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

20 videos that boast the biggest budgets and feature the best and most surprising cameos.

As hip hop celebrates its golden anniversary, we delve into the opulent side of the genre—the music videos that spare no expense. These visuals, whether shot on a yacht or supported with a lil’ tech magic, are a testament to hip hop's grandiosity, where budgets soared as high as the songs on Billboard charts.

Money aside, we also take a look at another integral element that has added flair and character to hip-hop music videos—the cameo appearance. From legendary artists to unexpected stars, these cameos have become iconic moments in hip-hop history.

Between the lavishness and unexpected on-screen pop-ups, let's celebrate these unforgettable moments.

And if you want to dive into more hip-hop visual masterpieces that have stood the test of time, tune in to Notarized: Top 50 Greatest Hip Hop Videos of All Time, airing the week of Dec. 25 and the week of Jan. 1 on BET, BET JAMS, and BET SOUL.

  • “Triumph” by Wu-Tang Clan


    Triumph, Wu-Tang Clan

    Wu-Tang Clan’s “Triumph” stands as a testament to hip hop grandeur, commanding a hefty $1 million budget that fueled an epic action-packed spectacle and assembled a colossal cast, setting a new standard for extravagance in music videos. (Blink and you’ll miss a glimpse at Quincy Jones and his daughter, Kidada.)

  • “2 Legit 2 Quit” by MC Hammer


    2 Legit 2 Quit, MC Hammer

    MC Hammer’s “2 Legit 2 Quit” rewrote the rules of music videos with a lavish $2.5 million budget, boasting star-studded cameos (James Brown!), jaw-dropping sets, and dance moves that redefine showmanship. This solidifies the video’s status as a blockbuster in the visual realm of hip hop.

  • “Victory” by Diddy


    Victory, Diddy feat. The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes

    Diddy’s “Victory” emerges as a cinematic masterpiece, commanding a $2.7 million budget that brought a blockbuster-like cast, including actors Dennis Hopper and Danny DeVito, alongside elaborate sets and high-octane visuals, reshaping the landscape of opulence in hip-hop visuals.

  • “Heartbreaker” by Mariah Carey feat. JAY-Z


    Heartbreaker, Mariah Carey feat. JAY-Z

    Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker,” a visual spectacle with a $2.5 million investment, where she teams up with JAY-Z for a glamorous video featuring high-end fashion (even in animation), one of Hov’s best feature verses, and an unforgettable bathroom girl fight scene.

  • “What’s It Gonna Be?!” by Busta Rhymes feat. Janet Jackson


    What’s It Gonna Be, Busta Rhymes feat. Janet Jackson

    Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson’s “What’s It Gonna Be?!" is a $2 million flex that breaks the mold with CGI effects that had never been seen before at that time, creating a futuristic masterpiece. Complete with a mini marching band, silver shapeshifting figures, and dominatrix costumes, this video once defied conventional norms found in the hip-hop visuals of its time.

  • “She’s A Bitch” by Missy Elliott


    She’s A Bitch, Missy Elliott

    Missy Elliott’s “She’s A Bitch,” a visual spectacle with a $2 million investment, doesn't just push boundaries; it obliterates them. With cutting-edge special effects and avant-garde visuals, Missy showcases her commitment to going to the very edge of creative limits in the hip-hop realm.

  • “Big Pimpin’” by JAY-Z feat. UGK


    Big Pimpin’, Jay-Z feat. UGK

    With a $2.5 million budget, Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin’" video is more than just a music video; it's a showcase of how lavish life can be, featuring yachts, exotic locations, and an ensemble of beautiful women.

  • “Ready or Not” by Fugees


    Ready or Not, Fugees

    Fugees’ “Ready or Not,” crafted with a $1.3 million budget, unfolds into a mini (and pretty epic) action film. The vid blends historical and futuristic elements with intricate storytelling and stunning cinematography—helicopters, explosions, everything. It captivates audiences and stands as a testament to the artistry (and price tag) of great hip-hop visuals.

  • “Miami” by Will Smith


    Miami, Will Smith

    Will Smith’s “Miami,” boasting a $2.5 million budget, isn’t just a video—it’s a vibrant celebration of the city’s energy. With extravagant visuals, luxury yachts, and a nod to the good life, it showcases the epitome of style in hip-hop.

