Whether you're optimistic about 2015 or soured by 2014's events, the fact is there's been plenty of music released over the past 12 months to suit even the harshest of hip-hop critics. There's also plenty of cameras and eager creatives, which means there are a wealth of standout videos from your favorite rappers.
This year, we highlight massive butts, pay homage to 'Clueless' and celebrate dancing children -- the latter are always a plus. Iggy Azalea, Flying Lotus and Flatbush Zombies are a few of the deserving artists in the 10 Best Hip-Hop Videos of 2014.
‘Fancy’Iggy Azalea Feat. Charli XCX
The opening chords and the “Who dat, who dat” becoming more ubiquitous than this ‘Clueless’-inspired video is an achievement in itself. Still, it was the clip that spring-boarded its success. ‘Fancy’ has finished its run on the Billboard charts, but a few years from now on all-decade lists, folks are going to point at Iggy Azalea’s striped yellow outfit, the hats and the locker room struts. They’ll be Googling ‘Clueless,’ too.
‘Easy Rider’Action Bronson
Action Bronson’s quieter-than-usual presence this year presumably means he’s at work on ‘Mr. Wonderful’ for 2015. There hasn’t been too much details about the album, but ‘Easy Rider’ does promise it’s going to be enjoyable if he’s dipping his toes into some mysticism. In a clip seemingly inspired by ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,’ Vietnam vet Bronson embarks on a cross-country journey involving a Native American, a bar fight and an acid trip to retrieve his Les Paul guitar. It’s epic as it is humorous -- a reassuring sign that Bronson won’t lose touch with himself no matter how ambitious he gets with his upcoming debut.
‘Christ Conscious’Joey Bada$$
The dichotomy of Pro Era consists of its earthy ‘90s-influenced sounds and the pursuit of third-eye consciousness. The two may look divergent, but this video argues that the former is actually a journey to the latter. What starts out as a trip through Brooklyn -- touched up with bits of animation and fashion -- turns into the ascension of Joey Bada$$. It’s a moment that’s been beyond his grasp musically; here, it’s illustrated with wonder at the end of a breezy video.
‘100 Bottles’Low Pros Feat. Travi$ Scott
There’s always been a heightened sense of wanderlust associated with Japan -- from Tokyo’s bright lights, to the famed Shibuya District’s diversity, to the Roman alphabet’s absence. Low Pros' ‘100 Bottles’ takes the nation’s kaleidoscope and intensifies the colors at least tenfold through Travi$ Scott’s eyes. In visuals as spastic as the music created by A-Trak and Lex Luger, we see the romantics twisted into something nightmarish as Scott walks through a metropolis of bra-less CGI monsters, distorted bodies under a codeine-hue and an overall sense of claustrophobia. In other words, it’s more fun to watch than experience.
The video for ‘Freebase’ reproves the 11th law of relativity: Everything is 2 Chainz. That goes even in a video that’s supposed to be in the line of many sendups to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller.’ With the clever nod to the disclaimer aside, we get 2 Chainz appropriating its source material’s sense of novelty instead of using it as a gimmick. So instead of an obvious knockoff, we get southern slang (“I told you we ain’t finna do nothin’”) and a bit of air cooking as 2 Chainz rants his rags-to-riches story (“I been a felon since 15”). He doesn’t even bother to recreate ‘Thriller’’s famous choreography; he improvises. R.I.P. Michael Jackson
‘Multiply’A$AP Rocky Feat. Juicy J
A$AP season didn’t quite catch on yet; Big Sean’s ‘I Don’t F--- With You’ and Bobby Shmurda’s ‘Hot N----‘ are still Top 20 in the country, while Nicki Minaj’s ‘The Pinkprint’ and J. Cole ‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’ are the focus of the hype train. But it did seem like that seasonal shift was coming in the middle of one October night when A$AP Rocky broke his silence with ‘Multiply’ and its accompanying video. Along with the visual joys of an omnipresent Juicy J on hi-def screens and a militant A$AP Yams, the Shomi Patwary/A$AP Rocky-directed video is a wide shot of the A$AP crew’s charm: its knack for balancing experimental tendencies and high-fashion with a sense of street awareness. While Been Trill was getting damned inside a room of big screens, the war continues on the concrete.
‘Telegraph Ave (Oakland by Lloyd)’Childish Gambino
Firstly, it’s Jhene Aiko and Childish Gambino being up close and personal onstage. Pretty sweet. Secondly, the video illustrates the twinkling romanticism that’s at the core of what’s arguably the best song from his album, ‘Because the Internet.’ Oakland isn’t the real destination (there’s just no way), but a state of elation that’s represented in the Hawaiian locale here. It’s not a total vacation here, though; Gambino’s weirdness eventually wreaks havoc.
’97.92’Flatbush Zombies & Trash Talk
Technology might actually kill us at some point in the future, but at least we’ll have gems like the ’97.92’ video to justify its existence. APlusFilmz and Pier Pictures used a high-tech 360 degree camera on a drone to shoot the visual. The result is a clip that draws from the tipsiness of Flatbush Zombies’ style while parsing down the nefariousness. You don’t usually describe blue skies and bike riding as trippy and disorienting.
Whether you’re a fan of the video’s feminist overtones (queens in the Amazon) or critical of its overt sexuality (butts, butts and more butts), the fact is that ‘Anaconda’ broke the record for most streams in a 24-hour period with 19.6 million views. It also broke that 100 million mark and pushed the song to No. 2 in the Billboard Hot 100 -- Nicki Minaj’s highest mark. The opinions can’t cloud how Minaj currently is at the core of pop culture. Don't forget to look out for Drake's lap dance.
'Never Catch Me'Flying Lotus Feat. Kendrick Lamar
The greatness of Flying Lotus' ‘You’re Dead!’ album doesn’t just rest in its musical complexities. It’s also a multifaceted view of that journey from one life to the next: the loss, mystery, the celebration and what’s in between. Expressing all of the above requires an imagination that’s hard to portray visually, but Hiro Murai’s masterwork is a damn good swing at it. The video flows from sadness to delight as it follows two kids as they rise from their coffins and dance their way to a hearse. It’s a contextually fitting sequence, too, dropping as the value of black lives in America is in question. Discontent reigns in that conversation. Here, it’s about joy, coupled with Kendrick Lamar's poignant lyrics.