9 Major 90s Album Covers You Shouldn’t Be Clueless About

Of all the things to be clueless about, these 90s album covers aren't one of them. Discover which of your favorites (if any) made our list.

Published April 11, 2024
Closeup of Nirvana band album cover Nevermind from 1991

The 1990s weren’t all bubblegum pop and boy bands. From the emerging grunge scene to punk taking over to rap and R&B finding their place in the spotlight, the 1990s was brimming with exciting music. Don’t believe us? Check out these absolutely major 90s album covers.

Get the 411 on 9 Major 90s Album Covers

From grit to grunge, the 1990s music scene was all about breaking down barriers and pushing boundaries. These 90s album covers embody the decade’s best (and most challenging) moments. So, grab your flannels and discmans because we’re heading back to the 1990s.

Nirvana, Nevermind (1991)

Undoubtedly, Nirvana is the poster child for disruptive music in the 1990s. Their songs spoke to a generation and were so effective at capturing the post-Reagan era listlessness and angst that they’re still remembered decades after their last album.

But it’s the first one — Nevermind — that has one of the most notorious album covers of the 1990s. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee the image of a baby floating in a pool with a one-dollar bill hanging from a fishhook in front of him. It’s strange in a humorous way.

Unsurprisingly, the label didn’t choose the water-birth-inspired album cover. But lead singer Kurt Cobain was so set on it that they had to move on full steam ahead.

Ice Cube, Death Certificate (1991)

Former NWA member Ice Cube released a powerful album called Death Certificate the same year that Nirvana’s Nevermind dropped. This politically and culturally critical album has a cover that sums up Ice Cube's thesis: a contemplative Ice Cube standing over a corpse covered in an American flag and toe-tagged Uncle Sam.

Ice Cube goes on to critique several American institutions and their role in perpetuating violence, injustice, and racism in the album’s songs. In short, this isn’t the picture of Reagan’s America, and artists like Ice Cube were peeling it back one poignant image at a time.

Toni Braxton, Toni Braxton (1993)

Toni Braxton hit the ground running with her self-titled solo debut album. Clad in a boxy pixie haircut, white tank top tucked into light-wash mom jeans, and a slouchy leather jacket on the album cover, Toni Braxton is the very image of 90s sex appeal.

Who needs a pretty woman when you could have a star like her? This album cover is so deliciously steeped in 90s style that it had to make our list.

Related: 70s Album Covers That Are Pop Culture Phenoms

Hole, Live Through This (1994)

You may not recognize the band Hole, but you’re probably familiar with its lead singer, Courtney Love. It’s from her brain that the tear-stained Prom Queen album cover was plucked. A seminal grunge album, Live Through This’s cover pays homage to that famous climactic scene in Carrie. It’s fuzzy in the way that amateur pictures were in the 90s and captures that fine line between teenage angst and euphoria expertly.

After all, you didn’t think we’d pull out a Nirvana album cover without giving Hole its due, too, did you?

Green Day, Dookie (1994)

Green Day is one of those rare bands whose success has spanned not only decades but generations. Yet, the first major studio album that put them on the map was Dookie. Designed by Richie Bucher, this illustrated cover could’ve easily graced the front of a major literary magazine for its unique texture and style.

Covered in niche references to the Berkely punk scene, you could recognize this 90s album cover from a mile away.

No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom (1995)

Long before Gwen Stefani was judging musical competition shows and marrying country musicians, she was performing with a band, No Doubt. The band’s third album, Tragic Kingdom, pays homage to their home base of Orange County.

A play on The Magic Kingdom, you can see references to the orange groves that once populated the area. The cover’s retro style is every bit Dorothy stuck in Oz and one of the band’s most memorable.

The Notorious B.I.G, Life After Death (1995)

The Notorious B.I.G.’s second (and last) studio album, Life After Death, had to make our list. Released posthumously in 1997, the album cover stands as an eerie premonition for his murder which had taken place sixteen days prior.

Biggie Smalls looks over his shoulder to the viewer and stands beside a hearse with the album title painted on the trunk. Who’s to say whether Biggie sensed what tragic violence might be coming his way and wanted to commit it to the thing he did best — music?

Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)

Out of all the 90s albums on this list, the one that people still revere to this day is Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Released in 1998, this album is particularly special because it’s the only solo album by Lauryn Hill.

The album’s cover art ties in the title and the album’s themes by showing Hill’s portrait sketched into the worn wood of a school desk. As a former member of the Fugees, Lauryn Hill knew how to make a statement, and her 1998 album absolutely did.

Related: 45+ 90s Trivia Questions That Are Da Bomb

Rage Against the Machine, The Battle of Los Angeles (1999)

Like many of the 90s albums on this list, The Battle of Los Angeles is openly political and in-your-face about it. From the first moment you lay eyes on the Rage Against the Machine album, you know they mean business.

The spray-painted visage of a human body resiliently holding their fist in the air looks like something you’d see Banksy take credit for. Whether it’s meant to represent a crime scene outline or give hope to the new generation that people’s resistance always lives on, it’s an album cover with a powerful statement. What a way to head into Y2K.

These Albums Aren’t Only for 90s Kids

While 90s kids have kind of cornered the market on the decade they grew up in, don’t think that these gloriously political and powerful albums are only for their ears. Now that you’ve had a glimpse of these incredible 90s album covers, you have to let your ears get a little taste.

9 Major 90s Album Covers You Shouldn’t Be Clueless About