Pen & Pixel

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Pen & Pixel Graphics, Inc was a Houston, Texas-based graphics design firm that specialized in musical album covers, especially for gangsta rap artists in the Southern United States. For a long time it was the house design firm for the No Limit Records, Cash Money Records and Suave House Records. The company was started in 1992 by brothers Aaron and Shawn Brauch. The Brauch brothers and their staff worked with over 8,000 clients and completed 19,180[citation needed][1]

album covers before the company closed its doors in 2003.[2]

Pen & Pixel is known 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 in 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:

Writing for the New York Times, Will Stephenson described Pen & Pixel's design as:

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.


  1. ^ Joyce, Brittany. "Defining Hip Hop: 10 Iconic Pen & Pixel Album Covers". Paste Media Group. Retrieved October 31, 2014.
  2. ^ Julie, Grob. "Special Collections- Librarian". University of Houston. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  3. ^ 'Deadly Packaging: The Cover Art of No Limit Records by Drew Hinshaw, 2007
  4. ^ On da Lingo: Tracing Houston roots in three omnipresent hip-hop terms by John Nova Lomax, Houston Press 2004
  5. ^ All Music Guide review of "Comin' Out Hard"
  6. ^ Stephenson, Will Letter of Recommendation: Pen & Pixel New York Times. July 13, 2016