Supreme‘s much-anticipated collaboration with Public Enemy and UNDERCOVER is set to drop this week. Prior to news announcements surrounding the partnership, fans were bombarded with a series of social media leaks offering a glimpse of the collaborative wares adorned with the legendary rap group’s Fear of A Black Planet album artwork. The history behind the album artwork is particularly interesting considering that it was made by expert space art painter, NASA Art Program member and certified rocket scientist, B.E. Johnson.
As expressed in a blog post on his official website called Imperial Earth, Johnson stated that he was personally contacted by Def Jam Records to create the album artwork. He worked closely with Chuck D on several sketches and designs back in 1990, the same year the album was released. For the initial design, the Public Enemy leader wanted the Black Planet to appear in the foreground and measure up to the same scale as the Earth in the cover visually. Moreover, Chuck D wanted the Black Planet to cast a great big shadow on the Earth and eclipse it entirely. However, Johnson had other ideas in mind.
“Great concept and I immediately saw where he was going with it but, being a physicist, I knew that just wouldn’t fly,” said Johnson. “Can’t have something in the close foreground that is the same angular diameter as something in the background and have the former completely shadow the latter.” Having added: “The actual dimension of the foreground object must be less than that of the background object… far less. Its shadow on the background object would be a dark dot upon the surface. Something had to change. It would forever nag me and I’d be defending/explaining it until the End Of Time.”
Johnson told Chuck D about the physics behind the sketches and even went so far as to create diagrams to convey his reasoning to the rapper. “Chuck got it and let me have full reign on the design. I eventually did two versions,” said Johnson. “One that matched his original concept as much as possible and another that was more dynamic and fit my sensibilities more. The former won out, but I was happy. For reasons that you’ll subsequently learn, I’m glad my first pick wasn’t chosen.”
Throughout the years, Johnson’s album artwork for Fear of A Black Planet went on to receive significant accolades such as VH-1 naming it as one of the Greatest Album Covers to ever release. Moreover, Dej Jam sent a gold-plated vinyl record of the album to Johnson in 2016 to commemorate his accomplishment.
Visit B.E. Johnson’s Imperial Earth blog to view more space art and expect the Public Enemy x UNDERCOVER x Supreme collection to drop in-stores (New York, Los Angeles, London, and Paris) and online on March 15. Japan will see a later release date of March 17.