It was a routine- after elementary school, I’d constantly wear the “last” button down on my television’s remote due to me furiously switching between Cartoon Network’s Toonami and BET’s Rap City: Tha Basement. Every time Goku started to prepare a “spirit bomb,” I’d quickly switch to Big Tigger introducing a unique Missy Elliott video. I know 106 & Park was the more popular choice for a lot of people, but Rap City would showcase more than ten or eleven videos and that’s what I was a huge fan of.
As a young fan of music, I’ve always enjoyed the beats and catchy hooks more than the actual lyrical illustrations- just a case of having immature ears. That’s why music videos were so important to me, they served as visual examples of the songs’ storytelling. Artists like Ludacris and Missy would constantly deliver on this front, each of their singles’ videos were refreshing and different from the last. It wasn’t just them though, Kanye West and Outkast made sure their visuals were as distinct as their music, as well as plenty of others. Now the question I ask you is, how many modern day mainstream rap artists can the same be said about?
One of the few names that pop immediately into my head is ASAP Rocky, but that’s a given. He’s one of the most talented individuals the entertainment industry has ever seen. Same can be said about Kendrick Lamar, who ensures all of his video releases are something special which is one advantage fans can use in the never-ending “Drake or Kendrick” debate. While Drake is my preference musically, he doesn’t have the greatest track record visually. Sure, the “Hotline Bling” video was wildly entertaining, but that’s about it when it comes to his recent releases. “Sneakin'” had a nice VHS camcorder touch, but what do they do in the video that actually correlates with the track?
Instead of challenging others, it seems artists’ new go-to is rapping their tracks’ lyrics with a crowd of their friends around while they all intake some form of drugs. This trend is acceptable every once in a while, but the standard shouldn’t be this low. Granted, music videos aren’t as important as they once were which is sad for fans like me who enjoy every aspect of music. Also, the actual video directors are a big factor in this problem, but the artists shouldn’t be content with mediocrity or lower. Look at Bryan Barber’s work on The Game’s “Wouldn’t Get Far” with Kanye compared to what we’re watching on YouTube today. Time and technology may have advanced, but artists’ thought processes didn’t seem to get the memo.