The ten best rap videos of all time
There's nothing like a music video to bring out the character in a song. Unfortunately, these days, music videos tend to be mostly the same, especially rap videos. Needless to say, it's refreshing when a clip comes along that is different and creative enough to grab and hold your attention. With that in mind, here are the ten best rap videos of all time.
See also: The ten best metal videos of all time
10. OutKast - "B.O.B"
The video for "B.O.B" is something like what you might see if you took a tab of acid and chased it with a shot of adrenaline. Andre 3000 and Big Boi perform in neon tunnels and over technicolor streets continuously moving toward the inevitable party at the end, fully furnished with contorting dancers, blazing DJs and a house choir. Oh, and there's a monkey, too.
9. Eminem - "My Name Is"
"My Name Is" was the perfect video to introduce the irreverent Slim Shady to the ADD-riddled, TV-addicted Millennial Generation. One of the first images we see is a straightjacket-bound Eminem in therapy with Dr. Dre -- a fitting first look at the rest of his life in the public eye. Much of the rest of the video is comprised of vignettes that imitate the mediums of various television programs, like Cops, press conferences and music videos, all under the gaze of the typified slovenly, obese American couple.
8. A Tribe Called Quest - "Scenario"
"Scenario" is the kind of self-reflective meta-video that only works because it doesn't take itself too seriously. Using cartoonish graphics that match the silliness of the lyrics, Tribe pokes fun at the contrived way videos are often made, using throwaway "street" and underwater backgrounds, scrolling through outfits and cheesy effects. The whole thing is colorful, self-aware and funny, like pretty much everything ATCQ does.
7. 2 Chainz - "Birthday Song"
"Birthday Song" is one of the strangest, most mesmerizing videos you'll see. It's like a post-apocalyptic birthday party if it were all a dream. The video has the typical women shaking their asses, but it's all very robotic and a little disturbing, like when 2 Chainz walks outside to a line of expressionless men in dress shirts getting cursory lap dances from women with cartoonish proportions. This video skirts the line between exploitation and irony, and it definitely leaves a mark.
6. Beastie Boys - "Sabotage"
Spike Jonze directed this action-packed, over-the-top '70s action spoof. The best thing about this video is that, although it clearly aims to indulge in every silly costume, camera zoom, dramatic image and action sequence, it never loses its straight face, which makes it even funnier. There seems to be some sort of story, and I have no idea what it is, but it doesn't matter, because "Sabotage" doesn't need continuity to be quite possibly the most hilarious rap video of all time.
5. NWA - "Straight Outta Compton"
From the moment you see those flaming shoes at the beginning pacing menacingly toward the camera, you know "Straight Outta Compton" is going to be a badass video. This video set the standard for rap videos throughout the '90s and helped bring rap music into the mainstream thanks to airplay on Yo! MTV Raps's inaugural year. The video takes you on a trip around Compton using an aesthetic not unlike the 1979 film The Warriors. Indeed, "Straight Outta Compton" presented NWA as street warriors at war with the police, and the video is presented with such unyielding energy that it becomes impossible not to get caught up in the spirit.
4. Kanye West - "All Of The Lights"
I don't care that Hype Williams "ripped off" the intro to Gaspar Noé's 2009 art flick, Enter the Void (FYI: Noé himself "ripped off" Jean Luc Godard's intro to Une Femme est Une Femme more than forty years earlier), "All Of The Lights" is one of the most invigorating music videos in recent memory. Williams's instinctive use of font design, color, size and animation to convey tone is remarkable, and his quick cuts do a lot to get the heart rate up. The long shots of a fiery-headed Rihanna don't hurt, either.
3. Tyler, the Creator - "IFHY"
Tyler's a decent rapper, but he makes the hell out of his videos. Between "Yonkers," "Sam is Dead" and "IFHY," Tyler (known as Wolf Haley in his director's chair), has directed some striking, emotionally-charged videos. Tyler uses a surreal aesthetic to create stories that fall just short of nightmarish into the unsettling category. "IFHY" takes advantage of brilliant makeup and set construction to tell a story that's more nuanced and heartbreaking than the song it accompanies.
2. Missy Elliott - "Get Ur Freak On"
For "Get Ur Freak On," director David Meyers created a grimy underworld where the laws of rationality don't apply. It's hard to decipher exactly what the "meaning" of this video is (there probably isn't one), but it's a stylistic masterpiece. In particular, special effects, which are so frequently flaunted for mere ostentation, are used in original and purposeful ways. Who can forget Missy's head zig-zagging off her shoulders to shout, "Is that yo chick?" at you, or her hocking a loogie into some poor, unsuspecting fellow's mouth?
1. The Pharcyde - "Drop"
The Pharcyde captures its irrepressible weirdness in the drop video by telling a forward moving story by filming backward. It's filmed well enough that it's not immediately identifiable as being in reverse. The group members even took the time to learn their lyrics in reverse so they would appear to be speaking normally. The extremely long shots make it all the more impressive. It's videos like that this that show you don't need a big budget to make an excellent video. You just need creativity, and the Pharcyde had a seemingly endless supply of that.
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