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

20 videos that evolved the art form with innovative technology and mastered the art of storytelling.

Step into the rhythm of hip-hop's dynamic evolution over the last five decades as we throw it back to the top 100 music videos that have truly defined the culture.

From the crackle of old-school vinyl to the crispness of high-def cinematography, these videos ride the wave of technological innovation, turning every frame into a visual anthem. But we're not just vibing on the tech – we're diving into the storytelling prowess that elevates these hip-hop narratives. Picture this: videos that are not just a backdrop but masterfully crafted stories. It's not just about the beats; it's about the tales told in every lyric, every scene unfolding a new chapter in the hip-hop saga.

Below, check out 10 videos that pushed the tech boundaries, setting the stage for hip-hop's future. And for those hungry for stories that transcend the rhymes, we've got another 10 videos that showcase the storytelling finesse of hip-hop – each frame a stroke in the masterpiece of the genre's visual legacy.

Watching these videos isn’t just about consuming the music. It’s embarking on a captivating journey, visually and sonically. If you want to dive into more hip-hop masterpieces that have stood the test of time, don't miss Notarized: Top 50 Greatest Hip Hop Videos of All Time, premiering on December 26 at 8 p.m. ET. on BET, BET JAMS, and BET SOUL.

  • “Power” by Kanye West

    YouTube

    Power, Kanye West

    In “Power,” Kanye West transforms surfaces into a cosmic carnival with 3D projection mapping. Kanye transforms what could have been a simple music video into a three-dimensional tapestry as the walls come alive when intricate patterns and cosmic images dynamically dance across surfaces. It’s truly the visual mic drop that symbolizes hip-hop’s unbridled ambition and ability to push boundaries. 

  • “90210” by Travis Scott

    YouTube

    90201, Travis Scott

    Travis Scott’s “90210” is enthralling. The eclectic use of stop motion animation catapults the video into an otherworldly realm, depicting Travis journeying through a fantastical landscape where reality intertwines with the extraordinary. As the stop-motion magic unfolds, viewers are treated to a visual feast, witnessing Travis’s ascent into a dreamlike universe where every frame is a testament to the boundless creativity of hip-hop storytelling.

  • “How We Roll” by Big Pun

    YouTube

    How We Roll, Big Pun

    Big Pun’s music video for “How We Roll” unfolds like a visual marvel. Through animated sequences, the video unfolds like a colorful canvas, illustrating the lively essence of the track. It’s a spectacle that perfectly complements the relentless energy of his rhymes.

  • “The Heart Part 5” by Kendrick Lamar

    YouTube

    The Heart Part 5, Kendrick Lamar

    In the music video for “The Heart Part 5,” Kendrick Lamar employs cutting-edge deepfake technology to seamlessly transform his appearance. The award-winning rapper morphs into different characters that reflect the nuanced layers of his artistic identity, the pressures of fame, and, ultimately, Black culture. The innovative tech not only adds a surreal dimension to the video but also salutes the transformative power of hip-hop storytelling.

  • “6 Feet Underground” by Ja Rule

    YouTube

    6 Feet Underground, Ja Rule

    Ja Rule’s “6 Feet Underground” takes us on a journey through an ever-shifting digital landscape. The combination of green screen wizardry and video game technology crafts a visually immersive experience, where each frame becomes a portal into a virtual world that pulsates with the rhythm of his rhymes.

  • “Rollout (My Business)” by Ludacris

    YouTube

    Rollout (My Business), Ludacris

    Ludacris unleashes the magic of Motion Capture Animation for “Rollout (My Business),” a testament to hip-hop’s knack for innovation. Turning every frame into a playground, Luda’s music video unfolds as a vibrant spectacle—enlarged head, animated gestures, and all—and not only showcases his performance prowess but invites viewers into a visually captivating experience where the fusion of music and animation reaches new heights.

  • “Crown” by Run The Jewels

    YouTube

    Crown, Run The Jewels

    Run The Jewels invites you into a 360-degree hip-hop universe with “Crown.” Through VR technology, audiences are immersed in a surreal environment, interacting with the dynamic look of the video in an unprecedented way. With the duo’s harnessing of this tech power to create an immersive and interactive journey, crown them kings of music videos.

  • “Wishing Well” by Juice WRLD

    YouTube

    Wishing Well, Juice WRLD

    Juice WRLD’s “Wishing Well” uses animation to illustrate the late artist. It’s not only a poignant twist, making you feel the beats and the emotions, but also a heartfelt tribute showcasing hip-hop’s ability to keep our culture and its faves alive.

