An obvious riff on the Ramones logo, Dipset’s seal is more menacing, sleek, and street. As “Dipset Anthem” became NYC’s soundtrack in the early 2000s and Harlem spread downtown, the logo popped up everywhere, coming full circle when Reason Clothing reworked it using the Ramones’ typeface and eagle...without Dipset’s permission, of course.
Eric Haze’s world-class hand is one of the most recognizable in graffiti. His lettering graced the cover of “Check Your Head,” a perfect compliment to Glen E. Friedman’s photography, but the “diamond” Beasties logo Haze created for “Licensed to Ill” had the loud and confrontational punch of the band’s early rhymes and stands as a part of their identity.
Jazz—specifically Blue Note related—was an integral influence in hip-hop in the early ‘90s. The impact wasn’t just in sampling or production, but graphically as well and there’s no better example than The Beatnuts’ logo. The logo’s devilish appearance was adapted from the Reid Miles-designed album sleeve for Hank Mobley’s The Turnaround.
Though Run DMC used a few different variations and typefaces on their releases, their stacked logo created by an in-house designer at Island named Stephanie Nash remains their visual identity. From the classic red, white, and black colorway to the simple choice of the font Franklin Gothic accented by the bars, the logo is not only one of hip-hop’s most recognizable, but it also influenced several hardcore bands, including Bold and Chain of Strength. Run DMC’s logo has been knocked off a myriad of times, appearing on bootleg Obama T-shirts and even Mos Def had a rip-off of it, before he adopted the name Yasiin Bey.
Another hand drawn Haze design created with nothing more than a T-square and pencils, the “up-and-down” design aesthetic of EPMD’s logo is also reminiscent of one of punk’s best logos: the Black Flag bars. The bold typography is as direct and noticeable as Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith’s unique vocal deliveries and signature production.
Inspired by iconography from the Five-Percent Nation, Gang Starr’s simple star and chain logo became synonymous with the group after appearing on their 1990 album Step In the Arena. Originally designed by Rick Patrick, the logo went through several variations over the years, but always remained rooted in its bold and literal imagery.
The longstanding symbol of Bay Area crew Hieroglyphics, the three-eyed icon, was created by Ice Cube’s cousin Del tha Funkee Homosapien. Throughout the ‘90s, Hiero grew in popularity with the skate community through their appearances in several Plan B videos, and hundreds of boards and signposts were plastered with stickers of Del’s design.
A visual coup created by House of Pain member Danny Boy O’Connor, the group’s logo isn’t only an example of strong design, but also the power of branding. As the opening bagpipes of their debut single “Jump Around” sounded, a flurry of stickers of the band’s logo followed, causing everyone to take notice.
Normally snowmen are anything but tough or intimidating, but when promo posters appeared around NYC, seemingly out of nowhere, Young Jeezy’s street team had everyone thinking Frosty was actually kind of dope. Though Jeezy hasn’t used the Snowman in a minute, no one will forget wondering just what was going on when it first came out.
Yet another Eric Haze contribution to the list, and one of the first rap logos he designed, LL’s logo features a classic design trick by incorporating interlocking Os. Though the clean logo featured on Cool J’s successful album, Bigger and Deffer, was the perfect compliment, it only appeared on the one LP despite being so well done.
One of the few solo artists with a strong logo, Nas’s signature typography first appeared onIt Was Written and since has appeared on all his subsequent albums. The simple lettering is clear but clever, just like God’s Son himself—the perfect logo for one of hip-hop’s greatest wordsmiths.
Graphic artist Mark Weinberg designed several album covers for Naughty by Nature, but his biggest contribution was creating the group’s logo. Completely drawn by hand, Weinberg has stated that he initially thought the name was stupid, but sketched out the logo on a cocktail napkin, trying to replicate a child’s scrawl, and created a classic. He’s later admitted that the name is great, but perhaps it just needed the right visual companion.
A quick sketch by Onyx’s Fredro Starr, which was intended to be a caricature of Sticky Fingaz’s baldhead, the “madface” was streamlined and became the band’s symbol. Working with NYHC veteran Drew Stone on their breakthrough video “Slam,” the “Attack of the Bald Heads” was lead by the madface.
First conceptualized by Chuck D for another project, Eric Haze tweaked it once Public Enemy formed in 1986, and the targeted b-boy was born. People looking for controversy tried to say that it was more that what it appeared to be, but Chuck D revealed that the silhouette was actually traced from a picture of LL Cool J’s old hype man E-Love.
The Wu-Tang “W” is the hip-hop equivalent of the Batman signal. A simple classic, the logo has come to stand for the entire Clan and their brand of Kung Fu-influenced Staten Island rawness. The “W” has been appropriated by several streetwear and skate brands, but it was New York native Gino Iannucci’s 101 graphic from 1994 that used the GZA’s “G” variation that stands as the perfect homage to the Wu.