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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


Mike Jones feat. Paul Wall and Slim Thug, ‘Still Tippin”

As mainstream ambassadors to Houston’s long-percolating hip-hop scene, Mike Jones, Paul Wall and Slim Thug turned the slow-rolling, trunk-rattling sound of Houston rap into a cultural sensation. Director John “Dr. Teeth” Tucker provided the travelogue: candy-painted cars with neon in the trunk, high-circumference rims with protruding “swangas” or rotating spinners, sparkling chains and diamond-encrusted grills, and Swishahouse co-founder Michael “5000” Watts providing the soundtrack on two turntables. “We shot it in Houston, which was the way that I wanted to go. I wanted to show its culture,” Tucker told AllHipHop. “The girl dancing in front of the tables is like the Pied Piper. You also have candy-colored cars swaying in and out on the street. It’s hood, but also artistic at the same time. It all goes together. The amazing thing is that people got it.”–C.W.


Run-D.M.C., ‘Rock Box’

In the summer of 1984, Run-D.M.C.’s “Rock Box” became the first hip-hop video to appear on MTV, joining Michael Jackson, Prince, and Tina Turner among the few Black music artists at the time to appear on the largely white video channel. The Steve Khan-filmed promo is as iconic as it gets, opening with Run, D, and Jam Master Jay stepping out of a Cadillac in all their Godfather hat, leather suit, Adidas-rocking glory, as guitarist Eddie Martinez shreds on top of the car’s roof. The group’s label, Prolife Records, even cast a young white kid as an enamored fan to ensure robust airplay. It worked. “If you look at the video, it’s not the park, it’s not the block party,” explained D.M.C. in the 2021 documentary series Hip Hop: Songs That Shook America. “It’s a downtown Manhattan club, it’s punk rock in the video, it’s metal in the video. But the Black hip-hop dudes were the stars!” —K.M.


Jay-Z and Kanye West feat. Otis Redding, ‘Otis’

Hip-hop’s biggest crossover project of the 2010s deserved an equally distinctive music video to commemorate its second single. So, Jay-Z and Kanye West enlisted director Spike Jonze, who in this case took a slightly less auteurish approach to their decadent ode to wealth, fame and badass than was his norm. Filming a $350,000 Maybach getting liberated of its doors and roof, hip-hop’s glimmer twins then took their Thunderdome mobile for a thrill ride spinning doughnuts in Downey Studios, a quartet of giggly models in the backseat. And yet the most indelible image isn’t the fireworks or the Maybach—it’s the brotherly love between two rap superstars at the top of their game, a U.S. flag backdrop serving as a visual symbol of the American dream they managed to acquire despite the odds.—M.M.L.