  • “Behind Bars” by Slick Rick

    YouTube

    Behind Bars, Slick Rick

    A glimpse into Slick Rick’s time in the slammer, “Behind Bars,” illustrates his story using stop-motion animation. The London-born MC’s charismatic persona takes on new black-and-white dimensions and supplies viewers with the impact of “that jail stuff” through an engaging and colorful experience reflective of the OG rapper’s iconic style.

  • “Cash In, Cash Out” by Pharrell Williams feat. 21 Savage and Tyler, The Creator

    YouTube

    Cash In, Cash Out, Pharrell Williams

    Pharrell Williams’ “Cash In, Cash Out” music video ventures into the futuristic with the imaginative integration of CGI claymation. Through cutting-edge CGI, the video transports the audience into a visually striking experience where the three rappers praise the love and power of wealth, also with the help of zoetrope-like movements. The CGI animation enhances the video’s futuristic narrative, emphasizing the convergence of technology and creativity in the ever-evolving landscape of hip-hop visuals.

  • “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” by Geto Boys

    YouTube

    Mind Playing Tricks On Me, Geto Boys

    “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” by Geto Boys offers a gritty depiction of paranoia and psychological struggles. The collaborative direction by Richard Hunt enhances the intensity of the lyrics, creating a timeless example of hip-hop storytelling through its creepy noir cinematography.

  • “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar

    YouTube

    Alright, Kendrick Lamar

    Colin Tilley’s collaboration with Kendrick Lamar on “Alright” brings the song’s socio-political narrative to life. The powerful visuals resonate with the struggles against systemic issues, making it a compelling piece that aligns with the themes of the Black Lives Matter movement.

  • “Never Catch Me” by Flying Lotus

    YouTube

    Never Catch Me, Flying Lotus

    Hiro Murai’s direction in “Never Catch Me” by Flying Lotus takes viewers on a surreal journey exploring life and death. The beautifully choreographed scenes and poignant storytelling make it a standout in hip-hop visual storytelling, capturing emotional depth through innovative visuals.

  • “Hypnotize” by The Notorious B.I.G.

    YouTube

    Hypnotize, The Notorious B.I.G.

    In “Hypnotize,” directed by Paul Hunter, the video becomes a cinematic homage to ‘70s crime dramas. The visuals perfectly match Biggie’s larger-than-life persona and lyrical storytelling, creating a seamless narrative that echoes the song’s themes.

  • “Prima Donna” by Vince Staples

    YouTube

    Prima Donna, Vince Staples

    Nabil Elderkin’s collaboration with Vince Staples in “Prima Donna” delves into the struggles of fame, mental health, and societal expectations. The surreal elements and seamless storytelling make it a standout in hip-hop visual storytelling, offering a unique perspective on the artist’s journey.

  • “Whack World” (Visual Album) by Tierra Whack

    YouTube

    Whack World, Tierra Whack

    More than just a music video, Tierra Whack’s “Whack World” visual album, directed by Thibaut Duverneix and Mathieu Léger, unfolds a series of one-minute visual tales. The album’s innovative approach showcases Whack’s storytelling versatility in a captivating way, pushing the boundaries of conventional music videos.

  • “Flight of the Navigator” by Childish Gambino

    YouTube

    I. Flight of the Navigator, Childish Gambino

    Childish Gambino’s “I. Flight of the Navigator,” directed by Hiro Murai, immerses viewers into Gambino’s dreamlike narrative. The melancholic but poignant storytelling contribute to the emotional depth of the song, creating a visual experience that complements the music.

  • “Sam (Is Dead)” by Odd Future

    YouTube

    Sam (Is Dead), Tyler, The Creator

    In “Sam (Is Dead),” directed by Tyler, The Creator (as Wolf Haley), Odd Future crafts a gritty war narrative infused with dark humor. The irreverent style and storytelling make it a distinctive addition to the collective’s visual repertoire.

  • “It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube

    YouTube

    It Was A Good Day, Ice Cube

    The music video for “It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube, directed by F. Gary Gray, vividly depicts a carefree day in South Central LA, celebrating life’s simple pleasures. Its storytelling captures the lyrics' essence and emphasizes the importance of finding joy in everyday moments, contributing to the song’s cultural impact.

  • “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony

    YouTube

    Tha Crossroads, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

    Michael Martin’s direction in “Tha Crossroads” tells a heartfelt story about loss and spiritual redemption. The emotional narrative aligns seamlessly with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s introspective lyrics, creating a memorable visual representation of the song’s themes.

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