This past summer, Jay-Z and Kanye used a blurry, Jasper Johnsish
flag as the cover for their single, “Otis.”
But ASAP’s cover is most reminiscent of the one Outkast used
eleven years ago for the Stankonia album.
Originally an Outkast acolyte, the great Atlanta rapper Killer
Mike used a black-and-white flag with skull-n-crossbone stars for
his first independent album in 2006.
And for its sequel, two years later.
Also from Atlanta, also in 2008, Young Jeezy draped himself in a
flag on the cover of his album, The Recession, which
featured the celebratory single, “My President.”
(“My President” featured a guest appearance from Nas,
who had posed in front of the stars-and-stripes for the cover of
XXL magazine earlier that year.)
Ice Cube’s usage of the flag was less reverent back in 1991.
There was a recession at that time, too. But George H. W. Bush was
in office, and the album included the song, “I Wanna Kill
The late Bay Area legend Mac Dre spoofed Bush’s predecessor on
the excellent cover to his 2004 album, Ronald Dregan. A
single from album, “Dreganomics,”
espouses living life, “royal, spoiled, the American way.”
Ten years earlier, in 1994, fellow Bay Area rapper Spice 1 had
taken a more Ice-Cube like approach.
In 1998, the Geto Boys depicted a young person smoking crack in
front of the White House, with Uncle Sam looking on and the
stars-n-stripes adorning the album title.
That same year, New Orleans’ Full Blooded, a “soldier” in Master
P’s No Limit Records “army,” wore fatigues and dug up Arlington
Cemetery with his hands on the cover of his Memorial Day album.
(God, those Pen & Pixel No
Limit covers were always so amazing.)
In ’99, elsewhere in New Orleans, a teenage Lil Wayne wore
patriotic underpants on the cover of his first solo
Master P himself used the flag to reference the famous “Say
hello to the bad guy” scene from Scarface in
Tray Deee, of Snoop Dogg’s East Sidaz, posed like Patton in
And of course, Harlem’s Dip Set similarly saluted the following
year. (Maybe that’s really where ASAP took his inspiration
Lately, in general, American flag imagery on rap album covers
has been less overtly political than it used to be.
Seems like a million years since 1990. Uncle Luke placed fourth,
with 11 percent of the vote, in
this year’s Miami-Dade County mayoral race.
And of course, even longer since 1976, when the late, great Gil
Scott-Heron, who’s as worthy of the title of the original rapper as
anyone, set the tone in this regard, as well.