Best Music Videos of 2018 (Staff Picks)

The DJBooth staff highlights our favorite music videos of 2018, from Travis Scott to Mac Miller and more.
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Best Music Videos, 2018

Say what you like, 2018 has been a marked year for music. While critique is very serious business, we are also human and what we like is all the more special than the critical appraisal of an album. For the next month, every day, you will find our staff picks for our favorite facets of music from best features to worst songs and everything in-between, based solely on what strikes us as diehard music fans first, and critics second. It's been an incredible year for hip-hop.

These are our favorite music videos of 2018.

“APESHIT” — THE CARTERS (Beyoncé & JAY-Z)

Director: Ricky Saiz

Our resident prophet Vince Staples once asserted that the National Anthem doesn’t slap. In more subtle fashion, the Carters used “APESHIT” to question if the Mona Lisa really slaps. EVERYTHING IS LOVE is the culminating and extremely satisfying finale to Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s long artistic and personal journeys. But bigger than the album itself perhaps is the music video shot entirely in the Louvre, where the larger-than-life couple challenge European standards of beauty and manage to make the world’s most famous art museum more legitimate through their presence. Subversive and superb, “APESHIT” places the Carters in a larger conversation around Black culture’s relationship to Western standards—a conversation both artists have individually been ready to host for years, but collectively accomplish here. —Ben Taylor

"A$AP Forever" — A$AP Rocky ft. Moby

Director: Dexter Navy

While A$AP Rocky’s artistic genius didn’t translate to his most recent album, TESTING, it certainly came across on the music video for the project’s lead single, “A$AP Forever.” The trippy visuals feature seamless transitions in and out of apartment complexes, street corners, and other environs of daily life in Harlem. The fast-paced movement of the video perfectly matches the energy of Rocky’s flow, and the frequent cameos from other members of A$AP Mob align well with the final lines of the chorus: “I tell ‘em don’t fuck with the gang / It’s time to fuck up the whole game.” The sheer creativity of the “A$AP Forever” video makes it the year’s best, and its brilliant execution also makes you wonder, as one YouTube commenter so wisely put it, “Did Jesus direct this?” —Stephen Barston

"FUN!" — Vince Staples

Director: Calmatic

Vince Staples’ ambitions and skill have met halfway throughout his entire career. But as good as his music is—including this year’s FM!—his videos up the ante in ways that can make anyone not Black uncomfortable (which is good). Take the video for “FUN!,” which follows a Google Earth camera as it invasively whirs and zips around Long Beach, CA documenting Vince and his friends. It ends with a white kid in his bedroom surveying the shots through his MacBook Pro, a comment on white interactions with Black culture as subtle as a Big Boy radio bell. It brought the concept first explored in Vince’s “Señorita” to its logical conclusion and had the decency to be a cool-looking and original video to boot, thanks to director Calmatic. —Dylan "CineMasai" Green

"King's Dead" — Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future & James Blake

Directors: Dave Free (the little homies) & Jack Begert

I mean, Kendrick Lamar is eating elote in a tree. As our managing editor Brendan Varan eloquently put it, "This is the type of flex I can get behind." —Z

"Praise the Lord (Da Shine)" — A$AP Rocky ft. Skepta

Director: Dexter Navy

Say what you want about A$AP Rocky's musical output in 2018, but it remains an indisputable fact that Pretty Flacko continues to put out some of the finest visuals in hip-hop. "A$AP Forever," "Fukk Sleep," "Sundress," "Gunz N Butter," Dev Hynes' "Chewing Gum"—2018 has been a banner year for Rocky short films. The best videos, though, are those that reshape the way you hear a song, and the visual accompaniment to "Praise the Lord"—a gorgeous, often split-screen bridge between New York and London—turned one of my least favorite TESTING tracks into one of my most-played songs of the year. —Brendan Varan

"Self Care" — Mac Miller

Director: Christian Weber

Surprise, surprise from the person behind Year of Mac. I have watched this video once a day, every morning over coffee, since its July release. The way Mac does battle with death and his demons, brought to the visual realm, is nearly as striking as his writing. I seethe when he mashes his first into the coffin over and over again, almost to no avail. There's also Bukowski-esque glee to his being buried alive and itching for a cigarette. It was always vices first, self second for him. Watching Mac Miller fight to live, that will always get me good. He wanted to live. I wanted him to live, too. —Donna-Claire Chesman

"SICKO MODE" — Travis Scott ft. Drake

Directors: Dave Meyers & Travis Scott

Dave Meyers’ video for Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE” only needed one single shot to take the 2018 crown. As the first beat builds, Drake stands in front of the camera, as red smoke fills the background and blankets him. It’s no longer than three seconds, although it feels like 20 minutes. Moments like that, ones that establish the gravity and visual confidence of what you are about to witness as bigger and better than anything before or after it, is what all music videos should aspire to capture. “SICKO MODE” was as much of an event as it was a song, and in under five minutes and three beat switches, Dave Meyers helped shape Travis Scott’s kaleidoscopic style into something perfect. —Matt Wilhite

Perhaps I’m only making this connection because I finally watched 2001: A Space Odyssey a few days before this music video was released, but I’m convinced it's only a slight exaggeration to say that if Stanley Kubrick had ever filmed a rap video, it might have looked like this one. Just as I was struck by the precision with which Kubrick framed each shot, his artful use of symmetry, and his methodical color-blocking, I found myself similarly floored as I watched this video for the first time, enthralled by the filmmakers’ ornate attention to detail. Further proof that Travis Scott has the best curatorial eye in the game, credit must also be given to his co-director, Dave Meyers, for perfectly capturing the song’s frenetic energy by employing stylistic elements that were somehow dynamic, yet singular at the same time. —Hershal Pandya

"This Is America" — Childish Gambino

Director: Hiro Murai

Childish Gambino stormed back into the music world this year with his “This is America” video, dominating the conversation with what might have been the most carefully dissected video of the year. With a chaotic plotline that requires multiple views to truly take in everything that’s happening, it not only qualified as yet another awe-inspiring display of Gambino’s creative prowess, but offered commentary on the country’s current social landscape as well. The only other video I could even consider is Gambino’s follow-up video for “Feels Like Summer,” but the trophy goes to “This is America” as it was undoubtedly more monumental. —Kenan Draughorne

This one’s easy. No video this year was more gripping, dense, or dissected than Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.” It’s an emotional roller coaster of a music video full of screeching, horrifying turns that leaves your adrenaline reserves drained. I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor after watching Donald Glover gun down a church choir at the switch of a beat. Obviously, there’s social commentary behind the carnage, the prevailing interpretation being that “This Is America” is an indictment of an easily distracted culture that consumes black joy one second and black death the next to an unsettling degree. There’s also the Jim Crow pose, SZA dressed as Lady Liberty, and how, after each killing, the murder weapon is wrapped in cloth and carried away while the bodies are either dragged away or left to rot—a subtle yet scathing statement on American gun culture, if you choose to read that deep into it. One thing that’s conclusive: there isn’t a better tag-team behind—or in front of—a camera right now than Donald Glover and Hiro Murai (see also: Atlanta). —Andy James 

Whack World — Tierra Whack

Directors: Thibaut Duverneix & Mathieu Léger

Innovation doesn’t always receive the recognition it deserves. Being ahead of your time also means being ahead of your applause. Luckily, Tierra Whack received a mountain of praise for her ingenious debut album, Whack World. There was nothing like Whack World before, but the minimalist concept and the Instagram-length short videos for each song will influence the future length of records and how artists approach their visuals. Watching Whack World shows the art in stretching what’s normal and embracing what’s unconventional. —Yoh

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