For most of us, music is far more than just background noise for workouts or the drive to and from work. In the lives of dedicated listeners, music is the soundtrack to specific memories, the motivation to get through some of life’s hardest moments; a therapist and a cheerleader when we need it the most.
It’s for these reasons and a million more that fandom in the realm of music is capable of verging on hysteria. We get elaborate tattoos, we name children after songs, we drive across countries to see our favorite artists. Music has the ability to speak to us, and when that connection happens it can inspire fantastic tributes.
While working for a record label prior to my gig with DJBooth, I witnessed fans pay tribute to their favorite artists in incredibly dedicated and elaborate ways, the most impressive of which were fan-made music videos. The visual representation of a song can go in a million different directions, and I've always loved to see how fans interpret songs without actually being commissioned for the role of director.
Inspired by an incredible Grand Theft Auto V rendering of Lil Uzi Vert's "XO Tour Llif3" single which has tragically now been blocked by Warner Music Group, I scoured subreddits and the hidden depths of YouTube to find five incredible fan-made hip-hop videos. Here we go...
Kendrick Lamar - "Cartoon & Cereal"
Created by: Josh Forman
We'll kick off the short list with a longtime favorite in the world of fan-made videos, filmmaker and content creator Josh Forman's spectacular interpretation of Kendrick Lamar's fifth-best song of all-time. The Gunplay-assisted "Cartoon & Cereal" finds Kendrick as the good kid living in a city on fire, engulfed in crime and violence, but the song never received the proper video treatment it so badly deserved.
Luckily, Forman's video captures the sheer terror of the song itself while playing off the cartoon motif perfectly, mashing clips of cartoons from eras past and TV static together in dizzying fashion. It has the effect of a late night cartoon binge on acid, and it's the perfect accompaniment to the song which inspired it.
Kendrick Lamar - “m.A.A.d City”
Created by: Enpax
This video may not be as visually stunning as some of the others in this article, but the painstaking dedication it must have taken to create it should not be overlooked.
Using the same flash animation techniques that fueled the subculture Newgrounds, animator Enpax (who is unsurprisingly a Newgrounds contributor himself) creates hilarious shorts about rappers having ordinary jobs. His recreation of “m.A.A.d City” is no different, injecting humorous, literal translations of Kendrick’s lyrics throughout the video.
Lloyd Banks - “Where I’m At” ft. Eminem
Created By: Oscar Reflect & Damian Ciancio / Feedback + Linterna Magica
The video for "Where' I'm At" relies less heavily on the resourcefulness of much of the fan-made content I came across during my research and instead creates a cinematic representation of the source material from scratch.
Directed by Oscar Reflect and Damian Ciancio, the video takes on an almost Archer-esque aesthetic with detailed animations driving their take on a classic hip-hop video. Storyline and performance seamlessly intertwine and it’s clear these guys have truly studied the art of a rap video.
Danny Brown - “Grown Up”
Created by: Steven Menegozzi
Every once in awhile, a fan-made video is so good that there’s no way it shouldn’t be the official video for the track. This is one of those videos.
Graphic artist Steven Menegozzi absolutely crushed this Fisher Price-inspired take on Danny Brown’s 2012 loosie “Grown Up,” which is every bit as good as the already-incredible official video. This video is both a testament to Menegozzi’s impressive skill set and the potency of Danny’s work, which inspired not one but two fantastic visual tributes.
Child Rebel Soldier - “Us Placers”
Created by: Va$htie
For those not familiar, “Us Placers” is one of the three recorded appearances of Child Rebel Soldier, the short-lived supergroup consisting of Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams.
While many believed this to be the official video for years, director Va$htie’s YouTube upload of the video clearly states it was not a commissioned piece and was done “for the love of the song on zero budget.” This might as well be the official video, though, as Va$htie’s imaginative take on a classic aesthetic using child versions of the three emcees looks like something all three artists might have loved.