Kanye West may be one of the most celebrated figures in popular culture, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything he creates is an original idea – at least where graphic design and visual artwork are concerned. Yeezus remains one of his most controversial covers to date for a long list of reasons that have continued to build over the years. With a more minimalist approach intact, West set out on his quest to become one of the greatest visual artists on the planet. During this period, Virgil Abloh served as assistant creative director of West’s creative content company DONDA, alongside Matthew Williams, who held the title of art director and music consultant at. Justin Saunders was also employed as an art director.
West was determined for the focus of this album to be on the music above anything else, hence selecting a simple image of a CD in a clear case sealed with a piece of red tape. Last year, Abloh explained how the image “represented the death of a CD” during a lecture at Columbia University. In a way, they were paying tribute to the end of an era and holding “an open casket for a format of music we were raised off of that’ll never be seen.”
“This piece here, often him and I both say, we kinda outdid ourselves in a way,” he added. “We weren’t supposed to come up with something this clean. I don’t know what happened. We don’t know what it was, but we both looked at it in the end and we were like, ‘Damn. It’s as if we went to design school.'”
Prior to this version of the visual, the alternate cover of Yeezus with the gold wrapper that circulated online from Kim Kardashian’s post on Instagram was rumored to be inspired by the busts from George Condo’s “Mental States” collection. However, there’s no denying the coincidence between the final artwork and an unreleased cover that legendary art director Peter Saville designed for New Order back in 2001.
West supposedly approached Saville about designing a similar record cover for him, but he refused on the grounds that he didn’t want to duplicate his work. During an interview at the Global Design Forum in 2013, Saville confirmed that he was working on a logo for one of West’s visual identities. Keep in mind that this isn’t the first time that this type of visual was created though. David Rudnick, a designer who has worked on a variety of projects including the Wil Fry logo and album covers for Evian Christ, RL Grime, and Nicolas Jaar, recently called out West on Twitter for lifting his artwork (again) from Boys Noize & Erol Alkan’s album Lemonade in 2011.
Not only is this image noticeably similar to the cover design for Yeezus, but the color scheme also falls more in line with the image for West’s forthcoming project YANDHI. It should be noted that Lemonade included a remix by Gesaffelstein, a French DJ who worked on two tracks featured on Yeezus. West coincidentally tapped Christ to join his production team, Very G.O.O.D. Beats, around the same time that Yeezus was born. Christ touched on this experience in his 2014 cover story for self-titled. In 2015, Christ and Rudnick teamed up on an art installation hosted at ICA in London so from an outside point of view, their relationship doesn’t seem to have been impacted by this whole ordeal.
Last year, Rudnick told HYPEBEAST about how he believes in promoting “radical originality and superior craftsmanship” within a commercial landscape that is often polluted by irresponsible advertisers. West has never publicly addressed any of Rudnick’s claims and Saville has managed to avoid commenting on the matter all together. No matter how much time passes by, this case seems far from being closed.
Now, take a look at everything we know so far about Kanye West’s upcoming ‘Yandhi’ right here.