Chinese food takeout, a champagne bottle and green dollar bills rest upon a table. Mundane objects, but together these frivolous items create an image of homage. Hip-hop minds and aficionados of urban cult classics will see within the first few seconds of NxWorries’ “Scared Money” music video the nod to Paid In Full, the 2002 Roc-A-Fella Films movie that introduced Ace, Mitch, and Rico to the culture. The Calmatic-directed “Scared Money” is a modern reintroduction, using the famous film's likeness as source material to create a vintage and vibrant aesthetic.
There’s a feeling of warm nostalgia while watching the summertime visual—the iconic banquet and the gorgeous BMW with gold BBS rims, Knxwledge’s vintage Gucci fleece and Anderson’s ‘90s Brooklyn swagger, the hilarious club group photos, and even Ace’s laundromat job is brought back to life. Without any lines of dialogue, they were able to capture the film’s spirit of celebration, lavish living and the hustler’s dream before any downfall.
.Paak has an affinity for recreation; his music video for “Come Down” from his critically acclaimed Malibu album draws inspiration from The Sugar Shack, a painting by Ernie Barnes made famous by being the album cover of Marvin Gaye’s I Want You. In both “Come Down” and “Scared Money,” Anderson is using timeless art as the foundation of his vision and doing so in a way that can be appreciated by the past and present.
Music videos inspired by cinema exist throughout the various realms of hip-hop; countless artists and directors have incorporated ideas from the big screen and reimagined them for the smaller medium. It’s possible to pull scenes from films and expand upon them or simply use them as the basis of a visual treatment. Wale’s “The Breakup Song” is the latter, using the Marc Webb-directed 500 Days Of Summer as the basis to build a video that explores a relationship in its last days. The music video and film begin the same way, introducing the characters as children and highlighting their views on love from an early age.
Morgan Freeman narrates the film. He is the Nas of narration and does an excellent job telling the story of Tom and Summer. Wale was also able to get Morgan himself to contribute for his music video, and his opening monolog about Wale and Carmen is identical to the one he delivers in 500 Days—it’s huge that Wale was able to grab the master himself for a video from a mixtape. What “The Breakup Song” utilizes best from 500 Days Of Summer is the expectation/reality split screen, by far one of the most genius scenes in the movie. Instead of making the cliché R&B music video, Wale took it a step further by pulling from one of the most compelling romantic comedies and taking its best attributes to create one of his best music videos. Another notable example from the DC rapper is “Lotus Flower Bomb,” with an opening scene inspired by Poetic Justice.
A classic movie doesn’t have to be critically acclaimed or change the landscape of cinema, sometimes it's a classic simply because of its most memorable moments. Movies, especially those where you can recite every line and reenact every scene, tend to have a special place in our hearts. Ice Cube’s Friday is one of those movies. Seen by many, beloved by most, and despite lacking critical acclaim and awards, Craig and Smokey will outlive La La Land and most Academy Award winners. California’s own Audio Push revived the Friday universe in their video for “Shine,” taking on the likenesses of Craig and Smokey from the 1995 film. Their appearances mirror the young Cube and young Chris Tucker, hilariously bringing some of the movie's most noteworthy scenes back to life. Characters play the roles of Big Perm Worm and Mrs. Parker to add even more flair, and while there's a bit more to the visual than Oktane and Price, they do a great job embodying the characters. It’s a visual that pays homage while being fun, and since Cube started as a rapper, to see his movie return to hip-hop brings us full circle.
Wale’s “The Breakup Song” made sense to channel a love story for its treatment, but often rappers' songs and visual inspirations don't pair up. Tupac’s “California Love” has nothing to do with Mad Max—not even a reference—but the breathtaking video that features the notable Thunderdome was strongly influenced by the 1985 film. Hype Williams had the budget and the brilliance to attempt such a random feat and turn out an excellent video. Lil Wayne’s “6 Foot 7 Foot” is a lyrical assault, a rampant barrage of bars, and the video captures a bulk of the random lines with matching imagery, but the video begins and is sprinkled with scenes from Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Wayne’s suit, the chair, and being pushed into a water bath only to be awakened are all reenactments of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dom Cobb. Wayne must’ve gone through a mind-bending film phase too because his "No Worries” video is highly influenced by Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. Wayne’s rendition doesn’t quite match the bizarre, psychedelic trip that is the Terry Gilliam-directed version, but it’s pretty amazing to imagine Weezy F. Baby as Dr. Gonzo. His affinity for drugs and chaos would make him perfect for the role.
In the past, I’ve compared 21 Savage to O-Dog, the fictional gangster played by Larenz Tate in the movie Menace II Society. The beginning of the “No Heart” video has Atlanta’s most notorious savage stepping into O-Dog’s shoes by imitating the classic gas station scene—where a trip for 40s turns into a murder and robbery—and Metro Boomin plays the Caine to 21’s O-Dog. It isn’t the best-acted scene, but the representation is far more impactful than the execution.
While some artists go for small homage, I love when the ambition to capture a film can be seen in the overzealous details. Strange Music’s Ces Cru went big for “Jimmy Stewart,” a video that tackles the acclaimed and adored Pulp Fiction. Tackling such a cult favorite isn’t an easy task, but in honor of the 20th anniversary, Ces Cru went above and beyond to do Tarantino’s film justice. Costumes, effects and even the acting look as if serious time and effort went into the making. Any fan of the film has to see the video; it's the kind of tribute you won't forget.
KRS-One and Buckshot surprisingly took on Tron for “Survival Skills,” a visual treat for lovers of classic hip-hop and Steven Lisberger's science-fiction thriller. One of the best music videos of 2014 was Action Bronson’s “Easy Rider,” based off the 1969 film of the same name. Bronson’s personality glows whenever he’s on a camera but “Easy Rider” is truly special due to how well they were able to execute the concept. Kanye and Teyana Taylor took us back to Flashdance with “Fade,” Busta Rhymes' gave us Prince Akeem from Coming To America back in '97, Da La Soul and Redman gave us a return engagement of The Wiz, and if you ever wanted to see Big Boi in Reservoir Dogs look no further than Cool Breeze’s “Watch For The Hook.” The list goes on, from the early '90s to now.
Art inspires art, so it’s rather natural for visuals to beget visuals. Even though music videos can be inspired by films, let's not forget that the greatest music video of all time happens to be a movie—the Hype Williams-directed Belly.
By Yoh, aka Quentin TaraYohno, aka @Yoh31