Rap videos have become somewhat formulaic over the years. Rent the latest cars for whip appeal, hire the finest in video girls, add some flashy jewelry and the infamous entourage and a chart topping video is born. In the midst of rap videos cluttered with fast cars and fast women few artists choose to set themselves apart and take a creative approach to creating videos for their singles. In 2006 the stand out videos featured everything from psychiatric tests to step dance and graffiti and itâ€™s their artistic concepts that make them the most memorable.
10. Kanye West â€“ Touch the Sky
The video for â€œTouch the Skyâ€ was in a 70s mini-movie style. It profiles the adventures of Evel Kanyevel, a parody of stuntman, Evel Knievel, who attempts to fly a rocket across a canyon unsuccessfully. The video references Kanyeâ€™s comments concerning President Bush when a reporter questions Evel Kanyevel about his comments regarding President Nixon. The reporter is then rudely interrupted by Kanyevelâ€™s ex-girlfriend and her friend played by actresses, Nia Long and Tracee Ellis Ross, who accuse Kanyevel of selling out due to his new White trophy wife played by Pamela Anderson. The â€œTouch The Skyâ€ video had many celebrity cameos and also served as a debut feature for Lupe Fiasco. While Kanyeâ€™s video may not have won the hearts of the European MTV Awards judges, he earned a spot on our top ten however; many question whether it was well worth the million dollar budget.
9. Busta Rhymes – Touch It Remix
The video for â€œTouch It Remixâ€ was rather simple. The song featured artists, Lloyd Banks, Spliff Star, Mary J. Blige, Rah Digga, Papoose, Missy Elliott, DMX, and each spit their bars in a specific color scheme. The introduction involved a comical step dance battle between elementary school girls and Busta Rhymes and Spliff Star to the bass beat of â€œTouch It.â€ The concept to the video laid deeper than the aesthetics but rather the idea of bringing together so many artists on one song and video in the midst of all the rapper beefs going on in the music industry. Busta Rhymes successfully displayed unity in the face of all the tension and reminded viewers of what rap is really about.
8. Talib Kweli – Listen
The video for â€œListenâ€ is truly a tribute to the artist. Throughout the video Talib walks down a Brooklyn street with some oversized headphones and with every â€œlistenâ€ said in the chorus a graffiti tagged visualization appears on the screen. The song â€œListenâ€ emphasizes that people be aware of what they are listening to so throughout the video everyone is sporting headphones. As Talib strolls down the street he encounters several locals who each are wearing headphones and for seconds at a time they each become paintings themselves. The artist is even pictured in the background painting portraits showing Talibâ€™s continued devotion to the true art of hip-hop.
7. Busta Rhymes – In The Ghetto
Busta Rhymes, with the help of the late Rick James, relay to the viewers the lives of those in the inner city. The video tours the ghetto entirely in black and white and showcases the lives of hardworking individuals and children who live there as well as the hustlers and drug lords. Although, Rick James passed away his spirit still lived on throughout the video where the camera scanned street corners where colorful graffiti murals immortalized James in honor of his musical achievements.
6. Lupe Fiasco – Daydream
The fashionable Lupe Fiasco plays a shop owner in his video for â€œDaydream,â€ featuring the vocals of Jill Scott. Lupe opens the store early in the morning and while arranging the displays and getting himself settled he daydreams a robot comes to life and follows him around. While in most videos the R&B vocalist would play a physical role in the video or be excluded entirely, Jill Scott becomes part of Lupeâ€™s daydream in addition to the robot. Jill Scott plays the Billie Holidayesque portrait of a jazz singer on the cover of a vinyl record where the portrait comes to life and sings. â€œDaydreamâ€ touches on Lupeâ€™s youthful side of comic books and toys with optical illusions.
5. Akon – Ghetto Remix
The concept behind the video for the â€œGhetto Remixâ€ is similar with that of Busta Rhymeâ€™s â€œIn The Ghettoâ€ however, Akon provided more international appeal. Rather than just touring the inner cities of America, Akon goes global and pictures the ghettos of countries across the world. The video features Ali B who raps in Dutch and in the hook, Akon shouts out the poor in several languages. Rap has become so centered on America that many fail to realize it has become a global phenomenon. The video for â€œGhetto Remixâ€ reminded viewers that rap spans more than just east coast and west coast beefs.
4. Nas – Hip Hop Is Dead
Nas ruffled many feathers with his album title, Hip Hop Is Dead, and used the titled single to bring his concept to life. The video begins with a public service announcement detailing the abolishment of Hip Hop and its death. Throughout the video wanted posters of Nas are plastered on city walls due to his disobedience with the abolishment of Hip Hop and him continuing to claim the title of an emcee. Nas and his constituents are pictured similar to Black Panthers in all black underground packaging his CD titled, â€œThe N,â€ for distribution. The party is later ambushed by the police however; they are able to escape just in time for the rally led by Nas in hip-hopâ€™s defense as the last link.
3. Gnarls Barkley – Crazy
In accordance with the theme of psychosis, the video for â€œCrazyâ€ uses the theme of the Rorschach ink blot test which was typically given to psychiatric patients in order to determine oneâ€™s level of psychosis. Whether someone was crazy was all dependent on their perception of the ink blots on the cards and in the video, both Cee-Lo and Dangermouse are in the midst of the ink blots. This was as if to say that the viewerâ€™s ability to see Cee-Lo singing meant that they too were crazy like the song entailed.
2. Outkast – Morris Brown
The title of the video â€œMorris Brownâ€ was inspired from the historically Black institution, Morris Brown College, famed for their exemplary marching band. The imagery of the video is like that of a Peewee Herman show where faces appear in the walls and purple dogs are able to speak with humans. The emphasis of the songâ€™s track is a marching band sound so throughout the video Big Boi is driving a cream Cadillac where drums and symbols pop out the trunk of the car and play to the beat of the song. Every inanimate object from flowers to even the sun is brought to life and sings along with the chorus. The videoâ€™s almost cartoon like appearance is different and reflects the OutKast reputation of eclectic and remarkable work.
1. Ludacris – Runaway Love
Every now and then a commercial artist makes a conscious effort to address a social issue and Ludacrisâ€™ video for â€œRunaway Loveâ€ was one of them. The song showcases the lives of some young female runaways and their reasons for fleeing home. As the lyrics told the story the video showed each girl, one being Keke Palmer from Akeelah and the Bee, being a victim of bad circumstances and running away. Each girl encounters Mary J. Blige as she sings the chorus and at the end of the video several runaways join both Mary and Ludacris where they are comforted as a group. Runaways are rarely addressed in music so the video set itself apart from others.