(please note that the thoughts contained herein do not reflect my own opinion of Alcoholic Anonymous, but rather those I believe are being communicated by the album art under consideration)

I’ve been kickin’ back with some truly awesome Minneapolis hip-hop lately, and I was admiring the album art of Atmosphere’s “You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having.” It depicts the artist sitting alone, bored and fuming, in what appears to be an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

But then, I realized upon closer inspection that there’s nothing in the imagery that says AA. How in the heck did I reach this conclusion? What clues were contained within this text that allowed me to interpret it so?

  • The heavy metal doors symbolize a cold and impersonal public space, perhaps a gymnasium in an old school. The tell-tale green color of the doors and wall harken back to 1950s construction, represent a space that is purely utilitarian, and has not been remodeled for human aesthetic needs.
  • The concrete floor furthers the cold, impersonal, depressive nature of the space.
  • The windows are covered with grocery bags held up with masking tape, suggesting that whatever happens in this room is intended to be private and hidden from the outside world. However, the grocery bags are on the other side of the glass, so anyone on the outside could easily pull them down. I believe this is actually a flaw in the artistic rendering of this scene.
  • The circular lock and deadbolt indicates that the door is locked, further communicating that this is a private affair.
  • The rug shows that someone, probably with the best of intentions, had tried to superficially brighten up the space. The fact that it’s ugly, brown and outdated represents the futility of this effort. Rather than improving the warmth and humanity of the space, the rug instead becomes a symbol itself for the depressive nature of the meeting.
  • The folding chairs indicate that this meeting is a temporary repurposing of this space. The fact that they’re covered in cheap fabric and padding further indicates a futile attempt to bring comfort to this negative experience.
  • The blue folding chair on the right is at a slight angle, following the angle of the circular rug. Both of these act as incredibly subtle signals that people for this event will be seated in a circular arrangement. This implies that this is not a hierarchal meeting between, say, a panel and attendees, but a flat arrangement between so-called equals.
  • The fact that the artist is smoking, in flagrant disregard of the posted “No Smoking” sign, symbolizes his rejection of this event. That there is a “No Smoking” sign posted in the first place shows that this is likely a meeting between people who may stereotypically be smokers, and that the subjects covered may be stressful to the point where people would find themselves needing to partake in a comforting, familiar habit.
  • The artist’s body language further communicates his boredom and rejection of this event. It is as though the depressive superficiality of his surroundings are symbolic of his own belief of the superficiality of this event; that discussing his alcoholism with others isn’t going to do anything to change him or his behaviors.
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