Let’s face it: Rap videos can be like Mad Libs. Fill in the blanks with [expensive] car, exotic destination, liquor brand, nightclub of choice, some homeys. Compile. Complete. Not this year’s batch of MTV VMA nominees for Best Hip-Hop Video though.
What’s amazing about the 2014 crop is that each took a different approach to making a music video. Stylistically, visually, length-wise, even in the way that the clips engage with the viewer — every video stands on its own.
There may be only one winner, but there will be no losers in this category on Sunday, August 24. Here’s why.
Kanye West “Black Skinhead”
Release Date: July 21, 2013
Yeezy unleashed a fury with his “Black Skinhead” visual, his second from Yeezus. After a version of the video was leaked in early July ’13, ’Ye delivered the official version a couple weeks later. There wasn’t much changed, other than an added interactive component, with a middle finger for a cursor. Kanye collaborated on the work with Nick Knight, who had previously shot West and wife Kim Kardashian, and later directed them in the “Bound 2″ video.
The “Skinhead” vid is as aggressive as the song itself, featuring a CGI version of the rap star, shirtless, gyrating on screen throughout, with occasional cuts to shots of ferocious-looking dobermans. Fitting, since there’s no doubt that ’Ye’s a beast.
Release Date: September 9, 2013
On August 25, 2013, Eminem revealed the title of his upcoming album. The lead single from The Marshall Mathers LP 2 arrived just two days later, and the accompanying video dropped only two weeks after that. On the song, Em proclaims it’s time to “take it back to straight hip-hop and start it from scratch.”
And that’s exactly what he did both sonically, on the Rick Rubin-produced joint, and visually, with the accompanying Syndrome-directed video. There’s a Beatie Boys vibe throughout, as well as appearances from Kendrick Lamar, Slaughterhouse, Kid Rock, Yelawolf, Rubin and more. Shot in Brooklyn, the grainy-yet-colorful video was the first of many elements that made fans go berserk for his eighth solo disc.
Drake “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Released the same week as his third album, Nothing Was the Same, Drizzy’s “Hold On” visuals took it back to his roots — and we mean his acting days. The Bill Pope-directed clip is completely narrative driven, with no performance shots, but instead “full of acting because I’m dying to get back into acting,” Aubrey explained to MTV News last year.
The Toronto rapper added that he “based it off of some of the old Michael Jackson videos like ‘Moonwalker,’ so it’s sort of exciting, violent a little and scary a little, but it’s great.” And it was great. The “Scarface”-inspired, seven-minute clip (there’s not even music for the first three) is set in 1985 Miami, and also features a cameo from A$AP Rocky. Maybe we’ll catch you at the Movie Awards next year, Drake?
Childish Gambino “3005”
Release Date: December 6, 2013
Any other Tuesday would have been predictably run-of-the-mill but the first Tuesday in December was anything but that for Childish. His sophomore album, Because the Internet, hit stores, and the video for the project’s lead single, “3005,” hit well, the Internet.
In the clip, Donald takes fans — and a teddy bear — on a lengthy ferris wheel ride, as the camera focuses in on the rapper’s face for each of his two verses and reverses angles for some unsteady bobbing during the hook. Without ever looking at the camera, the 30-year-old captures the viewers’ attention throughout, as he rhymes his verses with a calm nonchalance rarely seen in rap videos.
Wiz Khalifa “We Dem Boyz”
Release Date: April 14, 2014
The lead single for Wiz Khalifa’s upcoming album, Blacc Hollywood, had a nice buzz early this year, but things really catapulted to another level with the release of the accompanying music video. The one-shot visual, directed by Ethan Lader, spotlighted a day in the ’hood for Wiz and his homey, with appearances by Big K.R.I.T., Ty Dolla $ign, Rich Homie Quan and more. The ice-cream truck, the barbecue, the dancing — days don’t get much better than this. But that’s the life when you dem boyz.