December 17, 2018 – 3:56 pm
Music videos came back strong in 2018.
Hip-hop has taken full advantage of visual platforms like YouTube. Keeping the same energy as the days of Rap City: Tha Basement and Direct Effect, music videos are back and bigger than ever.
Hip-hop’s landscape has changed radically since the golden age of music videos. Artists from all different walks of life are roaming the field, constantly raising the bar for music videos. From the trippy aesthetics of new generation rappers like Trippie Redd and Smokepurrp, hilarious efforts of Blac Youngsta and the regal aesthetics from Beyonce and Jay-Z, 2018 has been filled with amazing music videos.
VIBE took a look at these visuals and assembled a collection of the finest hip-hop and R&B music videos of the year. The videos below display the meaningful connection that a director created with an artist that enables the two to capture the emotion and feelings the artist laid down on wax. In no specific order, take a look at the 25 best hip-hop and R&B music videos of 2018.
READ MORE: 25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018
The Carters, “Apesh*t” | Director: Ricky Saiz
The Carters took over the Louvre in Paris for the visual of Everything is Love lead single “Apesh*t.” In the video, the couple poses in front of several Renaissance-era artworks including “The Winged Victory of Samothrace,” “The Coronation of Napoleon,” and the “Mona Lisa.” A group of dancers accompanies the Carters in several shots around the empty halls of the historic museum. The video contains themes of wealth and royalty which connects the Carters to the artwork that surrounds them in the museum. It received 8 nominations at the MTV Video Music Awards including Best Hip-Hop Video, Best Direction, and a nomination for Best Music Video at the 2019 Grammys.
Childish Gambino, “This Is America” | Director: Hiro Murai
Childish Gambino’s “This is America” is a raw, unfiltered review of black life in America and how it relates to American culture as a whole. The lyrics in the song inspects the correlation between the black community, as well as America’s, reaction to the political and cultural turmoil that’s plaguing the country.
The imagery in the Hiro Murai-directed clip is heavy as everything from gun violence to Gambino adopting a pose similar to a Jim Crow caricature are on full blown display. The chaotic scene of people running and police cars exploding are largely overshadowed by Gambino and a group of school children showing off their impressive dance moves ignoring everything that’s happening behind them — a reference to American pop culture blinding people from the real issues by shoving entertainment in their faces. The visual ends with Gambino running through a darkened portion of the warehouse away from the mob of people that caused the uproar in the previous scenes. It’s a chilling reminder that if we continue to ignore the problems this country faces, we’ll play a part in speeding up the downfall the country is already in.
Drake, “God’s Plan” | Director: Karena Evans
Drake and Karena Evans went for the three-peat in 2018 with their work on the first three singles off Drake’s latest album Scorpion. For “God’s Plan,” Evans and Drake gave away every penny of a video budget totaling $996,631.90 to unsuspecting Miami residents. Drake performs several acts of charity in the video including taking people on shopping sprees, delivering toys to children and handing out a scholarship to a student at the University of Miami.
Janelle Monae, “PYNK” | Director: Emma Westenberg
As the YouTube description reads, “PYNK is a brash celebration of creation. Self-love. Sexuality. And P***y Power!” The third single released from Janelle’s fourth studio album Dirty Computer is an unfiltered discussion on the sexualization of women and a commanding adoration of the female body. There’s nothing subtle about the music video, directed by Emma Westenberg, as it pushes the message forward with female-centric images of neon “P***y Power” signs and amazing labia-shaped pants worn by Janelle and her backup dancers.
Actress Tessa Thompson — Janelle’s friend and long-rumored partner — makes an appearance in several scenes, including one where she bursts out from between Janelle’s pant legs. The gorgeous video and powerful record are a much-needed celebration of femininity in a time that’s been dominated by the sexual objectification and degradation of women.
