Thank goodness that streaming hasn’t yet done to music videos what music videos did to radio stars — that’s a reference, folks — because hip-hop has generated some of the genre’s most fun videos of the digital era yet. While a big-budget clip looks a lot different than it did around the time MTV became a cultural mainstay — even the definition of a “big” budget has changed — the creativity that many of today’s artists have put behind their videos could put even Puff Daddy’s legendarily glossy (and expensive) visuals to shame. Here are some of 2019’s best hip-hop videos so far.
Runner-Up: Zach Fox & Kenny Beats — “Square Up”
Look here. If this video doesn’t crack you up, your funny bone is broken.
10. Tyga — “Girls Have Fun”
Sure, the “rapper throws a pool party in the hills with dozens of gorgeous models” concept is a little generic, but no one does it as well as Tyga. The song is inescapably catchy and will likely be the soundtrack of a few of your own day parties this summer, Tyga is as charismatic as he’s ever been since his 2018 resurgence, and even the cinematography is stunningly clear. If you’re going to use a played-out treatment, at least set the standard for it — and that’s exactly what Tyga does here.
9. Juice WRLD — “Robbery”
Talk about drama. Juice WRLD’s Cole Bennett-directed “Robbery” video opens with burning trees and a goth wedding, complete with a funereal dress code, black roses in the bride’s bouquet, and a blitzed-off-Hennessey Juice WRLD. The reveal of Juice as an unwanted crasher just highlights the emo sensibilities of the middle school heartbreak anthem as well as his Death Race For Love album. There’s a literal Death Cab for Juice — you just have to admire the commitment to the theme and good luck getting this one out of your head after you watch it.
8. 21 Savage — “A Lot”
Generational wealth and trauma are as linked as 21 Savage is to his deadpan delivery, and his “A Lot” video, directed by Aisultan Seitov, visualizes that tangled connection in the form of an opulent family reunion at a massive mansion. The cutaways to family members wrapped up in various forms of strife and tribulations only serve to highlight the joy of their bonds at the reunion, while guest J. Cole delivers one of his strongest feature verses to date. The lavish framing and color grading gives the video the texture of an aged photo album full of cherished memories, a visual reinforced by the closing shot of the group photo resting on the empty table when all is said and done.
7. Megan Thee Stallion — “Big Ole Freak”
Megan Thee Stallion has straight up infuriated a certain type of rap conservative who wants female lyricists to cover up from head to toe. She’s flaunted her sexuality just as much as her polished rhyme skills for the best part of the year, so it’s only right that both are on prominent display in the breakout video from her 2018 EP, Tina Snow. Bubble baths, ring swings, and a bevy of twerking Hotties highlight Megan’s confidently sexual declaration of independence and introduced her to the world with a video that even elicited thirsty tweets from Trey Songz himself.
6. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie — “Look Back At It”
A Boogie’s Michael Jackson sampling goes behind just the interpolated melodies of his juggernaut single from Hoodie SZN. There’s also a visual tribute to Jackson’s 1991 video for “Black Or White” — itself a homage to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” — that finds viral social star Backpack Kid joining A Boogie roaming the halls in a high school musical reproduction. It’s a fun song with a fun video — what more needs to be said?
5. JID — “Off Da Zoinkys”
Notorious cinephile JID reaches deep in his bag of visual references for this video from DiCaprio 2. In it, he pays homage to director Robert Altman’s genre-defining take on film noir with a shot-for-shot remake of the opening from The Long Goodbye starring Baby Driver’s Ansel Elgort. JID himself only makes a cameo appearance at the rooftop party scene across the valley, but his impact has already been felt in the spectacularly prolific rhyme schemes of “Off Da Zoinkys’” rapid-fire lyrics. It’s a bold, interesting choice that establishes JID as the type of artist who values creativity over notoriety — exactly the kind that sticks around for a good, long while.
4. Cardi B and Bruno Mars — “Please Me”
It’s easy to miss these types of videos. Framed as a throwback to late-90s, early-2000s pop clips that usually featured narratives mainly as a contrivance to throw together two groups of dancers for an extended, conversational choreography sequence, “Please Me” also takes visual cues from ‘80s movies, Chicano lowrider culture, and the early-90s New Jack Swing that Bruno used to great effect on his last album, 24K Magic. Cardi and Bruno’s flirtatious back-and-forth is the stuff thousands of millennial teenage fantasies were made of and the nostalgic appeal of the video is undeniable.
3. Tyler The Creator — “Earfquake”
To think, this could have been a throwaway cut from one of Justin Bieber or Rihanna’s writer camp sessions, never seeing the light of day. Instead, Tyler The Creator turned their rejections into one of his first true pop hits, complete with a hilarious visual that introduces us to the Igor alter ego that narratives his latest album. Tracee Ellis Ross makes one of her classic comedic music video appearances as an awkward talk show host as Tyler prances in the suit and wig that he told fans at his Apple release party were “hot as f*ck… but the vision was executed!” What a vision it is.
2. Lil Nas X — “Old Town Road”
The word “phenom” doesn’t get used enough these days to describe musicians, but thankfully, Lil Nas X’s success has delivered plenty of opportunities for its use. After the controversy surrounding his viral single’s classification launched it to the stratosphere of pop culture awareness, it might have been difficult to imagine how the video — released more than five months after the original song — could possibly live up to that towering success. Then Vince Staples shows up to tell some neighborhood kids to stop dancing on Lil Nas’ horse and Chris Rock does his thing and we all got an answer that was better than we could ever have hoped. Whatever else happens with Lil Nas’ career after this, he’ll always have “Old Town Road” and the knowledge that he lived up to its lyrics and rode it ‘til the wheels fell off.
1. DJ Khaled with Nipsey Hussle and John Legend — “Higher”
The only video on this list that could possibly have surpassed “Old Town Road” for cultural impact, DJ Khaled’s collaboration with Nipsey Hussle was completed shortly before the late, great rap entrepreneur’s April death, but feels a lot like a fitting goodbye. There are the shots of Nipsey backlit by the sun and caressed by a wind-rippled silk suit, looking for all the world like Nip looking down from heaven. There’s that choir-assisted, gospel-influenced John Legend chorus, evoking something from a Black Christian homegoing service. There are Nipsey’s words, like a benediction ringing out from beyond the veil to instruct us all to carry on his legacy and live by his example. How much of the video was as originally conceived and how much was edited to create those feelings is unknown, but that doesn’t matter as much as the sense that the imagery, the messaging, and the timing were all fated and that Nipsey’s final gift was the assurance that ascension is possible, despite all odds and obstacles.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.