The music video is still thriving in 2017. Now with more ways to watch them across social platforms than ever, the competition for eyeballs inspired some of the most unforgettable hip-hop-fueled imagery. Here are our choices for the year’s best rap videos.
Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE” (Director: Dave Meyers and the Lil Homies)
Choosing the best Kendrick Lamar video of 2017 is one of the hardest choices we’ve ever had to make. Any other year, Kendrick’s “Loyalty” or “D.N.A.” would be the runaway stand-alone masterpiece, but “HUMBLE” had so many instantly memorable images. We’re talking ll the Kendrick heads on fire, the rolled-down window Grey Poupon homage, the angle-switching while maintaining eye contact, Kendrick alone in a factory, the army nodding along in the chorus, and more. It’s going to be the clip that everyone remembers 2017 for.
Oddisee – “You Grew Up” (Director: Eugene & Louise)
On the flip side, 2017 is going to be remembered for the very unsettling political and social climate. No video showed the roots of how these perspectives fester better than PG Country rapper Oddisee’s “You Grew Up.” The animated clip eases in a dissections of the disturbing traumas which breed hate, and puts a human face on the origins of violent prejudice.
Young Thug – “Wyclef Jean” (Director: Pomp & Clout)
A rapper not showing up for his music video shoot tends to kill the video dead. However, when Young Thug didn’t appear on set for his elaborate “Wyclef Jean” video shoot, director…er…co-director Ryan Staake instead made the clip about what he wanted to do with the video and the ordeals of shooting without Young Thug. “Wyclef Jean” wound up winning a well-deserved MTV Video Music Award for Best Editing, an honor which Thug didn’t even know he was nominated for until after he was victorious.
Run the Jewels – “Legend Has It” (Director Brian Beletic)
Somewhat overshadowed by last year’s incredible “Nobody Speak” video, Run the Jewels’ “Legend Has It” is a viable very potent music video in its own right. Impeccable editing, sharp use of the police line-up motif, and boasting both El-P and Killer Mike‘s cool bravado in full display, it’s one of the year’s sleeper triumphs.
JAY-Z – “The Story of O.J.” (Director Mark Romanek)
The release of JAY-Z’s 4:44 album came packed with the promise of music videos for each of the record’s tracks. Leading the charge was the captivating Mark Romanek-directed “The Story of O.J.” Channeling the look of yesteryear racist cartoons like 1941’s Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat, the clip looks like no animated video we’ve seen in a while. Despite an unfortunate problematic line about “credit,” “The Story of O.J.,” is a powerful showstopper of a music video.