It was very tough to make a list of the 10 greatest photos in hip hop history. There are plenty of classic images that didn’t make the final cut. The iconic picture of Biggie in front of the Twin Towers? Didn’t make the cut. Any picture of Biggie and 2Pac together didn’t make the cut. In fact, it was difficult not to include all of the ten image just only Biggie and 2Pac because they have plenty of great ones. Run DMC didn’t make the cut. Any photo from the last 15 years didn’t make the cut. That famous picture from the “I Declare Concert” with Jay-Z and Nas? Didn’t make it either. Any picture from Cash Money Records or No Limit Records? Nope, didn’t make it either. Early photos of N.W.A.? Nope. After carefully going through every important and iconic hip hop photo these were the ones that we came up with are the greatest. In fact, we had so much fun (although also very difficult) we may do a part two soon……
Too many people here to name. There were so many rappers side by side at the same time that the XXL cover couldn’t even get them all in one shot. The cover had to expand two more pages to show everyone that was there that day in 1998. Hip-hop doesn’t do things like this anymore (along with a lot of things) but this is something they should do today. Get everyone all together in one place and do a black and white photo. No egos, no beef, just everyone showing love to each other.
A powerful photo. Biggie’s mother and 2Pac’s mother together on stage at the 1997 MTV Awards with Will Smith. 2Pac and Biggie had both been killed within a year of that photo. All because of their stupid beef. Even after the tremendous loss, Voletta and Afeni were able to find strength in a new relationship together. You can tell by the look on Will’s face that he knew how special of a moment it was.
A 20 year old Nas during a photoshoot for his as-of-then-yet-to-be-released Illmatic. Nas was ready to drop a nuclear bomb on the rap world. Look into his eyes, he knew he was about to drop the bomb of all bombs too. One of the best albums of 1994 and still today one of the best albums ever.
The most recognized picture of them all. An image thats universally known at this point. Unfortunately it makes “hip hop’s greatest pictures” when it’s not under great circumstances. The only other photo to surface of 2Pac after this one is his black and white autopsy photo. Unfortunately today, this image has turned into meme about Uber drivers. The last photo of one of the greatest to ever touch a microphone.
We tried not to include cover artwork/pictures on the list but we could not leave this one off the list. 1988. A young KRS-one taking inspiration from a Malcolm X photo taken 20 years early. Outside of a handful of hip-hop artists, artists don’t really re-create iconic photos from the past anymore. KRS-one nailed it perfectly on this one.. One of the greatest hip-hip covers of all time and one of the greatest photos also. Straight classic.
Another 80s photo that we just couldn’t leave off the list. Where it all started in Queens, a young teenage LL Cool J and his JVC radio. What more did you need?
The official winner of the greatest hip hop photo of all-time. There is no photo better in the 40+ years of hip-hop than this one pictured above. No other photo even comes close. This is the MJ of hip hop photos. Rakim, Eric B, Kool G Rap, the real 50 Cent, Killer Ben and the rest of the crew. The golden days of hip-hop. If you close your eyes and focus hard enough, you can almost smell the 80s air and be right back there.