  • “Stronger” by Kanye West


    Stronger, Kanye West

    Kanye West’s “Stronger,” flexing with a $1 million budget, delivers futuristic visuals and high-end fashion, redefining extravagance and innovation in the hip-hop video landscape with a fresh and groundbreaking approach.

  • “Not Tonight (Remix)” by Lil’ Kim


    Not Tonight (Remix), Lil’ Kim feat. Missy Elliott, Da Brat, Left Eye and Angie Martinez

    Lil' Kim's "Not Tonight" remix features an ensemble cast of female rap royalty, including Missy Elliott and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. But the true sparkle of the music video came when the lens got a glimpse of Black queens of hip-hop like Mary J. Blige, Total and, of course, Queen Latifah. (The ladies are really just cuttin’ up the entire video!) This empowering collaboration marked a pivotal moment for women in hip-hop, demonstrating unity and strength.

  • “Touch The Sky” by Kanye West feat. Lupe Fiasco


    Touch The Sky, Kanye West feat. Lupe Fiasco

    Kanye West's "Touch The Sky" stars Pamela Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Nia Long in a dare devil-inspired adventure. The unexpected appearances showcase the relationship in entertainment between music and on-screen royalty, especially in hip-hop.

  • “King of Rock” Run-DMC


    King of Rock, Run-DMC

    In "King of Rock," Run-DMC punctuates the groundbreaking fusion of hip-hop and rock with unexpected cameos of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis via TV screens. The trio’s hard-hitting vid not only shaped the genre but also set the stage for future nontraditional collaborations.

  • “Change Clothes” by JAY-Z feat. Pharrell


    Change Clothes, JAY-Z feat. Pharrell

    Jay-Z's video features a memorable appearance by Naomi Campbell in her natural habitat–under the bright lights of the runway. Her presence adds a touch of glamour and exemplifies the crossover between hip-hop and high fashion.

  • “Ric Flair Drip” by Offset & Metro Boomin


    Ric Flair Drip, Offset & Metro Boomin

    Offset and Metro Boomin's "Ric Flair Drip" sees the wrestling icon Ric Flair himself making a charismatic cameo. The collaboration pays homage to the 2-time WWE Hall of Famer’s flamboyant style, blending the worlds of hip-hop and sports entertainment.

  • “Lean Back” by Fat Joe feat. Remy Ma, and Terror Squad


    Lean Back, Fat Joe feat. Remy Ma, Terror Squad

    Fat Joe's "Lean Back" video boasts a star-studded lineup, but there’s one cameo that stands out the most – Kevin Hart. Before the Philly-born comedian was the supersized megastar he is today, he made a splash in hip-hop culture during the mid-song skit in the Jessy Terrero-directed MV. 

  • “Let Me Ride” by Dr. Dre


    Let Me Ride, Dr. Dre

    Dr. Dre's "Let Me Ride" gives viewers a shot of fellow West Coast legend Ice Cube. At first glance, this link-up between former NWA partners seems pretty normal. But given the duo’s tumultuous beef at the time, the perfectly placed cameo signified that the tension between these icons was put to rest. Undoubtedly, the video captures the essence of '90s hip-hop culture.

  • “Move That Dope” by Future feat. Pharrell Williams and Pusha T


    Move That Dope, Future feat. Pusha T, Pharrell

    Future's "Move That Dope" features an unexpected cameo from Tyler, The Creator. This collaboration bridges generational gaps, emphasizing the genre's ability to evolve while paying homage to its roots.

  • “The Space Program” by A Tribe Called Quest


    The Space Program, A Tribe Called Quest

    TBH, who wasn’t in this video? A Tribe Called Quest's star-studded "The Space Program" features appearances by everyone from Erykah Badu to Black Thought to Rosario Dawson to Kelly Rowland. In the crew’s final video, there’s even a poignant cameo by the late Phife Dawg. Directed by Warren Fu, the heartfelt moment pays tribute to the group's legacy and the importance of preserving hip-hop's history.

  • “Choices (Yup)” by E-40


    Choices (Yup), E-40

    E-40 chose to put the most cameos in a hip-hop video… maybe ever. The Vallejo MC’s "Choices (Yup)" video showcases almost every recognizable face in entertainment across the board, including Marshawn Lynch, Nicki Minaj, Mike Epps, Big Sean, Bun B, Colin Kaepernick, Nick Cannon, and too many others to name. This star-studded visual underlines the widespread influence of hip-hop, reaching far beyond the music industry and into the DNA of pop culture.

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