Top 100 Music Videos That Helped Shape 50 Years of Hip Hop

20 visual masterpieces that deserve their place in the spotlight for unique contributions to the genre.

As we close our the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, we honor the hip-hop video gems that defy norms and etch themselves into the cultural tapestry. Beyond the mainstream, these videos bring narratives that resonate, visuals that captivate, and an undeniable impact on the ever-evolving story of hip-hop.

Below, embark on a visual journey through these honorable mentions, a.k.a. artistic masterpieces, each deserving its place in the spotlight for unique contributions to the genre.

Catch more hip-hop visual masterpieces on Notarized: Top 50 Greatest Hip Hop Videos of All Time airing the week of Jan. 1 on BET, BET JAMS, and BET SOUL.

  • “Yonkers” by Tyler, the Creator


    Yonkers, Tyler, the Creator

    Superlative: Most Iconic (and Creepiest) Solo Performance

    Tyler The Creator's "Yonkers" thrusts viewers into the mind of an enigma, a solo performance that transcends traditional hip-hop visuals. The raw authenticity and intense energy set a new standard for solo artistry in the genre.

  • “Work It” by Missy Elliott


    Work It, Missy Elliott

    Superlative: Most Innovative Choreography

    Showcasing choreography that pushes the boundaries of hip-hop dance, Missy Elliott's "Work It" is a canvas of innovation. It, along with Missy’s other visual work, stands as a testament to the Virginia legend’s creative prowess and enduring influence.

  • “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash


    The Message, Grandmaster Flash

    Superlative: Most Influential Old-School Video

    Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" is a visual time capsule, an old-school narrative that laid the foundation for storytelling in hip-hop. Its gritty realism and unfiltered portrayal of urban life remain pivotal in the genre's evolution.

  • “John Woo Flick” by Conway The Machine


    Superlative: Flyest Cinematic Stunner

    Conway The Machine's "John Woo Flick" unfolds like a gritty noir film, seamlessly blending hip-hop with cinematic brilliance. This video, a visual narrative masterpiece, elevates the storytelling of Conway and his Griselda brothers.

  • “Drop” by The Pharcyde


    Drop, The Pharcyde

    Superlative: Most Mind-Bending Visuals

    This is God-level creativity. The Pharcyde's "Drop" mesmerizes with its avant-garde, mind-bending visuals, where the alternative LA rap crew spit their record in reverse. This whimsical yet surreal presentation marks a departure from the norm in hip-hop visuals – and secures it as one of the best hip-hop videos of all time.

  • “B.O.B” by Outkast


    B.O.B., Outkast

    Superlative: A Wild Viewing Experience

    Directed by Dave Meyers and the duo, André 3000 and Big Boi, the video explodes with surreal and rapid-fire scenes, vibrant colors, and a sense of controlled chaos. Its futuristic aesthetics match the song's dynamism, creating an unforgettable experience.

  • “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy


    Fight The Power, Public Enemy

    Superlative: Most Politically Charged

    Public Enemy's "Fight The Power" is an unapologetic anthem, its video a call to action that resonates with political fervor. The powerful imagery and activism encapsulate the essence of hip-hop as a vehicle for social change.

  • “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys


    Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z

    Superlative: Best Song About a City

    Icons synonymous with NYC? Jay-Z, of course. Hov’s "Empire State of Mind" rang out from every speaker the second it dropped. It weaves a cinematic journey through the Big Apple, a grandiose portrayal that complements the song's anthemic (and motivational) celebration. 

  • “Beautiful” by Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell


    Beautiful, Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell

    Superlative: Most Laid-Back Vibes

    Snoop Dogg's "Beautiful" emanates laid-back vibes, capturing the essence of California's sun-soaked coolness. Punctuated by Pharrell’s high-note chorus, the video's chill atmosphere and vibrant visuals mirror Snoop's signature West Coast style.

  • “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj


    Super Bass, Nicki Minaj

    Superlative: Best Use of the Color Pink

    Sorry, Cam’Ron. Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" is a vibrant spectacle, a celebration of pink and energy that embodies the artist's flamboyant persona – the pinkprint herself. Even if you prefer Cam’s iconic pink Range and unforgettable fur, this video's playful aesthetic and infectious energy contribute to its status as a pop culture phenomenon.

