The buzz around the release of the new opus by Kayne West & Jay Z has been carefuly prepared, and the sleeve design was obviously conceived as a part of the hype : its design has been made by Riccardo Tisci, the creative director of Givenchy. Let's review it.
The Itunes and Best Buy exclusive pre-releases have created a high degree of frustration among vinyl resellers, but it also made this design a headline subject even before any physical release has been seen or sold!
The softpack opens as a cross-like shape, and include an 18-panel poster featuring more Tisci's artwork (as well as the lyrics, of course).
This is the second collaboration between Tisci, Kanye West and Jay Z, the Italian designer having designed their single "H.A.M.".
According to the press release, the thinking behind this cover design is that the Givenchy designer created "an artwork that channels most of his aesthetics : symetry, lighness, darkness, sharpness and 3D". Beyond his usual highly decorative style, he used here his trademark geometric patterns and religious iconography.
The representatives of the House of Givenchy also explains that the bold colors and angular lines are symbols for the "Masculinity of Two of the most iconic rap figures of our time."
The inside is describred as having a more "painting and texture" feel. It is in fact dominated by the "Beast" portrait of the two artists (a remix of a good-old artwork idea o the 70'), and reinterpreted images of American icons .
The Cd is a special edition too, with an unusual black disc, and some additional songs...
To be quite honest, it seems that this artwork (and especially the cover), as impactful or even beautiful to some eyes as it is, is more a public relation "coup", in conjonction with the fashion links Kanye West cultivated lately.
And on Tisci's side, it ain't either the expression of any musical statement : this cover design is expressing, as the Givenchy peoples explain it, the large scale involvment of Givenchy with this rap universe. In other words, a matter of marketing and communication strategy.
But to be more specifically about the design, some might find this cover and its story are quite a caricature of the "fashion + Jet-set" media world we're living in, not to mention a caricature of modern Hip-hop style, with its love for gold, fashion and hype, and over-the-top expression of self-majesty!