Another year gone by, another twelve months of great albums, mixtapes and songs to soundtrack various parties, commutes and roadtrips. But it's also been a banner year for artwork, be it for mixtapes or albums, across the board. 2013 saw the resurgence of hand-drawn covers, a particular focus on portrait frames, and the first-ever appearance of .gif and Instagram video album covers (shoutout to Childish Gambino and Lloyd Banks, respectively, with respect to Action Bronson). As part of our year-end wrapup, XXL takes a look back at the ten best—and ten worst—album and mixtape covers of 2013.


action bronson blue chips 2

Action Bronson, Blue Chips 2

Bronson always comes with the fantastic animated covers—check out last year's Rare Chandeliers for another example—and this Party Supplies-assisted tape is no different. Much respect to that referee, who looks like he's standing up to some serious Bronson ire.

danny brown old

Danny Brown, Old

A number of albums and mixtapes took the portrait route this year, but none so successfully as Danny Brown, whose melting Admiral schtick and look of pure bemusement walks away with the title this year. He's just so majestic sometimes.


2 Chainz, B.O.A.T.S. II: #MeTime

What's the only way to improve upon last year's solo debut cover art for Based On A T.R.U. Story? Change the background from black to white, and make the chains bigger. This is stunning. Good work, DONDA.

tyler the creator wolf

Tyler, The Creator, Wolf

Oh, what we would give to see the entire photo set from that 1970s-themed portrait in the top corner. Maybe for a deluxe reissue down the road.

prodigy alchemist albert einstein

Prodigy and The Alchemist, Albert Einstein

Zombie Albert Einstein? Check. A sleeper album from two of the best two do it, this cover is as creepy and freaky as you could imagine. Great for holiday parties, of course.

scotty atl faith

Scotty ATL, F.A.I.T.H.

Reminiscent of Snoop Dogg's iconic Doggystyle cover, there's a lot going on in this mixtape artwork. It tells almost as wide and varied a story as Scotty does on this tape.

deniro farrar the patriarch

Deniro Farrar, The Patriarch

I mean, just look at this one. It's tough to leave this out when talking about the best covers of the year; the entire idea is just perfect and flawlessly executed.

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Lil B, Pink Flame

Miley Cyrus may have been aiming for the same type of gaudy, 1980s pastiche with her Bangerz cover art, but the Based God goes even deeper with his cover model, who... Well, just look for yourself. There's a lot to take in here.

young dro high times

Young Dro, High Times

Creating his own cover of High Times magazine, Dro raises a number of questions that he purports to answer with the contents of the project. It's classy, it's provocative, and it's super baller. Also, that watch. Fantastic.


Drake, Nothing Was The Same

If nothing else, this cover made a splash and got everyone talking. That little kid is adorable, and the afro pick makes the entire thing worth it. A fittingly great cover for one of XXL's Albums of the Year.


dj khaled suffering from success

DJ Khaled, Suffering From Success

Is this the single most infuriating album cover of all time? With so many people in this country and around the world actually suffering, it seems insulting to every single person's intelligence to even look at this. Let's just move on.

action bronson saaab stories

Action Bronson, SAAAB Stories

Ooof. The look on Bronson's face mirrored the look on everyone's face when they saw this one. Not enough toilet paper to wipe away this memory.

kid cudi indicud

Kid Cudi, Indicud

An explosion inside a gilded picture frame. It's not exactly a metaphor for the album—which did pretty well and made our Albums of the Year list—but it certainly echoes how we feel about this album cover.

exquire kismet

eXquire, Kismet

This seems like a scene we should not have been invited to.

wale the gifted

Wale, The Gifted

There's a lot going on here, and all of it seems pretty tacky. It's hard to tell how this represents the album in any way, but there it is regardless.

mykki blanco betty rubble

Mykki Blanco, Betty Rubble: The Initiation

Another scene we probably shouldn't be a witness to.

tyga hotel california

Tyga, Hotel California

Okay, this one is hilarious, to be honest, and it's hard not to love it as an isolated photo. But for Tyga's album cover, the whole thing seems a little too... photoshopped. Probably would have worked better as a meme on Twitter.

king louie jeep music

King Louie, Jeep Music

For a mixtape that Louie told XXL back in July would make you "want to drive fast," it's a little strange that the car is in park, right?

ying yang twins twurk or die

Ying Yang Twins, Twurk Or Die

This looks like one of those horror movies that would wind up in that book on the Worst Movies of All Time right next to the fifth Leprechaun film, no?

goodie mob age against the machine

Goodie Mob, Age Against The Machine

We get the whole fire-wind-water-earth thing, but it just makes for a bizarre visual for four guys in their 30s and 40s trying to make it as first-generation dad-rap. Also, the look on Cee-Lo's face is alarming.