Lil Dicky featuring Chris Brown, “Freaky Friday” | Director: Tony Yacenda
Lil Dicky has never shied away from making people laugh at his own expense. Inspired by the 2003 film, the visual for his latest single “Freaky Friday” is no different. The Tony Yacenda-directed clip features Lil Dicky and Chris Brown switching bodies for a day. The results are hilarious as both men try to adjust to what the other person deals with on a daily basis. Chris Brown, as Lil Dicky, enjoys the under the radar lifestyle but regrets the switch after thinking about his daughter being in school. Lil Dicky, meanwhile, is jubilant as can be as he relishes at high profile lifestyle of Chris Brown. The video gets even funnier towards the end as Lil Dicky switches bodies again with Ed Sheeran, DJ Khaled, and Kendall Jenner.
As Lil Dicky intended for the video to be comical, there were many that felt otherwise. Fans of Ed Sheeran and Kendall Jenner voiced their displeasure at their appearances in the video alongside Chris Brown. Chris’ controversial past with domestic violence has left a lasting impact on his fans. Messages questioning the two “supporting an abuser” filled Kendall Jenner and Ed Sheeran’s Twitter mentions. The backlash brought a lot of attention to the video with people being introduced to Lil Dicky for the first time.
Bruno Mars feat Cardi B, “Finesse” (Remix) | Director: Bruno Mars, Florent Déchard
Since the release of his third studio album 24K Magic in 2016, Bruno Mars has been on a tear. From winning seven Grammy Awards to embarking on a massive 86-date world tour, Bruno hasn’t taken a loss throughout this album’s run. The “24K Magic” singer earned another huge win with the music video he directed, with help from Florent Déchard, for the fifth single off his album “Finesse.”
Giving it the remix treatment Bruno, with the help of Cardi B, pays homage to the great ‘90s sketch comedy series In Living Color. The attention to detail is crystal clear in the video as everything from the iconic opening credits to the choreographed dancing of the Fly Girls dance troupe were recreated. The retro TV aspect ratio of 4×3 is also recreated as the left and right sides of the video are blacked out, much like you would see today when watching an old TV show. It’s a nostalgic feel any generation can appreciate.
2 Chainz featuring YG & Offset – “PROUD” | Director: Howard Ross
Over the years, 2 Chainz has shown us how much fun he can have with a music video. Directed by the rapper and Howard Ross, the accompanying visual to his single “PROUD”—featuring YG and Offset off his latest EP The Play Don’t Care Who Make It— seems to be the most genuine fun he’s ever had.
In the video, the mothers of the three rappers are the stars as they lip-sync their sons’ verses and act out their mannerisms, while their sons occasionally appear rapping alongside their mothers. It’s an amusing visual as all three women play the parts of their sons’ perfectly.
J Cole, “Kevin’s Heart” | Director: J. Cole, Scott Lazer
J. Cole’s second single off his critically acclaimed album KOD, is an inside look into a person’s love for drugs in relation to potentially cheating on his partner. The video — directed by Scott Lazer and J. Cole himself — features actor and comedian Kevin Hart, who’s infidelity in 2017 is referenced throughout the track.
The video features Hart going about his day while receiving judgment and temptation from everyone he encounters. The video comes full circle towards the end of a funny bathroom encounter been Kevin and a random man. After using the urinal the man approaches Kevin to remind him that he’s only human and that he can only learn from the mistakes he’s made. A look of acknowledgment on Kevin’s face turns into disgust as the man rubs Kevin’s back without washing his hands.
Travis Scott feat. Drake, “SICKO MODE” | Director: Dave Meyers, Travis Scott
Like the craziness of the multi-layered beat, there’s a lot going on in the video for Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE.” Directed by Dave Meyers and Travis Scott, the visual features Scott riding through the streets of Houston on horseback and assuming the role of a professor and an R&B singer with James Brown-like moves in several scenes. Drake, on the other hand, gets the party started on a school bus, gets teleported into another dimension after taking a Xanax, and has a stripper twerk in his eyeball. It’s wild but fitting for the rapper known for his striking, unconventional videos. The visual helped propel Scott to top of the Billboard 200 chart and recently nabbed him two Grammy nominations for best rap performance and best rap song.