  • “Happy” by Pharrell

    Happy – Pharrell Williams  - The happy-go-lucky song was not only a feel-good jam, but the lyrics are truly uplifting as well. The world couldn't get enough! (Photo: Universal Studios)
    Happy – Pharrell Williams - The happy-go-lucky song was not only a feel-good jam, but the lyrics are truly uplifting as well. The world couldn't get enough! (Photo: Universal Studios)

    Superlative: Most Uplifting Visuals

    There’s no way not to dance when watching Pharrell's "Happy.” It radiates pure joy. Point blank. The infectious happiness became a global sensation, emphasizing the power of music to evoke positive emotions.

  • “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO


    Party Rock Anthem, LMFAO

    Superlative: Most Infectious Party Vibes

    Who doesn’t want to take a shot while watching LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem,” a wild dance extravaganza? The energetic visuals encapsulate the essence of the wildest party ever, making it a go-to video for instant celebratory vibes.

  • “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar

    KENDRICK LAMAR - HUMBLE. - (Photo: Interscope)

    Photo: Interscope

    KENDRICK LAMAR - HUMBLE. - (Photo: Interscope)

    Superlative: Most Visually Striking

    Kendrick Lamar's "HUMBLE" is a dynamic exploration of contrasts and symbolism. Its powerful imagery adds depth to Kendrick's message, which is ironically braggadocious, establishing it as a visual masterpiece.

  • “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X


    Old Town Road, Lil Nas X

    Superlative: Best Hip-Hop and Country Blend

    Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" defies genre conventions, blending hip-hop with country influences. Kids and adults adore the video's creative fusion and bold visuals, which played a pivotal role in the song's meteoric rise to success.

  • “Stan” by Enimem

    Stan in "Stan" by Eminem - Eminem gives this anonymous crazed fan an unforgettable identity on his The Marshall Mathers LP. With haunting lyrics from Dido's "Thank You," Em takes on the fictional persona of Stanley Mitchell to give a first-person account of what it might feel like to be ignored by someone you admire.(Photo: Interscope Records)

    Superlative: Most Gripping Narrative

    Eminem's "Stan" is a gripping narrative masterpiece, a video that unfolds like a dark, cinematic story. The video's storytelling prowess and emotional impact make it an enduring classic.

  • “Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dogg


    Gin and Juice, Snoop Dogg

    Superlative: Most Iconic West Coast Party

    No better illustration of a West Coast-style kickback than Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice. It’s an essential video in hip-hop's visual heritage, and it undeniably defines the early ‘90s era.

  • “Killa Cam” by Cam’ron

    Superlative: Best Use of a Whip

    Cars are a symbol of status and swagger in hip-hop visuals. But there‘s no better iconic vehicle than the 2003 pink Range Rover featured in Cam’ron’s "Killa Cam.” The car not only serves as a fly backdrop but also underscores how music videos defined what was culturally significant at any point in time – no matter how big or small.

  • “Summertime” by Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff


    Summertime, Will Smith & DJ Jazzy Jeff

    Superlative: Most Nostalgic Vibes

    An enduring anthem for celebrations, Will Smith's "Summertime" captures the essence of carefree summers. The visuals are a nostalgic journey through 88-degree days, sneak-kissing your crush, hitting up the car wash, and just all-around cool vibes. 

  • “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot


    Baby Got Back, Sir Mix-a-Lot

    Superlative: Most Body-Positive Celebration

    Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” boldly positions itself as a body-positive anthem, celebrating curves and rejecting conventional beauty standards. Through lively visuals and playful choreography, the video unapologetically embraces diverse body shapes, emphasizing Sir Mix-A-Lot’s appreciation for women with fuller figures while challenging societal norms.

  • “Doo Wop (That Thing)” - Lauryn Hill

    Lauryn Hill, "Doo Wop (That Thing)"
    Lauryn Hill, "Doo Wop (That Thing)" - This classic doo-wop/hip hop blend from Lauryn Hill implored young women to respect themselves and their bodies.(Photo: RuffHouse Records)

    Superlative: Most Empowering Message

    The video for Lauryn Hill’ “Doo Wop (That Thing)” is a powerful visual counterpart to its empowering message. The Fugees frontwoman delivers a call for self-respect and individual empowerment, set against a vibrant backdrop of vibrant colors, urban scenes, and a diverse cast. The video emphasizes Hill’s assertion that self-worth transcends societal expectations, urging listeners to embrace their authenticity and reject external pressures.

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