Pen & Pixel

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Pen & Pixel[1] is a Houston, Texas-based graphics design firm that specializes in musical album covers, especially for gangsta hip hop artists in the Southern US. For a long time it was the house design firm for the famous No Limit Records label.

Pen & Pixel is famous for its identifiable design vernacular of gaudy 3D- and effects-laden text like album titles and rapper stage names which are often "studded" with diamonds or made to look like marble through heavily layered Photoshop-filtered graphics. These typically overlay a scene depicting the album artist ostentatiously surrounded by women, liquor, gold- and diamond-coated material effects, and other signifiers of a gangster lifestyle.

Cover of Big Bear's 1998 album "Doin Thangs"

The company's CD cover art usually includes paraphernalia associated with wealth like luxury cars, helicopters, candlesticks, dollar bills, and women. Such displays often contrast said wealth against the woes of poverty amin New Orleans and the American south. Beyond materialism, common themes discussed in the company's oeuvre include: death, violence, criminal guilt, manhood, persecution (especially by police), and urban paranoia.

The art criticism site PopMatters described the company's work for late 90s New Orleans record label No Limit as follows:

"

A Houston Press article tracing the origins of the term bling states,

The firm's artwork came to define the visual style and, to a degree, the artistic direction of a segment of the Dirty South hip hop movement:

In one of his Weird Weekends segments ("Gangsta Rap"), British documentarian Louis Theroux is[citation needed] made over by Pen and Pixel as a Mafia Don-style gangsta emcee.

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