How Pusha T and Team DONDA Created the Artwork for ‘Darkest Before Dawn’

To see more artwork from Pusha T’s new album, check out @kingpush, @joe_r_perez and @fabienmontique on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.

Pusha T (@kingpush) is rap’s most untouchable, uncrushable and unflustered emcee. But even the newly minted president of G.O.O.D. Music can stress out from time to time.

“Those were live birds — and I have a fear of birds,” says Push, about the weathered, monochromatic artwork of his new record King Push — Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, which features the Virginia-bred rapper in a denim jacket and trademark braids while a white dove flies in front of the frame. “Me, actually holding a bird, letting it go, letting it fly by my face, letting it sit on my shoulder, land on my head. My face doesn’t tend to show it in the pictures, but I was stressed out.”

Push knows better then anyone, though, that when you’re aiming for icon status, you have to act the part — birds in your grill or not. That means recruiting a bevy of rap’s top producers — Timbaland, Kanye, Boi-1da — for your new record, talking about how classic the album will be before it even drops and including a piece of striking artwork to help hammer it home. Having a top-notch photographer in Fabien Montique and creative team in DONDA doesn’t hurt, either.

“We researched scarification portraits of African tribes — the magnitude of that pain captured in a moment,” says Fabien (@fabienmontique), on the inspiration behind the cover and accompanying single “Untouchable.” “We set out to create a scenario where we translate the raw emotion and power of Pusha’s music juxtaposed with a visible symbol of hope and freedom.”

As for Push, his goal was simple: create something that was strong, iconic and would last a lifetime.

“Everything about the art is classic,” he says. “Everything about the album is classic. They go hand in hand.”

—Instagram @music