Kendrick Lamar feat SZA, “All The Stars” | Director: Dave Meyers and the Little Homies
The video for Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s Black Panther track “All The Stars” is a visually stunning experience. Directed by Dave Meyers and The Little Homies (Kendrick Lamar and Dave Free), the video features Kendrick taking a voyage to Africa while SZA is singing in a star-filled galaxy shaped like Africa. The striking scenes of African imagery with vibrant colors is a flashback to the prominence of Afrocentric rap in the 80s and 90s. The video also references the continent’s many cultures as several tribes like the Igbo Nigerians and Fulani tribe of West Africa. Much like the film, the video puts Afrofuturism front and center.
Migos featuring Drake – “Walk It Talk It” | Director: Daps and Quavo
Migos and guest feature Drake channel their inner 70’s spirit with a Soul Train inspired visual for their collab “Walk It Talk It” — off Migos’ third studio album Culture II. Enlisting the creative mind of video director BAPS, Aubrey and the Three Amigos appear on the fictional Culture Ride, a dance-themed show hosted by Jamie Foxx playing as Ron Delirious.
The video screams solid gold as everything from bell bottoms to the Soul Train Scramble Board are seen. The trio is in full character here with their Temptations-inspired choreography and Soul Train Line Dance moves. But Drake narrowly steals the show with an impressive lace front Jheri curl and hysterical deep looks into the camera.
A$AP Rocky – “A$AP Forever” | Director: Dexter Navy
The leader of the A$AP Mob teamed up with director Dexter Navy to release the trippy, mesmerizing visuals to the lead single off Flacko’s forthcoming album TESTING. In the clip, Rocky takes viewers on a dizzying ride through New York City at a mind-bending speed. As each line is performed the camera spirals into different scenes and Rocky is seen along with several members of the A$AP Mob throughout the psychedelic video. As the song reaches its outro the video gets even more erratic when Rocky takes several puffs of his blunt and is then transported to a dark abyss. Levitating in mid-air, Rocky seems to be high out of his mind as random images are spliced onto his body. Moby even makes a quick cameo in this scene as his “Porcelain” track plays in the background.
Anderson .Paak, “Tints” | Director: Colin Tilley
For their collaborative song “TINTS,” Anderson .Paak and Kendrick Lamar assume numerous personalities while showing people keeping secrets from others. Directed by Colin Tilley, the video opens with .Paak having a conversation with his girl about an argument they had earlier. She tells .Paak about her need of living in an unmasked world and then viewers are taken to several scenes of people keeping those secrets symbolizing the masks they wear to cover those secrets. There are members of the NRA holding .Paak hostage in the trunk of their car while a mother and young woman live out their sexual fantasies, respectively. .Paak takes on the role of a perverted doctor, a dancing busboy, and a preacher while Kendrick is featured hanging out with the grim reaper and enjoying a show at a strip club.
Tierra Whack, “Whack World” | Director: Thibaut Duverneix and Mathieu Léger
For her 15-minute concept album Whack World, Tierra Whack dropped one of the most creative videos of the year. For the short film directed by Thibaut Duverneix and Mathieu Léger, Whack put together 15 videos seamlessly with each one being vastly different than the last. Each set clocks in at over a minute and you can’t quite put your finger on what’s happening in each video. When you feel you’ve caught the rhythm of the song, Whack flips the switch and introduces a whole new vibe to the mix. She uses her manicured fingernails to rap the verses of “Black Nails,” watches a repairman fix her TV, dances in a cemetery, and parties with her friends inside a motorhome amongst other things. The film brings viewers into Whack’s zany world only offering glimpses of it while leaving them wanting more.
