Top 100 Music Videos That Helped Shape 50 Years of Hip Hop

In hip-hop culture, the synergy between artists and directors in crafting music videos stands as an art form in itself, weaving narratives that transcend mere visuals to become iconic cultural moments. From the gritty streets to opulent sets, hip-hop music videos serve as vivid canvases where artists and directors paint compelling stories that resonate globally.

And in this era of streaming dominance, certain video—collab or not—have risen above the rest, achieving remarkable success both in terms of viewership and accolades.

Below, check out videos that not only carved their names into the annals of history but also commanded charts, streaming platforms, and award ceremonies. And, explore the magic that unfolds when visionary directors join forces with iconic artists.

For more, dive into the hip-hop visual masterpieces that push creative boundaries and run the numbers up by tuning in to Notarized: Top 50 Greatest Hip Hop Videos of All Time, airing the week of Dec. 25 and the week of Jan. 1 on BET, BET JAMS, and BET SOUL.

  • “FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna feat. Kanye West and Paul McCartney

    Director: Inez & Vinoodh

    Inez & Vinoodh’s collaboration with Rihanna in “FourFiveSeconds” captures the song’s raw emotion through stripped-down visuals, showcasing the power of simplicity and authenticity.

  • “Hotline Bling” by Drake

    Director: Director X

    Inspired by the exceptional light art by James Turrell, Director X’s work with Drake in “Hotline Bling” transforms the artist’s dance moves into a cultural phenomenon, merging vibrant visuals with infectious energy and setting a new standard for modern music videos.

  • “More” by Flying Lotus feat. Anderson .Paak

    Director: Shinichiro Watanabe

    Shinichiro Watanabe’s animated collaboration with Flying Lotus in “More” blends hip-hop with anime aesthetics, resulting in a visually stunning and immersive experience that pushes the boundaries of storytelling.

  • “California Love” by Tupac feat. Dr. Dre and Roget Troutman

    Director: Hype Williams

    Hype Williams’s collaboration with Tupac in “California Love” merges hip-hop with Mad Max-inspired visuals, creating an iconic and futuristic representation of West Coast rap. (And yes, that’s Chris Tucker and George Clinton.)

  • “Forgot About Dre” by Dr. Dre

    Director: Dr. Dre & Phillip G. Atwell

    Dr. Dre’s collaboration with Phillip G. Atwell in “Forgot About Dre” visually captures the return of a legend, employing dynamic visuals and narrative elements that enhance the song’s impact.

  • “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys

    Director: Spike Jonze

    Spike Jonze’s collaboration with the Beastie Boys in “Sabotage” is a high-energy homage to ’70s buddy-cop crime dramas, showcasing the director’s inventive storytelling and the group’s irreverent style.

  • “Nikes” by Frank Ocean

    Director: Tyrone Lebon

    Tyrone Lebon’s collaboration with Frank Ocean in “Nikes” combines surreal visuals with intimate moments drenched in neon hues, creating a visually rich tapestry that complements the song’s moodiness.

  • “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio

    Director: Antoine Fuqua

    Antoine Fuqua’s collaboration with Coolio in “Gangsta’s Paradise” brings the song’s narrative to life through gritty visuals spliced between cuts of 1995 drama Dangerous Minds, establishing a cinematic standard for hip-hop videos.

  • “Picasso Baby” by JAY-Z

    Director: Mark Romanek

    Mark Romanek’s collaboration with JAY-Z in “Picasso Baby” transforms the music video into a performance art piece, blurring the lines between artist and audience in a visually arresting manner.

  • “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J

    Director: Paris Barclay

    Paris Barclay’s collaboration with LL Cool J in “Mama Said Knock You Out” captures the intensity and energy of the track through dynamic visuals and innovative camera work, creating an enduring piece of hip-hop history.

  • “Genie” by YoungBoy Never Broke Again

    YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s music video for “Genie” captures exactly the Louisiana rapper was named the #1 Most Streamed Artist on YouTube in 2022. This visual, with its raw essence and compelling storytelling, has earned its status as one of his highest-streamed videos (sitting at over 400M) and resonates with fans by tapping into relatable themes and showcasing Youngboy’s undeniable charisma.

  • “Fade” by Kanye West

    Kanye West‘s “Fade” was shown a lot of love for its captivating choreography that centered a beautifully toned Teyana Taylor flaunting her bawdy and dance skills. The visual won the MTV VMA for Best Choreography and became an undeniable cultural phenomenon.

  • “A Milli” by Lil Wayne

    Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” is a lyrical powerhouse, and its minimalist yet impactful video perfectly complements the track. The visual’s simplicity allows Wayne’s unmatched flow to take center stage, contributing to its substantial viewership (over 143M views). Even as recently as this year, artists have paid homage to the boundless impact of this video. (Shoutout to Flo Milli.)

  • “This Is America” by Childish Gambino

    Childish Gambino‘s “This Is America” transcends music videos, earning critical acclaim and two Grammy Awards, including Best Music Video. Its impactful imagery and thought-provoking symbolism marked it as a cultural and artistic milestone.

  • “Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj

    When isn’t Nicki Minaj leading the pack? “Anaconda” dominated charts and streaming platforms and amassed over 1 billion views on YouTube. The video, which offers bursts of pink colors and countless shots of Nicki’s derriere, resonated globally.

  • “Bad and Boujee” by Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert

    Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” became an anthem, boasting over 1 billion streams on YouTube. It’s not much more than the accouterments of handsome and wealthy rappers lavishing in their spoils—beautiful women, insane whips, and bottles of champagne—but its catchy aesthetics and infectious energy propelled it to the top of streaming charts.

  • “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B

    “Bodak Yellow” was a hit before it was a hit. When the Bronx raptress dropped a mere teaser on IG, music heads knew Cardi B’s premiere single was outta here. “Bodak Yellow” marked her ascent to hip-hop stardom, amassing over 1 billion views on YouTube. The video’s bold and unapologetic style, filmed around the way perfectly matched Cardi’s charismatic and raw presence.

  • “That’s My Name” by Bow Wow

    Bow Wow‘s “That’s My Name” secured a significant place on BET’s iconic music countdown show, 106 & Park. The video’s infectious energy and Bow Wow’s youthful exuberance contributed to its consistent presence at the top of the countdown, further solidifying its status as a fan-favorite on the show. And c’mon, why else would he be dubbed Mr. 106 & Park if he wasn’t sitting at #1 consistently?

  • “rockstar” by Post Malone

    Featuring 21 Savage, Post Malone‘s “rockstar”—with its DGAF, bloody fight sequences—is the stuff of a music video legend. Accumulating over 1.6 billion views on YouTube, the video’s dark and cinematic visuals contributed to its immense success.

  • “The Real Slim” Shady by Eminem

    Directed by Dr. Dre, Eminem‘s “The Real Slim Shady” is a classic that broke new ground in hip-hop visuals, leaning on dark humor, silly costumes, and controversy. It stands as an iconic piece of hip-hop history, earning the MTV VMA for Video of the Year. 

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