The Best Covers of “The Fader” Magazine

By: Megan Barbera

As the world goes digital and anything is possible at the click of a button, the art of music and fashion journalism is slowly blending into social media and blogging. While this change gives an opportunity for innovation and increased accessibility to industry news, it also leaves a lot of room for oversaturation, false reporting, and a loss of appreciation for quality journalism and photography. 

Quality music and fashion publications are able to accurately capture a defining moment in the journey of the subject it is covering. It’s the real-time snapshot into someone or something’s life and can be looked back on overtime as an honest description of how things were for the person during that specific moment. A publication that does this exceptionally well is The Fader Magazine.  

The Fader is a New York-based magazine created in 1999, known for its on-trend coverage of the current events in music, fashion, and street culture. Arguably, the most captivating aspect of the publication is its covers and cover stories, which typically feature both up-and-coming and well-known music artists. 

While its style has changed over the years, Fader covers are almost always shot in a way that focuses on the artists (or group of artists)- with minimal added texts, sneak peeks, or clutter. The style makes it seem like an album artwork rather than a magazine. This makes The Fader feel more like a collectible item than a publication.

Here is a round-up of some of my favorite Fader covers of all time.

Issue 058: Kanye West

Cover Photo: Jason Nocito

Capturing a phase of Kanye that many fans argue is his most impactful, this cover defines a period in time where Kanye was merely looking up into the music industry. Before the start of his endless scandals and deep dive into the fashion industry, this issue covers him after his release of the critically acclaimed album “808s and Heartbreak.”

His face taking up a majority of the composition of the shot is representative of his massive impact on the music industry- and perhaps his growing ego. The unedited version of his interview was uploaded to The Fader in 2013 and features a number of gems from the old Kanye. My personal favorite being the quote: “What I want people to realize at this point is I don’t give a fuck.”

Issue 030: Miles Davis

Cover photography: Don Hunstein 

In 2005, Mtume, a famous percussionist and former band member to Miles Davis, reflected on the music career and legacy of Davis from his perspective. He writes about a number of topics within Davis’s career: the reluctance of the jazz community to accept his experimental style, racism within the industry, and the overall character of Davis that was left unseen by most.

It’s truly an exclusive look into the legend’s life, and the cover photo matches the uncut, unedited energy of the article. The dramatic expression and focus of emotion of the photo are reflective of the complicated legacy of the musician, with his eyes giving us a deeper look into the pain and emotions he felt over the course of his career.

Issue 112: SZA

Cover photography: Cara Stricker 

The dreamy aesthetic of this cover, along with the styling, staging and naturally ethereal beauty of SZA make this a poster-worthy shot of an artist still uncomfortable in her own success. Wearing a pearl embellished denim jacket with exaggerated fur trim by The Blonds, SZA stands effortlessly posed in the center as the main subject matter.

This is representative of her position in R&B as a subtle yet key artist in the direction of alternative female R&B with her chart-topping debut album “Ctrl.” It is clear in her interview that SZA is in honest disbelief of her accomplishments, and the photo captures this.

Her expression feels lost and while the shoot itself is extravagant, it feels as though she is still struggling to take up the space she created for herself as a major new artist.

Issue 025: Mos Def

Cover photography: Jonathan Mannion 

This cover is favorable in all aspects, from the styling and pose to the setting and sense of nostalgia it brings. Brooklyn rapper and producer Mos Def poses with strength and confidence as the cover artist for The Fader’s 25th issue in 2004. But the featured piece he writes is more vulnerable and honest, as he reflects on his upbringing and the reality of being Black in America. In the article he writes “Pain—that’s black in America. I’ll give you some reasons why.

We built the global economy with our sweat, our blood, our bones. We’ve given this country many beautiful things: innovations in science, medicine, technology, art. And they don’t give a fuck about us, for the most part.”

It is a relevant snapshot into the life of one of hip hop’s pioneers and captures a narrative that is unfortunately still real and relevant today. 

Issue 005: Outkast

Cover photography: Jonathan Mannion

The 5th issue of the Fader in 2000 features Andre 3000 and Big Boi, the pair known as Outkast, just after the release of their fourth studio album “Stankonia”. The two pose in front of an American Flag, looking down at us with an expression that relays a factor of “cool” mixed with the general experimental energy that surrounds the group.

The cover story is nothing less than a trip, as they define what there made-up world of “Stankonia” would look like in real life. In the article, Andre 3000 describes it as “a place where the weed is purple and the greens and blues of a stripper’s dress suddenly match the colors of the early morning sky and the pine tops of the Georgia woods.” 

Issue 87: Mac Miller

Cover Photography: Todd Cole 

This cover is staple memorabilia for Mac Miller fans, particularly for the actual cover, but also for the story behind it and the moment it represents in the life and career of the late artist. This cover was shot after the 2013 release of “Watching Movies With The Sound Off”, a defining piece of work in Miller’s life that was more dark and introspective than anything he had done before.

The photo captures this, giving us a more honest, and partially hidden image of an artist that was once known for being a carefree, open party-animal figure. The image and interview gives a raw look into the reality of his life at that moment and stamps the beginning of the new era of Mac Miller discography that followed from 2014 to his passing in 2018. 

While these covers are my personal favorites, there have been over 100 issues of The Fader released since 1999. As artists continue to grow and evolve, it is publications like The Fader that can be depended on to capture artists as the real people they are.


What’s your favorite “The Fader” cover? Let us know on Instagram and Twitter!

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