The History of 22 Iconic Music Logos, by RBMA

This is one of the most thorough and enlightening investigations of design history, in a rarely discussed area of music + graphic history!  Props to Sue & Laura, and to the illustrious RBMA!!


22 Iconic Music Logos Explained

By Sue Apfelbaum and Laura Forde

Wu-Tang Clan, by Mathematics
An early version showed a warrior’s severed head, held by his dreadlocks by a hand extending from the W, and had “Wu-Tang Clan” written through it in faux Asian-style handwriting. As RZA notes in the Wu-Tang Manual, “That one was too gory, but I liked how he wrote the letters, so I had him come up with the sword – because my tongue is my sword. But that didn’t reflect everything I was about either. So I told him it needs to represent the sword, the book and the wisdom.”

CBGB, by Karen Kristal (?)
The CBGB logo has long since transcended its humble beginnings at 315 Bowery. … But the essence of CBGB & OMFUG staggers on. It’s an idea that’s been perpetuated, commodified and memorialized ad nauseam. And while much of its history has been documented, little has been said about where that infamous logo came from.

EPMD, by Eric Haze
As a member of Marc “Ali” Edmonds’ Soul Artists crew, Haze got to know The Beastie Boys, started doing work with them, and soon made a name for himself. Since the downtown gallery scene was already enamored with street art, “the fine-art playing field was the only avenue for us as artists to start developing careers and trying to get paid for our work,” Haze says. Realizing he preferred the written word and letterforms to painting, Haze went to the School of Visual Arts in 1982 and set out, he says, “to become the premier logo designer of my generation.”

Fool’s Gold, by Dust La Rock
Prince says his process involves doing extensive research into any and all elements related to the content. In this case, what he turned up was “gold, in all its many forms” and “late ’80s and early ’90s house and hip hop record-sleeve and label graphics.” He cites design influences ranging from the Designers Republic’s work for Pop Will Eat Itself and the Warp label to Genesis P-Orridge’s Psychick Cross and the occult.

“You guys are the first people in 23 years who ever asked who did the logo,” says Kenny ‘Dope’ Gonzalez, one of the founding DJ/producers behind the house music duo Masters At Work. The concept seems simple: the two iconized heads represent the hip hop loving Gonzalez, with a sideways baseball cap, and salsa-influenced partner ‘Little’ Louie Vega, with the fedora and goatee…”

Public Enemy, by Chuck D & Eric Haze
“I always liked to see the rock ’n’ roll guys; they had logos, so why couldn’t it be the same in rap? I wanted to make the music legitimate, as much as other genres.” Chuck came up with the concept, cutting and pasting a mock-up by hand. 
“When the time came to create his artwork, [Chuck] knew exactly what he wanted,” recalls Def Jam art director Cey Adams. “His idea was that the black man is a target in America.”

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