The Meaning Behind Reggae Album Cover Art

Smashing Magazine, a web design website, posted a very in-depth discussion on the social context of Jamaican album covers over the decades months ago but I never got around to mentioning it. It’s a well researched and interesting read about what the general public thinks when they first hear “Reggae” and how that image is perpetuated by the general imagery portrayed on album covers for decades now.

I’ve mentioned before how I detest the current “design” of most album covers in general. The main points being that an artist pours hours practicing, refining, recording, mastering etc to get their ideas and music heard only to take about 10 minutes to package said music for the masses. This is the first thing people that have never heard of you or your music will see and we all know you only have one chance to make a first impression. Take that amateur photoshop job with the red/gold/green color palatte and dreadlocked Rasta and you have what is the generally accepted lock of just about any Reggae record. But dig deeper and you’ll find true art and artistic expression mixed with a sense of dread and comedy.

One of the commentators brought up some good points too so read the comments. Basically he mentions how unfair it is to compare albums made for the different markets like JA (which gave birth to the music), UK (where it was mainly for a different sort of fans of course and a large white population) and the USA (where it was mainly marketed as the latest dance craze in step with others like the Cha Cha et al).

It’s well written though and includes a really good cross section of covers. Go ahead and read Design Legacy: A Social History Of Jamaican Album Covers.

There was also this other post on titled 42 Reggae Album Cover Designs: The Art & Culture of Jamaica which featured other albums with notes. These are classics!

I've been involved in the Los Angeles music scene since at least 1995 going to shows, promoting, spinning records and running labels. Ska and Early Reggae are my passion among other things of course.