Jonathan Mannion Describes the Stories Behind Shooting a Decade of Album Covers for Jay Z + New Gucci Mane & Working With Nas, Scarface, Lil Wayne, DMX and More!

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Video by YSKSK

Jonathan Mannion has shot covers for the likes of Nas, Lil Wayne, DMX, The Game, Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz and so many more but work with one artist sticks out from the rest. In a span of 10 years Mannion shot every Jay Z album cover with the exception of “Blueprint 2.”

Joining Sway in the Morning to speak on the 20th anniversary of “Reasonable Doubt” Mannion drops gem after gem about Jay Z’s creative process, what it was like to spend time with him, Dame and Biggs and so much more.

Starting things off he tells Sway that he’s shot over 300 album covers since his first official cover, “Reasonable Doubt.” He tells Sway that he looked at photos of Frank Sinatra and Bob Marley as reference for creating timeless pieces of art. Shooting Jay Z once before the “Reasonable Doubt” cover he opens up about the process of putting it all together. From Jay Z changing the title from “Heir To The Throne” to going into Dame’s office to discuss compensation to finally being paid with cash out of the stack of $200,000 that was brought to the photo shoot he spares no detail of what went on over 20 years ago.

Going forward he breaks down all the covers he shot for Jay from “Reasonable Doubt” to “In My Lifetime Vol.1,” “Vol.2,” “The Dynasty” and so on. He tells side stories about Jay Z, riding in the blue Bentley from the “Vol.2” cover as Jay stopped at a red light to ask the driver of a Porsche if his car was a Honda. He also talks about seeing Beanie Sigel throwing the Roc sign up briefly and then bringing it to life on the cover of “The Dynasty.” With each and every story he tells there are intricate details of how Jay Z and his team operated.

Along with all his stories of Jay Z he also talks about seeing so many artists with their guards down just being regular people. One memory in particular makes him laugh as he recalls listening to “Bennie And The Jets” with Scarface. His psychology background shines when he talks about getting to the core of the artist and finding out how they function.

Ending the interview he opens up about re-connecting with Gucci Mane recently to shoot the cover of his first post-prison project titled “Everybody Looking.”

This what ya’ll been askin for! So here it come #EverybodyLooking JULY 22!

A photo posted by Gucci Mane (@laflare1017) on


Filling Sway in about the call he received from Warner Bros. telling him that Gucci had sent for him, Mannion opens up about Gucci’s demeanor. Always in high spirits he says that Gucci is working out every day and also refraining from drugs. Revealing that Gucci comes to him with one big idea, this time summertime heat and color, Mannion is able to take over creatively from there. He goes on to say that he’s heard three tracks from the forthcoming project which he describes as “classic ATL bangers.”

Watch above and head to Mannion’s website, jonathanmannion.com to RSVP for his gallery in NYC this Thursday.

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