The Cover Art
Artwork: Nikko Washington
“I did the covers for Noname’s ‘All I Need’ and ‘Freedom Interlude’ singles,” Save Money’s art director Nikko Washington explains. “At that time, I was definitely all in to do the album. Then I tried to ease out of doing covers.”
Washington wanted to move away from client services and pursue his own vision. Noname was an exception. Loose conversations eventually resulted in a piece of art as double-edged as the music itself. Noname wanted to depict the balancing act of life and death. Nikko wanted to paint that picture.
“I wanted to do an actual, physical painting for this project, which I had never done," Nikko said. "I’ve never hand-painted physical artwork then photographed it for a cover.”
“I wanted to do a child—not necessarily her, but a reflection of a young African-American child in this world right now. I tried to make her represent Noname, but not be her. She can’t see the skull on top of her head—nobody can—because she can’t see that death is coming. You know it’s there but you can’t see it. It’s beautiful while it lasts.”
Telefone deserved a high-caliber cover to match its contents, but Washington managed to go a step further, translating messages delivered in one medium—music—to a visual one. “That album is her,” he says. “It’s true to herself. Chicago needs different perspectives, not just male hip-hop artists or men in general saying the same thing.”