Since it’s December, I can finally say this with certainty: 2018 has been one of the most innovative years for music videos in the history of rap, particularly because several of the genre’s most influential artists, like A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar, dropped albums.
While there have been a number of incredible music videos this year, I narrowed down the pool of options to the five best ones, focusing on editing, directing and accompanying music. Each is much different from the other, but what makes these five videos stand out is the level to which they broke from the genre’s status quo. Music videos often focus on experimentation or relaying the narrative of a song, but these five brought new concepts to life and ran with them.
Even though I am a film editing student, each of these projects left me scratching my head in awe, thinking, “How did they pull that effect off?” With so much personality and technical style in each video, it is an honor to peer into the minds of these creative geniuses through their visual work. The rap genre is putting the art back into music videos, and these are the best five from 2018
“SICKO MODE” is the most impressively edited and directed music video since Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE,” both of which were directed by Dave Meyers. The song itself comes from Travis Scott’s 2018 album “ASTROWORLD,” which takes listeners to another dimension.
The video, which Rolling Stone called the “Citizen Kane of Travis Scott music videos,” is no slouch either. It pays homage to Houston, Texas, Scott’s hometown. The opening portrays Scott’s vision of Houston, cutting on the beats with different faces of the neighborhood’s residents. Some of the most astounding effects in the music video are those of Scott in the parking lot of a record store.
Although he is displayed in real time, he stands in the foreground of people stuck in a time stop, with the cameras zooming in and out of focus on each. Scott sporadically transitions from scene to scene with an effect that visually represents what a scratching record might look like. With 131 million views in only a month, this video is popular for good reason.
Unlike “SICKO MODE,” the goal for Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar’s music video “King’s Dead” was to “avoid visual effects as much as possible.” The song came off of Lamar’s “Black Panther” album he dropped this year for Marvel’s “Black Panther,” yet the music video stands on its own even without the movie.
The project’s most recognizable effects are the extreme zooms made possible by an 8K camera, a robotic rig and expertise focusing. The opening shot is a fast, controlled zoom of Kendrick in a palm tree eating elote on a stick. Jay Rock, Lamar and Future are the focal points of zooming throughout the video.
Toward the end, Lamar is in the middle of traffic while cars zip past him from all different directions. The experimental execution of the video’s zooming gives the viewer an idea of what they should be focusing on in the bigger picture, which is shown through wide shots and intense zooms. This video currently has 98 million views since its posting 10 months ago.
While this may not be on top of other lists as one of the best rap videos of the year, it should be. Chicago-born Cole Bennett got his start recording live shows with his buddies that led to collaborations with notable rap artists such as Smokepurpp, Lil Pump and Soulja Boy.
In high school, Bennett created Lyrical Lemonade, a company specializing in music promotion that has developed into an underground Atlantis for up-and-coming rap artists. His videos are unique not only for camera movement and editing but also for animation.
He went to DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, where he discovered a love for animation that is present in many of his videos, including “Off Deez.” His use of “doodles” to advance J.I.D’s lyrics is brilliant in execution. The editing is fast because the rapping is fast. Bennett estimates he has made around 275 music videos and is only 21 years old.
“A$AP Forever” appears on A$AP Rocky’s 2018 album “Testing,” the rapper’s third studio album. This trippy music video is a crazy ride and has the most masterful editing I’ve seen to date. It opens on Rocky in an almost nauseating 360-degree circle around him, before the editing then manipulates the impression that the camera is going through the ground and comes up on the other side.
The video moves into a continuous spiral of frames leading into more frames. There’s a lot to take in, and you may need to watch it a few times to truly embrace all the details, but it’ll be well worth it.
Although Kali Uchis falls more under the R&B and soul genre, “After the Storm” is a sweet, smooth mix of R&B and rap with the collaboration Tyler, The Creator and Bootsy Collins. The story of the video starts with Kali going to the grocery store looking for a lover, which turns into her buying a packet of seeds that grows into none other than the flower boy, Tyler, The Creator.
The use of colors brings the story to life. Each frame within the music video looks like a painting or hyper-realistic photograph. The simple, slow editing parallels the ’70s-esque funky tune and atmosphere. The aesthetic is simple compared to the other videos’, especially as it concerns effects and editing, but the spectacle that is “After the Storm” builds a world that the viewer can’t help but want to find and plant a lover in.