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A brief history of the visual album

Black artists have made visual albums the cinema of the 21st century.


100 years ago it was said that cinema was the literature of the 20th century. This piece explores the progression of art and technology that’s created the opportunity for visual albums, a way to see music, to take the lead as the century-defining medium for creative expression.


Early work in the ‘60s and ‘70s by The Beatles A Hard Days Night, Quincy Jones’ The Wiz, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall were capitalized on by Black artists like Prince’s Purple Rain, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, and later Jay-Z’s Streets is Watching and Snoop’s Murder Was the Case, only for Beyoncé to blow the doors off of the medium with Lemonade and Black is King.

Visual Albums Unique Advantage

Beyonce visual album


The angle is that in the streaming age, audiences want every level of engagement with recording artists and visual albums create an intersection between art, commerce, culture, and technology in a way film or music alone cannot and this innovation is a direct result of hip hop culture’s global influence over the last twenty years.

Read: Rap Gone Natural