Hip-hop and decadent, extravagant music videos go together like peas and carrots; sand and surf; Ja Rule & Ashanti. There have been many, many over the top rap videos over the last several decades, and while it wasn’t easy reducing that down to a handful of the very best, no one ever said the rap game (or the fun list of music videos game) was easy.
Master P – “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!”
No list of insanely over the top rap videos would really be complete without Master P. While the No Limit Army may have failed to take over the world, P’s pro basketball career died on the vine, and his brief venture into professional sports management was kind of a debacle, we’ll always have this video. As per custom, the No Limit trademark gold tank is featured heavily, with Master P, Silkk the Shocker, Mystikal et al balling it up on a gold basketball court. Even with all those things going on, the most egregiously over the top element? Some of those blatant travels. Call something, ref!
Notorious B.I.G. – “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems”
An elaborate, cinematic Tiger Woods/Bryant Gumbel parody that also inexplicably includes a zero gravity Diana Ross MDMA party. Yep, that’s over the top. There’s also an out of context scene of Puff Daddy and Ma$e walking away from a literal money explosion in slow motion, just for good measure. Does Puffy deserve our collective scorn or praise for his ushering in the shiny jumpsuit era of hip-hop videos? That’s for the historians to decide. Regardless, it’s kind of disappointing that, 20 years later, Puff became the media mogul while Ma$e vanished into relative obscurity. Darkest timeline.
Will Smith – “Wild Wild West”
In 1999, Will Smith, who at that point was pretty much both the biggest movie and music star in the world, reteamed with Barry Sonnenfeld to try and recreate the commercial and critical magic they had achieved with the previous summer’s Men In Black. The end result was a rare box office misstep for Smith, as the film failed to connect with audiences or critics (possibly because its primary reason for existence was to satiate producer Jon Peters’ insane, unquenchable thirst for giant mechanical spider action). Like MiB, Wild Wild West also had a movie-tie-in song performed by Smith, and its completely absurd accompanying video probably had a budget that rivaled the GDP of a small country. It also had an equally ridiculous, and quite frankly legendary performance at the MTV Movie Awards (he rode to the stage on a horse).
MC Hammer – “2 Legit 2 Quit”
Did you know this video cost $2,000,000 in 1991? In 2015 music industry dollars, that equals (and this is just an estimation as past music industry dollar conversion is not an exact science) 18 trillion dollars. You may not remember this, but the Hammerman was so insanely popular at this time that he had his own cartoon show called… Hammerman. [Ed: With its own insane theme song.] The early ’90s were a strange time.
Big Tymers – “Number One Stunna”
You knew that the founders of Cash Money Records were going to have a spot on this list, and here they are. Being super over the top and extravagant were kind of the Cash Money Millionaires’ brand, so really a low-key arthouse video wouldn’t have made a whole lot of sense. Here, we have the Big Tymers and crew (including an insanely young Lil’ Wayne) driving around in a blinged-out SUV motorcade and using several briefcases full of money to purchase various expensive items from prominent comedians. While the allure of buying things with briefcases full of cash must be strong when you’re doing well enough financially that you can afford to do things like that, it’s just not really very practical on a day-to-day basis.
Missy Elliott – “She’s a B**ch”
Missy has consistently been on the cutting edge of music video production for close to two decades now, and this outrageous, psychedelic, Cirque du Soleil-inside-the-Matrix mind-melting masterpiece may be her greatest work. It’s one of the most expensive videos ever produced, and director Hype Williams made sure every single dollar ended up on the screen. Sidenote: Missy’s resurgence in 2015 is the year’s most heartwarming hip-hop subplot. She is the best.
Eminem – “Lose Yourself”
This is, quite simply, one of the most ridiculously decadent videos ever produced in any genre. Many artists have used the music video platform to create cinematic experiences, but Eminem changed the game forever by making the video for “Lose Yourself” two hours long, co-starring Mekhi Phifer, Kim Basinger and Brittany Murphy, and released it in theatres all across America where it received decent reviews and was a box office success.
Jermaine Dupri feat. Jay Z – “Money Ain’t a Thang”
It’s obvious from the title of the song that this is going to be an extravagant video, and Dupri and Jay-Z do not disappoint. When it came to the budget of this video, money clearly was not a thang, as Jay, Jermaine, and their female accomplices keep continually one-upping each other in dreaming up ways to enjoy themselves by (again) purchasing things with briefcases full of money. Sadly, when they are “switching four lanes” with their Ferrarris and Jaguars, they are clearly not using proper signalling procedures. No wonder highway patrol gets involved. It’s one thing to be decadent, but that’s just plain irresponsible.
Drake, Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne, and Eminem – “Forever”
This video features one of the world’s most famous athletes, four of the most insanely successful rappers alive, and a bunch of slow motion explosions. So yes, it definitely belongs on this list. Recorded as a single for Lebron James’ documentary, More Than a Game, the video opens with King James himself (playing online poker, for some unknown reason) and gives massive stars Drake, Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne, and Eminem each their own Hype Williams hero shot. With stars like these, just try to imagine the catering table at this video shoot. We weren’t there but it was probably pretty damn decadent.