Top 3 Rap and Hip-Hop Music Videos That Make The Songs Even Better
Written by Erick Boone
Hip-hop music videos have garnered a reputation of being... less than creative. They’re known for relying on a few recurring themes: half-naked women, expensive cars and jewelry, and all too often, some aspect of gang culture.
Trying to find a music video that did not contain at least one of those things was like looking for a four-leaf clover. I was lucky if the video told any kind of coherent story at all.
But every so often there are some hip-hop music videos that go above and beyond what I expect. They are just as creative as the songs that accompany them, and sometimes even more so.
I’ve highlighted these kinds of music videos and include three that I took on lives of their own.
Kevin’s Heart by J. Cole
It should come as no surprise that J. Cole is on this list. His music videos have become known for their cinematic quality, seeming less like videos and more like short films. But this is no accident. J. Cole has taken an active role in the process by directing both his own videos as well as those of other rappers. In fact, he co-directed nearly all of the videos for his most recent album, KOD.
The seventh track on the KOD album is entitled Kevin’s Heart. The title of the song is, of course, a reference to the famous comedian Kevin Hart, who had been exposed for having cheated on his wife months prior to the song’s release.
In the song, J. Cole raps from the perspective of a man who struggles with temptation and infidelity. He is torn between being a faithful partner and indulging in a life of promiscuity. Although he acknowledges the love he has for his wife, he succumbs to his temptations. The conflict, therefore, seems to come mostly from his need to hide his actions.
The music video takes the song in a different direction. Given the title, perhaps casting Kevin Hart in the music video was an obvious choice. Yet this choice changes the tone of the song entirely. Instead of a man trying to hide his actions, Kevin is forced to face the consequences. The music video shows him in the wake of the scandal. He runs into several flirtatious women and even more people who cast looks of steely disappointment. Ultimately, an older man admonishes him to learn from his mistakes.
Kevin Hart’s appearance in a music video for a song about his own infidelity gives the song a feeling that is more grounded in reality. It acts as almost a cautionary tale. Not to mention, it seems like the first step in a long journey Kevin has to take in order to right his wrongs.
SAD! by XXXTENTACION
It has been nearly a year since XXXTENTACION was gunned down in Miami. The 20-year-old rapper left a notable legacy despite his life being cut short. In the span of 12 months, X released two albums, two mixtapes, and several music videos. However, he also spent much of that time embroiled in personal scandal. He is likely one of the few artists that can generate just as much condemnation as admiration!
Throughout much of his career, XXXTENTACION faced a domestic assault charge. The accusation drove Spotify to pull X’s music from the platform, but the decision was reversed when Rap superstar Kendrick Lamar came to X’s defense. Kendrick admitted to being a fan of X’s music, imploring his own fans to listen as well. He then praised the raw emotion X showed in his songs that drew so many others to the rapper, despite the controversy
Perhaps the most powerful song X released was the song “SAD!”, from his second album. In the song, X mourns the end of a relationship. He laments the hardships of going through a breakup and considers suicide as an alternative to the pain of heartache. “SAD!” became an instant hit and another example of what Kendrick labeled as “Raw emotion.” Unfortunately, three months after its release, XXXTENTACION was killed in his hometown.
The music video for “SAD!” was released ten days after XXXTENTACION’s death. Fans were shocked to see that the video featured X attending his own funeral. In fact, the music video has less to do with the story of “SAD!” and more to do with the story of XXXTENTACION. At the beginning of the video, all that is visible is a pair of eyes. They seem to gaze directly into the soul of the viewer while a string of questions appear at the bottom of the screen seem. Then it cuts to a scene of X walking toward a casket. Inside is the body of his former self, complete with the iconic black and blond dreads he had at the beginning of his career.
Several things happen: X’s former self who laid in the coffin springs to life in an apparent attempt to murder the current self. The current X fights his former self. The fight is interrupted by flashbacks to a conversation with a reaper-like figure. The figure explains that X was to bring joy and love to the world. X is ultimately victorious over his former self.
The video is open to interpretation. One can imagine that his fight with himself was an illusion to an inner struggle to become a better person. For this video to be released after his death, it is especially sad to think it might depict someone who was ready to start a new life.
$ave Dat Money by Lil Dicky
Lil Dicky is like a combination of Adam Sandler and Logic. He’s the hip-hop funny guy. Most of his songs might sound a bit more like stand up comedy pieces that rhyme. That is not to say that he can’t rap. He is a professional rapper. That is the name of his debut album after all. It’s just that Lil Dicky’s success comes from subverting everything that people expect rap to look and sound like. Accordingly, Dicky has made both songs and music videos that push the boundaries of rap, while also still somehow sounding good.
The brilliance of this balancing act is perhaps best captured with a song like $ave Dat Money. In direct contrast to most hip-hop songs, Lil Dicky spends an entire song bragging about not spending money. Instead, he raps about saving money in ways that are as ridiculous as they are clever. He drops gems like: “I wear the same pair of jeans everyday” and “My company [is] in Delaware”.
Yet, it works. The song still has a catchy hook, a nice beat, and a feature that really has nothing to do with the topic. However, the song wasn’t popular until the video was released. Despite how ridiculous the song is; the music video goes a step further.
Staying true to the nature of the song, Lil Dicky attempted to make a music video while saving as much money as possible. The video begins with him walking around Los Angeles in search of filming locations. The catch: he’s looking to do everything for free. He goes door-to-door in a rich neighborhood looking for a mansion to borrow for a few minutes to get the shots needed for his stereotypical hip-hop video. And then he does the same thing at a sports car dealership. And then again at a club.
Somehow he manages to find people willing to let him use their fancy cars and houses for free. He even runs into T-Pain and steals some shots from the music video he was shooting to use on his own. Hilariously, not only does Lil Dicky manage to create a music video for exactly $0, he actually made money from it by including product placement.
These music videos are a far cry from the standard Hip-Hop videos one might see on MTV. They have added new elements to the music. Kevin’s Heart turned a song about infidelity into a meta-commentary about the consequences of cheating by including the song’s namesake as the lead actor. SAD! acts as an eerie final message from a rapper whose life was ended early. Even Lil Dicky’s music video, though containing stereotypical elements, pokes fun at the idea by showing the audience that they’re all borrowed anyway.
Hip-Hop music videos don’t have to be one dimensional visual accompaniments to their songs, they can be more. These rappers showed us how to do it.