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The 150 Greatest Hip-Hop Videos of All Time

From Run-D.M.C. to Doja Cat, from Missy to Busta, and beyond

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's "WAP" has already topped the Hot 100 charts.


HIP-HOP WAS BORN IN the Bronx in the summer of 1973. To celebrate the music’s 50th anniversary, “Rolling Stone” will be publishing a series of features, historical pieces, op-eds, and lists throughout this year.

From the moment Run-D.M.C., clad in all-black leather and fedoras, emerged from the Cadillac in the “Rock Box” clip, the music video was turning hip-hop artists into icons. Then and now, rap videos serve as ambassadors to sound, fashion, art, and emotion, transforming localized subcultures into vital elements of Planet Rock. The world could now visit Grandmaster Flash’s New York, Dr. Dre’s Compton, Juvenile’s New Orleans, Mike Jones’ Houston, and Chief Keef’s Chicago. Kids from every corner of the globe could learn to scratch or do the Humpty Dance.

The rap clips of the early Eighties, like those of Roxanne Shanté, were triumphs of creating a big impression with practically zero budget, mostly shown on Ralph McDaniels’ pioneering New York public television show, Video Music Box. Soon the undeniable force of artists like Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince would knock down the segregated walls of MTV airplay. A pilot for a show called Yo! MTV Raps would do bonkers ratings numbers for the channel in 1988, and soon suburban living rooms across America could be bum-rushed by the righteous anger of Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, and Ice Cube. The pay-to-play jukebox channel the Box would show the videos they wouldn’t touch. BET’s Rap City took the message to other parts of our cable network.

By the Nineties, hip-hop was America’s pop music, and filmmakers like Hype Williams, Paul Hunter, Spike Jonze, Sanji, and Diane Martel began tweaking and rethinking the visual language of the genre, bending it prismatically toward their visions. Directors like the Hughes Brothers, Michel Gondry, Antoine Fuqua, F. Gary Gray, and Brett Ratner caught early breaks from rap videos. Artists like Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, Lil Kim, and Puff Daddy were almost inseparable from their larger-than-life video personae.

As the video age gave way to the YouTube era, blockbuster stars like Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Drake did their best to keep grand (and expensive) artistic statements alive in a period where budgets were shrinking exponentially. However, the democratic nature of the internet meant that anyone with access to a camera could find a way to ensnare millions and millions of eyeballs, whether that means the shock of Odd Future, the hyper-local intimacy of Chief Keef and Bobby Shmurda, the arthouse fury of Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino, or the deeply charismatic presence of Ice Spice and GloRilla.

Our list of the 150 greatest hip-hop videos was compiled by the editors of Rolling Stoneand a panel of music critics. It’s a celebration of hip-hop’s incredible history of making a big impact on small screens.

From Rolling Stone US


Busta Rhymes, ‘Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See’

“When we were mixing the record, the TV in the studio is on, but no sound is coming out,” Busta Rhymes told XXL. “We mixing the song and Coming to America came on … no audio. The record sounded like some African shit, and the movie was some African shit. I bugged out when I looked at that shit. I said, ‘Nigga, I’m going to call Hype.’” Hype Williams was on his way to becoming the most iconic, game-changing music video director in hip-hop history, and “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” was just one more notch in his slam-dunk 1997. Loosely inspired by Coming to America, the video explodes past that video’s margins into black-light insanity, feather-flailing dance sequences, an elephant chase and the always-electric Busta. ”I wasn’t seeing what I wanted to see in videos,” Williams told The New York Times. “There was no color, no originality. Record companies assumed that the people who bought rap records didn’t need to see quality, so nobody was putting in the effort or the money.” For a while, his fish-eye perspectives and skyrocketing budgets became rap’s most wanted look. Sylvia Rhone of Elektra told Complex, “My colleagues at other companies used to blame me for raising the price of videos ’cause now all their artists wanted the same kind of videos.” —C.W.


Public Enemy, ‘Fight the Power’

One of the most inflammatory protest anthems of all time gets its own Brooklyn rally — making for some of rap’s most indelible images. Director Spike Lee had used the “Fight the Power” song as the electric leitmotif of 1989’s Do the Right Thing. Though Public Enemy didn’t get paid for its use, this blockbuster video, according to producer Hank Shocklee, was “a really good thank-you that Spike did for us.” Shot on the same block where director Spike Lee filmed Do the Right Thing, the clip played like a hip-hop update of 1963’s March on Washington. They put a call out for people to appear in a Public Enemy video, and they came out in droves. “It was like a rose really sprouted in Brooklyn,” Chuck D told Rolling Stone. “It was seriously a Black movement of just being able to stand up and demand that the systems and the powers that be don’t roll you over. And this was a threat to America, and it was a threat to the record companies at the time. That video was really powerful.” —C.W.


Missy Elliott, ‘The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)’

Missy Elliott started her career working behind the scenes as a songwriter for other artists, but the individuality and ingenuity she unveiled in the first of her many Hype Williams linkups allowed the Virginia rapper to become a front-facing, overnight sensation in her own right. The cartoon-like visual introduces what would become hallmarks of Missy’s creative identity: out-of-this-world concepts, women supporting women, and en vogue yet future-forward fashion choices. Per Essence, when Williams asked her for ideas for the video for “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” she answered simply, “Do everything in the song.” The results flipped the script and brought a new type of bravado to hip-hop.The track’s onomatopoeic “vroooooom” is illustrated with an effortlessly cool joyride in a 1994 Hummer H1. Elliott’s friends serve as her video vixens, with rapper Yo-Yo and SWV singer Coko dancing in the fish-eye lens as Misdemeanor references them. The video’s iconic patent-leather blow-up suit put up a proud middle finger to industry standards, worn in spite of her omission from Raven-Symoné’s 1993 music video for “That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of.” “I said ‘I’m-a show them … I’m-a stay my size and have a big record,’” she said during her 2011 Behind the Music episode. It has since become one of hip-hop’s most renowned sartorial staples. Missy’s official step into the spotlight with “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” kicked off a decades-long career of expectations-defying genius, proving that being true to yourself will always be in style. —J.J.