R&B’s Hottest Stars: Album Covers From Then to Now

Many of our favorite R&B stars have been around for so long that we often forget about their humble beginnings. We take a look back at the first and latest album covers of some, and see how they have evolved over the years.

Usher: From Usher to Raymond v. Raymond
Although many remember Usher’s earlier albums, My Way and 8701, most forget his debut self-titled album, Usher. Released in 1994, Usher looked like a baby on the album cover. He might have only been 15 years old but he was far from a child musically-speaking-he co-wrote four of the fourteen songs, and it sold over 500,000 copies. Fast forward to 2010: the new father and divorcée is all grown man. Raymond v. Raymond is his sixth album, and his third-consecutive number-one album. Usher has certainly showed a ton of growth over the years in his personal life and career, but his latest album cover and title may signify his battle between who he was, who he is and perhaps who he wants to be.

Monica: From Miss Thang to Still Standing
With one leg propped up and one hand on her hip, Monica was strutting on her first album cover, Miss Thang. And apparently her undeniable swag was won over by her fans- her first album was certified triple-platinum. Despite the hardships she’s experienced in the past 15 years, Monica proved that she is Still Standing with her sixth, and latest, album. With one hand on her head on the cover, she once again shows that no one has longevity, or “swagga like her.”

Erykah Badu: From Baduizm to New Amerkyah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)
Erykah Badu’s debut album, Baduizm, helped bring light to a new era of music, neo-soul. On the album cover, Badu didn’t need to show her face at all to express her individuality. Now four albums later, Badu continues to display her conscious soul not only on the cover of her latest album, New Amerkyah Part Two, but also in her latest controversial video, “Window Seat,” in which she strips nude.

Maxwell: From Urban Hang Suite to BLACKsummers’night
Maxwell’s first debut album might have shelved at first but once it was released in 1996, it proved to be an album made in romantic heaven-and the simple album cover with a pair of heels laying on a hotel suite’s floor conceptualized it all. It was even nominated for the Grammy award for Best R&B Album that year. Maxwell graced us with his presence again last year with the release of his latest album. His album cover displayed a silhouette of the “new,” clean-cut Maxwell, which is further displayed in his effortless execution of hits and success with BLACKsummers’night-he won two Grammys this time around.

Toni Braxton: From Toni Braxton to Pulse
When Toni Braxton emerged on the scene in 1993, she was an instant sensation. Her self-titled debut album has sold over eight million albums to date, and she showed an edgy, tell-it-like-it-is demeanor on the cover of the album and in her hit single, “Love Shoulda Brought You Home.” On her sixth and latest album cover, Pulse, Toni shows a more angelic, youthful side and showcases a mix of up-tempo songs and R&B ballads. Maybe Toni is embracing her newly single life (insert on-stage kiss with Trey Songz), hoping to appeal to a younger market (insert clubby tracks), or trying to please her new label, Atlantic (insert new image overall).

Omarion: From B2K to Ollusion
Omarion first hit the R&B scene in 2001 as a member of the boy band, B2K. It didn’t take long for teenage girls everywhere to go crazy. On their first album cover, Omarion stands out as the lead singer of the group and it only took a few years for the group to disband. Although it’s been nine years and Ollusion is his third studio album, Omarion doesn’t appear like he has aged (or changed) much minus his signature braids. And considering his rollercoaster ride of being picked up and dropped by various labels, he could still be trying to find himself. Maybe he’ll have better luck now that he’s the latest judge on America’s Best Dance Crew.
—— By: Crystal Tate


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