12 Classic Hip-Hop Videos That Shaped the Genre


Eminem black-and-white promo image by Danny Clinch

Eminem has one of the most influential classic hip-hop videos of all time – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Danny Clinch image

Audio Ink Radio names 12 classic hip-hop music videos that helped build the genre

Music videos are very different from what they were in the 1980s, when the format was just getting off the ground. Gone are the days of anticipation waiting for MTV to debut a certain video or song. Today, music videos premiere on YouTube, and MTV hardly even plays music videos.

But, there was a time when the music video was everything. It’s still important, but it’s just not the same. Of course, classic hip-hop has many great videos that stood out in the 1980s and 1990s, and they still stand up today.

Read on for Audio Ink Radio’s list of 12 classic hip-hop videos that shaped the genre. Reach out to us on social media and let us know your choices.

12 Classic Hip-Hop Videos:

12. 50 Cent – “In Da Club” (2003)

50 Cent’s “In Da Club” was one of the biggest rap songs out of the 2000s. The song, produced by Dr. Dre and Elizondo, offers a unique beat amid 50 Cent’s party-happy lyrics. The video takes the song to the next level. It is filmed at the “Shady/Aftermath Artist Development Center” where Eminem and Dr. Dre hone rising artists, such as 50 Cent. As it turns out, Eminem and Dr. Dre did help take 50 Cent to the masses, so this video is somewhat true to reality.

11. OutKast – “Hey Ya!” (2003)

OutKast’s music video for “Hey Ya!” is legendary in every way. The video has OutKast rapper AndrĂ© 3000 playing different characters throughout and performing in front of a bunch of screaming females, bringing to mind Beatlemania. It’s a colorful, fun video that became an instant classic.

10. The Notorious B.I.G. – “Hypnotize” (1997)

“Hypnotize” is an essential hip-hop track. Sadly, much of that is due to the fact it was released one week before Biggie was tragically murdered in a drive-by shooting. P. Diddy, at the time known as Puff Daddy, samples Herb Alpert’s 1979 hit, “Rise.” The music video shows Biggie and Diddy trying to get away from the cops, but at least they get to hit some cool parties on the run.

9. MC Hammer – “U Can’t Touch This” (1990)

If there was ever an example of a music video really bringing a song to life, it’s MC Hammer and “U Can’t Touch This.” Sure, the song is catchy, but the music video is nothing short of iconic. In it, Hammer and company display some incredible dancing and choregraphy, including the signature “hammer dance.”

8. Busta Rhymes, “Gimme Some More” (1988)

“Gimme Some More” is very 1990s, as it features the classic fisheye lens that pretty much every big hip-hop video from that time employed. The video, co-directed by Hype Williams and Busta Rhymes, makes this video look very surreal and trippy. It’s a great compliment to the song’s raw hip-hop nature.

7. Ice Cube – “Today Was a Good Day” (1992)

The F. Gary Gray-directed music video for Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” was an instant success. The clip shows Ice Cube waking up in the morning and having a darn good day, as he eats breakfast with his family, drives around in his snazzy 1964 Chevrolet Impala, wins a game of street basketball, gets lucky with his 12th grade crush and more. He’s basically thanking God for a safe, fun day, free of gang violence and mishaps.

6. Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg – “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” (1993)

“Nuthin’ But a G Thang” is an essential hip-hop tune. But, aside from that, the music video is 1990s rap video perfection. The clip shows scenes of Compton, from partying to daily life. It lets the view into Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s lives. Welcome to the life of a “G,” dear friend.

5. Beastie Boys – “Sabotage” (1994)

Beastie Boys redefined what hip-hop could be in the 1980s and 1990s, with their humorous take on the beat-filled genre. For their “Sabotage” video, the Beastie Boys created a 1970s action spoof, with hilarious costumes, random camera zooms and super-funny action shots. This is likely the funniest hip-hop video ever created.

4. 2Pac featuring Dr. Dre – “California Love” (1995)

“California Love” is one of 2Pac’s greatest hits, if not his most well-known jam. The song topped the charts upon its release, and the video brings those beats to life with vibrant desert shots. The clip, inspired by Mad Max, also has a cameo from funk legend George Clinton. He plays the bad dude, as 2Pac rescues a bunch of women from Clinton’s clutches.

3. Missy Elliott – “Get Ur Freak On” (2001)

Missy Elliott is the queen of music videos, and “Get Ur Freak On” is one of her greatest moments. The video, directed by David Meyers, is a bit nonsensical, as it features Elliott dancing and singing with some strange imagery popping in and out of the screen. But, it’s stylistic perfection. It’s also the kind of video that begs to be watched over and over again.

2. NWA – “Straight Outta Compton” (1988)

“Straight Outta Compton” was an early blueprint for the rap music video. Moreover, the song helped take hip-hop to the mainstream, as it garnered tons of airplay on MTV. The video takes the viewer through Compton, and it oozed with energy and excitement.

1. Eminem – “My Name Is” (1999)

“My Name Is” introduced Slim Shady to the world of hip-hop in a cheeky, witty, fun manner. In the start of the video, viewers see Eminem in a straight-jacket, in therapy with the great Dr. Dre, which definitely catches fans’ attention. As the video plays out, viewers are treated to vignettes of different television programs and random Eminem clips. Never has a video so perfectly introduced its new protagonist to the world, and for that, it’s our No. 1 classic hip-hop video.

Check out Audio Ink Radio’s list of the best punk albums of all time here.

Anne Erickson
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Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Music

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