To put it bluntly, rap videos have become formulaic and boring. If you’ve seen any visuals from a mainstream rap act over the last 15 years, you’ve no doubt noticed that nearly all of them follow the same stringent guidelines for content and style.
Since the late '90s, most hip-hop videos have boiled down to a reduction of cars, strippers, liquor and some unimaginative performance shots of whoever happens to be doling out that particular re-hash.
Don’t get me wrong, those are all important aspects of life, and it has been proven that those elements can still be utilized in fun, innovative ways. But in an era where memes seem to be doing more good for artists’ visibility than engaging videos, most artists are forgoing the sizable hit to their budget that a proper video can deliver and instead are resorting to lazy, trite visuals that do little, if anything, to enhance the music.
Northside Atlanta trio Migos (Nawfside!), however, are doing their part to change that trend. The visual offerings from their recently released C U L T U R E album so far—including “Deadz,” just released today (February 23)—have taken the usual traits of generic rap videos and flipped them upside down.
On the surface, the 2 Chainz-assisted “Deadz” is just like every other flashy mainstream rap affair, but that Migos flavor helps the video separate from the pack. Even in the opening seconds, you see a passionate, fur tuxedo-donning maestro at the helm of an all-black 14-piece orchestra, and you immediately know this isn’t going to be your average rap flick.
Literal depictions of dead presidents, creative camera angles and shots and one hell of a location combine throughout “Deadz” to make it everything most rap videos aren’t—creative and engaging—without sacrificing those core ingredients of a traditional boast-fest.
Then there’s the “T-Shirt” video, a magical, Revenant-inspired visual that managed to make one of the best songs on the album even better. At its core, “T-Shirt” is still very much a rap video in the classic sense; there are chains, beautiful women and the performance shots are pretty straightforward. But they’re also doing a dope deal in trapping furs on a snow-covered mountain, and the cars have been swapped out for snowmobiles.
See what I mean?
Even the two more generic-leaning videos from C U L T U R E, “Call Casting” and “Bad and Boujee,” both have elements within them that elevate the viewing experience beyond the hastily-crafted offerings of some of their peers.
While “Bad and Boujee” is very much a traditional trap video, it cleverly posits a visual representation of the juxtaposition in the song’s title. The methods are simple, effective and fun enough to keep my attention the entire way through, even on repeat viewings. The visual for “Call Casting” is also, on the surface, a generic rap video, except that it was filmed in Nigeria and represents the group’s international dominance, a totally forgivable indulgence.
There are and always have been plenty of artists making exciting and innovative hip-hop visuals, but Migos are one of the few superstar acts proving that videos are still worth putting effort and creativity into.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: YouTube