talent on his debut album, but that doesn’t excuse the atrocious artwork he chose for his second LP, Exclusive. Breezy is in his prom tux, standing atop the roof of what looks like a run down castle in the middle of a city. He gazes over the edge moodily, with his jacket slung across his shoulder. And is that a satellite behind him? Chris could’ve kept this exclusive to himself.
Lil Wayne, ‘Lights Out’
Before Weezy had oodles of money for album art direction, he dropped this monstrosity of a cover for his second project, Lights Out. For those old enough to remember, much of Cash Money’s artwork was over-the-top gaudy in the late ’90s to early 2000s, somehow still managing to look cheap. Is this a mixtape or an album? A scowling Wayne twists his fingers up, bandana wrapped tightly around his braids, as he uses his body to block a stream of light. Maybe they should’ve turned the lights out at the shoot for this.
Two years after the release of Ciara’s first album, she dropped her second entitled Evolution. At the very least, the cover was uninspired. Those R&B singers sure do love their floor fans don’t they? As Cee Cee’s hair flaps in the breeze, she manages a sultry gaze through dark shades, her glossy lips parted and toned arms crossed. The most interesting parts of this cover may be the white fingerless gloves she’s sporting, otherwise, nothing too special or evolutionary here.