The story behind the covers
The bling-encrusted lettering. The outrageous photos superimposed on lavish backgrounds. The wild colors. There’s no denying that Pen & Pixel covers are one of the defining elements of American ‘90s hip-hop, made prominent by southern rappers and labels like No Limit Records, Rap-a-Lot Records, Cash Money Records, and Suave House Records.
There was a time in hip-hop when it was rare not to see a Pen & Pixel album cover from a southern artist. Bottom line - in the ‘90s and early 2000s, Pen & Pixel was everywhere.
The company was started by brothers Shawn and Aaron Brauch, who in the early ‘90s worked at J. Prince’s Houston-based Rap-a-Lot Records as a graphic designer and general manager, respectively. In 1992, the Brauch brothers set out on their own and worked from their dining room table in their apartment. They built the company to be a promotions powerhouse. Working with over 8,000 clients, producing approximately 19,180 covers during their 11-year run and to their credit and have won 60 Gold and 20 Platinum RIAA record awards.
When you consider Pen & Pixel was used almost exclusively by Master P’s No Limit Records and Birdman’s Cash Money Records, it becomes a bit clearer how they reached that massive number. After all, P’s history is firmly tied to his output, with No Limit literally dropping at least one album per week during the height of its existence.
Pen & Pixel‘s impact on the hip-hop culture was undeniable. The graphics company subsequently became an essential element for the southern hip-hop industry by providing its artists with the signature imagery that remains not only memorable but influential, even today.
Their client list included HBO, Dreamworks, Walt Disney, Universal Records, Virgin EMI Records, No limit Records, Suave Records, Cash Money Records, Priority Records, Columbia Records, Def Jam Recordings, Sony Entertainment, Warner Music Group, The Grammy Awards, New Line Cinema, Jive Records, Rap-A-Lot Records, Nike, Reebok, RedBull, Master P, Lil Wayne, Dr. Dre, 2-live-crew, Snoop Dogg, Chris Rock, Cher, Nine Inch Nails, Jewel, Oscar De La Hoya, Mack-10, Eightball & MJG, 3-Six-Mafia, DJ Screw, Spice One, Lyle Lovett, ZZ Top, B.B. King, Selena, Willie Nelson, Boston, and Destiny's Child.
To that end, we’ve de-archived some of the most memorable and iconic Pen & Pixel covers, from The Hot Boy$ to Snoop Dogg, and Eightball & MJG, and they’re here for your consideration in all their diamond-laced glory.