There was once a time when hip-hop music videos were among the cheapest to produce in the music industry as many of them involved someone simply rapping in front of a camera, whether it be outside or in the studio. During the mid-to-late 1990s, however, music video production exploded in quality as the genre became more mainstream, and multi-million dollar videos were soon being pumped out weekly.
Now, there is a long list of amazing music videos from the genre that have had great direction and artistry while also being accompanied by a great song. Though it’s hard to choose from a long list of an entire genre, here are the five greatest hip-hop music videos ever in our opinion.
“California Love” is one of the greatest creations to come from the late rapper, Tupac Shakur. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman were also featured on the 1995 hit. The music video for the song was directed by Hype Williams and filmed in El Mirage, California.
The video, inspired by Mad Max Beyond the Thundersome, features the artists and various actors such as Chris Tucker, Clifton Powell, and Tony Cox in a dystopian desert setting, dressed in ravaged clothing and body armor as seen in the movie. The song has been listed by countless publications as being one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time.
The Real Slim Shady
“The Real Slim Shady” is the lead single off of Eminem’s 2000 album, The Marshall Mather’s LP. The satirical video starts off with Eminem as a patient in a psych ward, with comedian Kathy Griffin as a nurse.
The video cuts to different hilariously odd scenes throughout, some with Eminem surrounded by a group of lookalikes, with him pointing out there’s only one Slim Shady and others are just imitating. The video went on to win Best Video and Best Male Video at the MTV Video Music Awards.
“Sabotage” serves as the first single off of the Beastie Boys’ 1994 album, Ill Communication. The music video for “Sabotage” was directed by Spike Jonze and is inspired by 70’s crime shows such as Hawaii Five-O and Starsky and Hutch.
The hilariously action-packed video features the members of the group being introduced as characters in a mock television show intro, fighting crime in 70’s style outfits, wigs, and mustaches. The video was nominated for various awards during the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards but failed to win in any of the categories.
Kanye West had established himself as a producer for many years, but in the early 2000s, he finally got on the other side of the microphone and recorded his debut album “The College Dropout”, which ended up being considered one of the greatest albums in rap history. Among the singles released were “Through the Wire” and “All Falls Down”, with “Jesus Walks” being released later in the album’s life.
There were three different videos released for “Jesus Walks”, with two of them being paid for exclusively by West. The song was deeply important for West and his spirituality, which is why he felt that it was important to spend over $1 million to produce the two additional videos. The one that most people know though was the second version which started with prisoners being treated like modern-day slaves and touched on the social justice issues of the past two centuries in the United States.
While Bone Thugs-n-Harmony was already an up-and-coming group by the time 1996 came around, the release of “Tha Crossroads” really helped put them on the map. The group, which was then comprised of members Krayzie, Layzie, Bizzy, and Wish Bone, came out with “Tha Crossroads” as a tribute to not just family members that they had lost, but also their mentor Eazy-E after his passing in 1995 at just 30 years old.
The accompanying music video for “Tha Crossroads” was a deep and emotional look at life, death, and the afterlife which included a full choir and even a man that chaperones lost souls into the afterworld. At that point, there hadn’t been many rap music videos that had touched deep into sensitive topics like death and gang vioelnce, but “Tha Crossroads” did that beautifully and became one of the best hip-hop songs of the 1990s.