It’s hard to name an era of album art like the one defined by Pen and Pixel from 1992 to 2003. Anyone that grew up within that era was left with an unhealthy of expectation of cover art; if it didn’t have diamond lettering and at least one Champagne bottle then what was the fucking point? Their use of animals was flawless, with appearances from eagles, dogs and bears – oh my they were good.
Operating from Houston, Texas, Pen and Pixel was the brainchild of Shawn and Eric Brauch. The brothers created countless artwork for the biggest rappers in the south, including the many artists on Cash Money and No Limit Records. In a Noisey documentary, Shawn revealed that their first meeting with Master P led to 16 different album cover designs.
It wasn’t just hip hop artists the graphic designers were catering to, they were also responsible for the cover of Chris Rock’s Bigger & Blacker. Pre- Photoshop, the covers were made by printing and cutting then scanning the layers. The price was dependent on the amount of layers involved, with the fees going into five figures. There’s no denying the look was distinctive, but will we ever see another era of album artwork like it again?
Words by Lily Mercer