Jay Rock feat. Kendrick Lamar, “WIN” | Director: Dave Myers and Dave Free
Directed by Dave Myers and Dave Free, Jay Rock makes his claim as a winner in hip-hop with the celebratory video for “WIN.” Backed by a brass brand and pillars of fire, Jay Rock appears in the video dressed in a suit alongside Kendrick Lamar. The two then proceed to dodge fireworks, celebrate with confetti and raise up a version of the NHL Stanley Cup, and hunt ducks in the swampy woods. In the scenes where he is on his own, Rock sinks a game-winning pool shot while being distracted by a beautiful woman and stands triumphantly against a band of masked figures trying to take his head off. He even channels his inner-King Leonidas and throws an enemy off the side of a building referencing a scene from the movie 300. Several of his TDE-labelmates make appearances as well including SZA, Ab-Soul, SiR, Lance Skiiiwalker, and Isaiah Rashad.
Anderson .Paak – “Bubblin’” | Director: Calmatic
Anderson .Paak has delivered one of the most hilariously ignorant music videos of the year. Directed by Calmatic, the video features Anderson .Paak striking gold with a faulty ATM machine that’s withdrawing an endless amount of cash. Anderson takes the ATM and lives out his facetious rap fantasies. He makes it rain anywhere he goes. It’s a highlight from beginning to end as Anderson is seen swimming in pools of money, wildly hanging from a chandelier, and partying with strippers in a fast food restaurant. Anderson’s son, Soul, makes an appearance as well, posing with his father with fur coats and a pet zebra in tow.
Nicki Minaj – “Chun Li” | Director: Steven Klein of Good Company Pictures
Nicki Minaj’s music video for her single “Chun-Li” — off her forthcoming studio album Queen — features the rapper parading in a collection of bizarre yet astounding outfits. The glamorous outfits contain glowing neon lights, sparkling diamonds, leather leotards, and a pair of alluring facemasks. The theatrical Steven Klein-directed video features Nicki being held prisoner in what’s presumed to be a futuristic Asian-influenced sex dungeon. Several other scenes include Nicki seated atop a throne and fending off her captors while rapping about her dominance in the rap game. The visual is an exciting, LED-fueled thrill ride from beginning to end. We’re glad Nicki is back.
Cardi B feat Bad Bunny & J Balvin — “I Like It” | Director: Eif Rivera
For the third visual off her multi-platinum debut album Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B trekked to the islands for the Bad Bunny and J Balvin-assisted “I Like It.” The video opens with Cardi dressed in traditional island garb, walking through a colorful neighborhood with piragua vendors and townsfolk enjoying the bright sunny day. Bad Bunny makes his appearance strolling down a lively street and rapping while people dance along to the Pete Rodriguez “I Like It Like That” sampled beat. The party continues with J Balvin catching a vibe and rapping his closing verse inside a club. The three are featured together in several scenes turning up inside an alleyway illuminated by several neon lights. The video has garnered over 746 million views on YouTube and topped it’s 2018 Songs of the Summer list.
Blac Youngsta – “Booty” | Director: Motion Family
There is no better concept than the one Blac Youngsta came up with for the visual to his hit single “Booty.” Shot entirely inside a strip club, the Memphis rapper is shrunk to lilliputian size as he’s greeted by exotic dancers with a huge grin plastered across his face. The Motion Family-directed video continues with Blac Youngsta getting up close and personal with the backside of these women as he lays in between some cheeks, dances atop several booties, and is hilariously crushed by two massive derrière’s. What makes the whole video funny is the fact that everything around Blac Youngsta is regular-size including his entourage and the dollar bills. There’s nothing better than seeing Blac Youngsta humping a dollar bill on top of a dancer working the pole.
Meek Mill – “1942 Flows” | Director: Spike Jordan
The music video for Meek Mill’s “1942 Flows” is that much better now that he’s a free man. The Spike Jordan-directed visual opens with Meek being crowded by a group of reporters following his release from prison. Meek comments on how he feels he’s free and the traffic violation that ultimately put Meek behind bars. The video then progresses to several scenes of Meek enjoying his time as a free man. Clips of the #FreeMeekMill protests in November of last year are shown throughout the video. The images of protesters holding up signs in support of the embattled rapper and the massive turnout in front of the Criminal Justice Center in Philly shows how deep the love Meek gets from his fan and his city.
