Easily doubling as both one of my favorite album covers of all time and one of the worst album covers of all time, Big Bear made sure he’d never be forgotten with the Pen & Pixel gem for his 1998 album, Doin Thangs. He also managed to land a fairly remarkable feat: I have literally never heard a single record from this album and yet, because of the cover, it is an album I’ll never forget. For instance, there is no list of terrible hip-hop album covers that doesn’t include this album (most have it as the worst) and those lists live forever. I love it. I admire it. I can’t believe it exists. That, my friends, is how you live forever.
Ah, Pen & Pixel, the Houston-based graphic design firm that was the go-to album designer for No Limit Records, Cash Money Records and Suave House during the 90s really got in their bag with this one. This shit is pure art and all of the best art is memorable, so does this make this like, real, art? I think so. I’ve never met Big Bear and have no idea if he’s still recording, alive or knows the whereabouts of his bear homies featured on the cover, but if I ever do meet him the first thing I’m asking is this: “Whose idea was this album cover? Did you bring the concept to the table or did Pen & Pixel send this to you and you were like, ‘nailed it.’”
I mean, just look at this shit. And I mean “this shit” in the “good glory do you see this flourishing happening before our eyes??” kind of way. There are FOUR bears; they look to be brown bears, but perhaps they’re light-skinned American black bears, the possibilities really are endless. But they’re not just bears, the bears are fucking bosses. These bears, my G, these bears get money. They get thangs. They are doin’ thangs because they get to the money. In my mind, these bears listen to Big Mike’s “Havin’ Thangs” on repeat all day long.
There’s a fruit plate with nuts and berries, presumably because bears eat nuts and berries and also because fuckin’ bosses (Big Bear is the biggest boss that we’ve seen thus far, I mean his name is Big Bear, natch) eat nuts and berries. And Big Bear is dressed to match his bear homies, or maybe they’re dressed to match him. One may never know. What I do know is that Big Bear and his brown bear or perhaps light-skinned American black bear compadres are killin’ the game.
I remember some years ago when Mr. Cheeks dropped his video for “Lights, Camera, Action” and in the video when Mr. Cheeks showed up at the strip club, a light went off alerting the women that Cheeks was in the building. I thought that was so comical but then thought again and was like, “You know what? If I have a music video, if I go to the strip club the strippers are going to be excited I’m there, too! If I can’t be the man in my own video then when else can I be the man?!”
That’s how I view this album cover that is ostentatious even by 1998 standards. Big Bear wasn’t sure if he’d get many more bites at the apple (it’s possible he owns the apple, for the record, lots of dudes in the 90s owned their own labels, especially down South) so he went for broke. And now we have this, to me, Black AF album cover because it is a Black man living his best, fantastical life and this was how he showed you how he does this, son. To Big Bear, on his amazingly, ridiculous, aspirational Doin Thangs album cover.