DMX covers ‘The Source’ (January 1999);Biggie Smalls and Puff Daddy cover ‘VIBE’ (September 1996); Tupac Shakur covers ‘Rolling Stone’ (October 1996).
Source: The Source; Vibe Magazine; Rolling Stone

Cover Kings: Exploring the Most Iconic Magazine Moments in Hip-Hop History

Landing the cover of a popular magazine is a right of passage for artists. Here's a list of the most iconic cover photos in rap history!


Feb. 2 2024, Published 4:50 p.m. ET

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Magazine covers have long served as a true indicator of mainstream success.

From the gritty East Coast rappers to international MCs, hip-hop's journey has been artfully depicted on the covers of magazines worldwide.

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These iconic magazine covers serve as snapshots in time, capturing the evolution of hip-hop and the rappers who helped popularize the genre. Let’s take a look back at some of the most poignant magazine covers in hip-hop history.

DMX covers ‘The Source’ (January 1999)

dmx cover
Source: The Source

DMX covers ‘The Source’ (January 1999).

DMX’s cover of The Source in 1999 perfectly captured the raw energy and authenticity that defined the late-90s rap scene. The placement marked a pivotal moment in DMX's ascent to superstardom and set the tone for a career that would leave an irrefutable mark on hip-hop.

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Tupac Shakur covers ‘Rolling Stone’ (October 1996)

tupac cover
Source: Rolling Stone

Tupac Shakur covers ‘Rolling Stone’ (October 1996).

Tupac Shakur graced the cover of Rolling Stone in April 1996 and the image is still one of the most iconic hip-hop photos ever captured.

The cover was released just months after the rapper’s death as an ode to his career and legacy. In the pages of the magazine, writer Kevin Powell paid homage to Tupac.

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Biggie Smalls and Puff Daddy cover ‘VIBE’ (September 1996)

biggie cover
Source: Vibe Magazine

Biggie Smalls and Puff Daddy cover ‘VIBE’ (September 1996).

Following Tupac’s death, rumors began to circulate about Biggie Smalls and Puff Daddy’s involvement in the shooting. While the rappers initially kept quiet, they broke their silence in an interview with VIBE, denying the allegations. Despite the messy backstory, Biggie and Puffy’s VIBE cover marked one of the most memorable moments in hip-hop history.

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Jay-Z covers ‘XXL’ (October 2001)

jay z cover
Source: XXL

Jay-Z covers ‘XXL’ (October 2001).

In October 2001, XXL launched and the publication dedicated its first cover to Jay-Z and Master P.

The two rappers were arguably the biggest in their field during the time, but Hov’s cover had something special. The Bronx native rocked a black plaid vest and red shirt, complimented by a pair of dark sunglasses. Twelve years later, the magazine celebrated the 40th anniversary of hip-hop and once again placed Jay on the cover.

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Kanye covers ‘Vogue’ (March 2014)

kanye cover
Source: Vogue

Kanye covers ‘Vogue’ (March 2014)

Long before their bitter divorce, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian were one of the most powerful couples in Hollywood.

The cover sparked a ton of backlash as longtime Vogue subscribers suggested that the magazine was lowering its standard by placing the reality star on the front of the magazine. Unfortunately, the haters were unsuccessful as the issue quickly went viral – bringing further attention to the rapper and his beau.

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50 Cent, Dr. Dre, and Eminem cover ‘XXL’ (February 2003)

eminem  cover
Source: XXL

50 Cent, Dr. Dre, and Eminem cover ‘XXL’ (February 2003)

50 Cent, Dr. Dre, and Eminem are friends, and they make no secret of it. The trio covered XXL in 2003, at the height of 50’s career.

His debut song, “In da Club,” was released a month before and it quickly topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The cover has since become an iconic piece of music history, immortalizing the relationship between the three hip-hop juggernauts.

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Cardi B covers ‘Rolling Stone’ (November 2017)

cardi b
Source: Rolling Stone

Cardi B covers ‘Rolling Stone’ (November 2017)

Before becoming a rap superstar, Cardi B gained a following online.

The MC graced the cover of Rolling Stone in 2017, right when her hit single “Bodak Yellow” was dominating the charts. A year later, the “WAP” rapper made her second appearance on the magazine’s cover alongside her husband, Offset.

The author’s content and opinions have not been pre-reviewed, approved or endorsed by Discover.

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