A Decade Of Visual Iconicness

Music enthusiasts, Paul Barnes and Terrionna Brockman, collaborated on a joint playlist and article covering their favorite rap music videos from 2000 to 2018.

What are your favorite rap music videos from 2000 to 2018? What is the recipe for an unforgettable music video? Paul Barnes and Terrionna Brockman are music enthusiasts who enjoy curating playlists and sharing their opinions on music. The enthusiasts have collaborated on a joint playlist that’s accompanied by a written component to highlight two of their personal favorites from the playlist.

Listen on Spotify and Apple Music.


Mercy by G.O.O.D Music

Sometimes simplicity is all you need to be effective. Directed by Nabil Elderkin, the video for “Mercy” is straightforward and not extravagant, which is what makes it so excellent. With a black and white color scheme and a static environment the music video for “Mercy” forces us to focus on each member as they rap their verse directly to the camera and dance around a parking garage. Things get more interesting as we see Kanye rap with himself (literally) when the iconic beat switch happens via a creative and smooth edit. Perhaps an even cooler effect, the artists disappear and reappear from behind the pillars in the garage too. We also get to see other members of the label who aren’t even rapping on the song in the video such as: Kid Cudi dancing, Teyana Taylor looking powerful as usual, and Cyhi the Prynce posing. The wide-screen format adds to the cinematic feeling the entire video has, making it a necessity to watch full screen or on your TV. The latter is something I do at least once a month because I just find it that visually pleasing. The video also uses the one-shot technique effect as it only pans from left to right. Its simplicity extends to the artists outfits which are all black which ties in to the elegance surrounding the label itself. It’s a video that says this is who we are and if you didn’t know who G.O.O.D Music is, you know now. 

L$D by A$AP Rocky

We all know Rocky is going to go above and beyond to the fifth power with his visuals and this one is easily in his top three. This one was directed by Dexter Navy with co-direction from Rocky himself. Inspired by the movie Enter The Void, we journey with Rocky and his latest Fa$shion Killa Girl as they travel through Tokyo. Neon signs, zoom ins/outs and creative transitions are all over this video making it an excellent visual experience whether you’re into cinematography or not. When this video first released my favorite part was when it switched to the first verse from “Excuse Me” which had not dropped yet. The camera pans to the back of Rocky’s head and then goes inside of it to reveal him in a mirror rapping to the camera – which is behind the mirror? It’s a very cool and somewhat unsettling effect that adds to the visual stimulation of the entire video. Its visual contrast to the rest of the video matches the up-tempo braggadocios of the verse with bright chandelier lighting filling the background. We return to the visuals we had before once this section ends and the neon effects return immediately. Again, it’s a video that commands to be watched full screen and for this one, in a dark room if you can. The colors fly off the screen and with headphones the experience essentially takes you to another world.


Day ‘N’ Nite by Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi has always been expressive and his visuals are just that. The “Day ‘N’ Nite” video represents an era of hip-hop that was new and different, or “weird”, depending on what side you’re on. The out-of-the-box style edits make it what it is from the illustration, animation and pops of color. At the time of the single’s release, Cudi had not yet put out a video to establish himself. A version of “Day ‘N’ Nite” was leaked, which cast him as a bored store associate working a late shift. Already feeling indifferent about the video’s direction and having expressed to the individuals who shot the video that he and his team wanted to try something different, it was still released. A music video is like a first impression, you don’t want to ruin it. Thankfully, Cudi collaborated with the French artist, SoMe to create the version that we’ve consumed many times again. It takes us on a different type of viewing experience and shows that an artist doesn’t have to put on a facade or force things, but that they can truly be themselves. As for the style, it has been replicated by other artists and set the tone for the “weird” kids.

Ms Jackson by Outkast

OutKast are eclectic and forward thinkers, and their visuals reflect that. This video in particular is one of my favorites and most memorable. The setting takes place in a rural area off of a dirt road in what seems to be a hot summer. A lady with a piercing stare drives down a gravel road, entering the frame as the camera slowly pans from left to right. Positioned at the bottom left of the frame is a snickering tortoise, both alluding to the story that is about to unfold.

The sky is an intense blue with cotton-like clouds. If you’ve ever seen the movie, The Color Purple, I’d compare the setting to the part of the movie where it begins to storm. “It’s gon’ rain on yo head!” It wasn’t raining, but it creates a feeling of uneasiness as light debris whirls in the wind.

The camera cuts to scenes of Big Boi and Ándre 3000 rapping into the camera and back to them doing two tasks: Big Boi working on and cleaning a car and Ándre becoming frustrated as he attempts to adhere peeling wallpaper to the staircase wall. As the video progresses, the animals engage by bobbing their heads to the beat and an owl mouthing on cue with the “whooo” part of the chorus. Thunder rumbles in the background, which is a great transition in the video’s plot and adds to the uneasiness we felt in the opening scene. The weather is changing.

The back and forth shots of Big Boi and Andre reflect the chaos of their surroundings and the frustration within their lyrics. The sky is no longer bright, but a deep blue, almost black. The clouds have disappeared and lighting can be seen flashing across the sky. Rain rushes from the sky, leading to a series of unfortunate events: the car blows up and the roof leaks.

The low, neutral, and high camera angles make the viewer feel as if they are experiencing the chaos. One of the most powerful angles is a bird’s eye view of Ándre in the center of a living room with a leaking roof and pots overflowing with water as he sings, “You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather”. Scenes also cut to specific things that the lyrics allude to, for example, “king meets queen and then the puppy love thing” [scene of puppy walking across piano keys] and “together dream ’bout that crib with the Goodyear swing on the oak tree” [scene of a cat laying in a tire swing].

The visual gets creative when the focal point shifts from Andre to the owl on the “forever, foreva-eva, foreva-eva” part of the song. A hurried, and panic-like feeling is created when the scenes shift back and forth quickly, specifically when Big Boi is on the roof in the pouring rain. In the end, we get another impactful low view of the roof, which caved in, but the storm has now passed and the sun shows its warm face as the chaos subsides. The camera slowly zooms out, ending the video.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: