Through Jonathan Mannion’s Eyes

I was quite excited to attend Jonathan Mannion’s 20th Anniversary Celebration. 20 years of being the lens of hip-hop. The milestone of being twenty years into the industry is a beautiful and valuable one. Jonathan Mannion’s work, as a photographer-capturing classic covers, has made him the lens through which the world sees hip-hop. The lens through which hip-hop sees it sees itself. I wrote a piece for AllHipHop about the event, my return to the site in almost three years.

Here are 5 of my favorite albums that featured Mannion covers.

Eve, Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady, 1999



Eve was the third woman in hip-hop to have an album debut at #1 on the Billboard chart (behind Lauryn and Foxy). The album was written exclusively by Eve herself, had a number of epic features, and some of Swizz Beatz best production. I wore this album out in my 1995 purple Mercury Tracer riding around with my friends. The album was a female empowerment gem from start to finish with Eve standing toe to toe with every single guy on her label. Fave: “Let’s Talk about It.” feat. Drag-On.

Old Dirty Bastard, N***a Please, 1999



ODB’s second studio album was a far cry from his previous work with the Wu. The album had more commercial tracks including the hit single, “Got Your Money” feat. Kelis produced by The Neptunes. The Rick James inspired cover fit the strange and unique album which featured one of my favorite songs, “Good Morning Heartache,” f. Lil’ Mo.

Kelis, Kaleidoscope, 1999


A near-perfect debut Kaleidoscope was laced with production from The Neptunes, masterful lyrics, and a weirdness that fit the end of the 20th century. 1999 and the early 2000s was defined by the “bling like the Neptune sound.” Kelis was their first artist, and thus came to be inextricable from her Star Trak crew. The hit singles, “Caught Out There,” and “Get Along with You,” didn’t help the album’s commercial success, but it became a fan-favorite among the quirky black nerd girls at the forefront of a natural hair movement and still defining their eponymous #BlackGirlMagic. Fave: “In the Morning.”

Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP. 2000


One of the greatest selling rap albums of all time, the cover of Marshall Mathers LP was shot on the porch of one of the homes where he lived on Dresden Ave. in Detroit. The house has since been condemned and demolished. The album pushed the limits of hip-hop with extraordinary controversy. It was the sophomore album that made Eminem an undeniable hip-hop legend. Fave: “The Way I Am.”

Aaliyah, Aaliyah, 2001


Her self-titled third and final studio album was supposed to be the project that would redefine her. She was prepared to show herself as all grown up, a woman in love and sure of herself. Unfortunately, the beloved singer died less than two months after the release. Jonathan Mannion shot this cover and a number of other amazing photos of Aaliyah which remain some of his best work showcasing a softer side of his lens.

Check out Jonathan Mannion’s website and online store for exclusive merchandise and his album credits.



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