Kanye West Says His Nude Album Cover Art’s “Banned” in U.S.

It's just another well-timed statement for the artist everybody loves to hate.

By Jamilah King Oct 19, 2010

This post has been updated since initial publication.

It’s almost time for Kanye West to release a new album, which means mostly one thing: controversy. This time the artist is taking heat over his new proposed album cover, which he claims has been "banned" in the U.S. Why? The image depicts a naked black monster holding a bottle of alcohol and lying beneath a presumably naked white woman. There are wings involved. And a polka dot tail, too.

The new album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," is due out around Thanksgiving on November 22, but it looks like he’ll have to find an alternative cover for US-based fans. To be fair, Yeezy’s long been praised for his album cover art. He’s gone from the college-themed bears of "College Dropout" and "Late Registration" to the revised and highly praised version by famed Japanese artist Takashi Murakami for 2007’s "Graduation". Murakami’s version was a colorful nod to West’s fascination with anime, and a sort of visual membership card for an artist who’d gone from pining at the gates of pop stardom to sitting atop every industry VIP list.

Of course, the good times didn’t exactly last. He broke up with his longtime fiance and then dealt with the unexpected death of his mother, Dr. Donda West. You can hear the details of those traumas clearly on his next album, "808s and Heartbreak", for which he opted for a minimalist cover splattered with not-so-subtle irony: a pair of carton-esque hands tearing apart a wrinkled, heart-shaped balloon.

In the intervening years, West hasn’t strayed from the spotlight. There was the Taylor Swift fiasco, the rumors of alcoholism, the fights with photographers and, of course, the new Twitter account. And it was on Twitter where West made his characteristically larger than life defense of his new cover art.

"In the ’70s album covers had actual nudity … It’s so funny that people forget that … Everything has been so commercialized now..I know that cover just blew yall minds … I wish yall could see how hard I’m smiling right now!!!"

It’s still unclear who allegedly banned the cover art, or how a decision could have randomly been made on a Monday morning. According to MTV News, West Tweeted Sunday night, after revealing the album cover,

"Banned in the USA!!! They don’t want me chilling on the couch with my phoenix!" West never revealed who allegedly banned his album art (or how it was censored in the wee hours of a Monday morning), but railed against the action, saying it was a double standard. 


According to the Los Angeles Times, an unnamed source familiar with West’s discussions with his label, Island Def Jam, said the rapper was "strongly urged" to use a different cover image but was told that "if he wanted to do it, the label would stand behind him." The reported concern is whether such mass-market retailers as Best Buy and Wal-Mart — which still account for up to 10 percent of all CD sales — would carry the album as it is now.

Certainly the universe hasn’t realigned because Kanye didn’t get his way. But love him or hate him, Kanye West knows how to make a statement. Though it’s sometimes hard to get past the artist’s ego and hear those statements, if the build up to his new album — including the visually stunning "moving painting" he released for his first single "Power" — is any indication, there should be plenty to listen for.