A$AP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator, “Potato Salad” | Director: AWGE
A$AP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator live up to the mantra “N***a’s in Paris” with the visual to their collaborative effort “Potato Salad.” Standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, the two rappers trade bars about fashion, their achievements, and their money while the lyrics of the song are displayed randomly in the video. Jaden Smith makes an appearance while Rocky and Tyler rap from a minicar and bicycle, respectively. The video ends with the two teasing the possible collaborative album WANGSAP.
Doja Cat, “Mooo!” | Director: Doja Cat
The weird video for Doja Cat’s “Mooo!” became a viral hit. It took Doja Cat 6 hours to make but it was praised all over social media and became an instant meme for it’s “Bitch I’m a cow!” hook. People couldn’t get enough of the peculiar and bizarre take on the video. In it, Doja is dressed in a cow outfit while she dances and indulges on cheeseburgers, milkshakes, and even sticks some fries up her nostrils. The cow-themed lyrics fit perfectly with the images of a galloping cheeseburger, a bouncing bosom, and an 8-bit farm appearing behind Doja Cat. At first, the video made little sense but as Doja Cat flowed through her lyrics about being a cow the point of the video became clear as it progressed. It’s strange but unique in its own way.
H.E.R. feat. Bryson Tiller, “Could’ve Been” | Director: Lacey Duke
On their highly anticipated first collaboration, H.E.R. and Bryson Tiller deliver a visually pleasing video for “Could’ve Been.” In the video, the two singers are shown, alone, in several shots singing about the possibilities of a relationship between the two. The emotional tone of the record is felt as the hopeless romantics yearn for each other and get wrapped up in their feelings in their respective settings. H.E.R. vocalizes her emotions as she sings out her window and walks around her home thinking about Tiller’s character. Tiller takes a walk down an empty street while he too walks around his apartment and sits with his puppy while he wonders what could’ve been between the two lovers. We get a glimmer of hope when the two are shown embracing each other but we also see the desperation when the two are sitting on a couch together. They seem close yet so distant from each other, symbolizing the difficulties of their union.
Sheck Wes, “Mo Bamba” | Director: Sheck Wes, White Trash Tyler and Nick Walker
A leg injury couldn’t stop Sheck Wes from turning up with his friends in the black and white music video for his breakout hit “Mo Bamba.” Directed by Tyler Ross, Nick Walker, and Sheck Wes, the video features the Harlem native, along with his mobility scooter, riding around the NYC housing projects he grew up in while a pair of agents keeps a watchful on him. Madness ensues when Sheck meets with his friends in the middle of a basketball court as they feel the booming beat of the hit record. They form a mosh pit on the court while Sheck gets out of the scooter and jumps on one leg himself to bring the energy of the moment even higher. The agents finally meet with Sheck inside one of the lobbies of the buildings and hand him a bag of money. They tell Sheck the money is for him and he proceeds to hand it out to people in his neighborhood.
Tyler, the Creator – OKRA | Directed by: Wolf Haley (Tyler, the Creator)
The Flower Boy rapper has a penchant for weird music videos and the self-directed visuals for his throwaway track “OKRA” is no different. The video features a split screen shot throughout its duration as Tyler raps through the fiery, boastful lyrics of making money and losing friends. The opening scene features a close-up on Tyler’s mouth spitting the rhymes while the other half is a wide-angle shot of Tyler sitting in a field mouthing along to the words. The video then switches to scenes of Tyler loitering in a colorful living room and riding a bike on a road high in the mountains. The highlight of the video is towards the end where Tyler and several of his friends, including A$AP Rocky, turn up to a flashing light that causes the chains and reflective garb to glow in the flashes. Just be careful, as Tyler issues a seizure warning seconds before the scene commences.