You would have thought it was 21 A.D. the way Mr. Savage owned this year. His Savage Mode mixtape with Metro Boomin was the hottest mixtape of 2016, he was officially inducted into the Drake-co-sign hall of fame, and probably above all, his dagger tattoo become a dank meme. Between all of the violent imagery and general savagery, 21 21 found the time to let his romantic side shine with his video for “Feel It,” an unapologetic thuggin’ love song about his day one boo ting. With a potent red light, the video for “Feel It” expresses the Atlanta rapper’s urgent need for true affection, under the constant threat of jealous shooters and snakeskin industry folk. Not to mention, his chick bad.
Hottest Music Videos of 2016
Isaiah Rashad - "4r Da Squaw"
Money rules everything directly above us in Isaiah Rashad’s “4d Da Squaw” music video, as the TDE upstart takes to the sunny boardwalk with a small child that may or may not be his actual son. A dollar amount hangs over all people seen, and the sight is far from luxurious. Every adult seen walking is in some sort of debt, but making due in the moment to have fun and enjoy the day. Isaiah’s kid fluxuates between no money and a few bucks, as he earns a bit of cash dancing on the boardwalk, only to spend it moments later. Whether or not Rashad has paid his bills is unclear. Either way, it seems that in these happier moments of life on the boardwalk, he’s good.
If A$AP Mob was caking back in 2011 like they are now, they would’ve made a video like “Yamborghini High” a long time ago. Since the crew’s get go, their clips have paid extra attention to visual aesthetic (see “Purple Swag”), creating an A$AP Universe built from all-encompassing shades of hues. Traversing through every colorful facet of the squad’s swag, this music video is a reminder that each member of A$AP Mob are esteemed graduates of “Yamborghini High,” and in the tragic absence of their visionary leader, Rocky & co. are bringing the lessons they learned to the forefront once again.
Boogie - "Nigga Needs"
Rihanna’s favorite new rapper is a kid from Compton named Boogie, and in his video for “Nigga Needs” he proves that he’s got the conceptual cache to earn more than another star’s sloppy seconds. With an open bullet wound in his stomach, a miniature Boogie stands atop a bougie gallery platform, as wealthy-looking white folks stand around, observing the art. Boogie wants you to know that the struggle of economically depressed black people has become the trending entertainment of Caucasians today. Take from that what you will. The video has a similar message to that of Vince Staples’s “Senorita” clip, but we ain’t mad at it. Despite the heavy subject manner, “Nigga Needs” has a numb, emotionally distant vibe, hitting home a vision of the stillness of the 2016 mind as it witnesses the terrors of a chaotic world.
A Tribe Called Quest - "We The People...."
No one was expecting a Tribe comeback this year, but in the darkening landscape of our country’s politics, this seminal rap crew was exactly what we needed to give us hope. The clip for “We The People….” centers on Q-Tip’s sermon of truth via radio transmission, reaching megaphones everywhere with massive cords on every block. As the gentrification of Brooklyn becomes a cultural symbol for eviction across the nation, Tip makes it clear in the hook what is meant by these changes.
The late Phife Dawg appears via animatronic graffiti mural with a vintage verse on the meaninglessness of the modern day markers of success (like the Billboard charts, although Tribe’s album did hit number one). Concluding in a massive street side protest, “We The People….” is a reminder on the immense potential power embedded in hip-hop, so thank you Tribe, and RIP Phife.
Rich Chigga - "Dat $tick"
Watching Rich Chigga’s “Dat $tick” is a visceral experience. After one overcomes their initial reaction of seeing a 16-year-old Indonesian rapper self-reflexively dressed like a Jewish grandpa vacationing in Florida, one’s bodily system is thrown into ultra-shock when they hear that his flow is actually dope. Like very dope. And if you can’t trust yourself, ask your favorite rapper. The experts agree; Rich Chigga is a force to be reckoned with.
Although Rich Chigga may be playing a role of satirist in his video for “Dat $tick,” parodying the tropes of trap rap, the streets of Jakarta do not have the same opposite-of-gangster cache of suburban America. Indonesia is hard, and if one pays attention to this young man’s lyrical content, he’s actually making a statement on the corruption and poverty that plagues his nation. When one comes back to “Dat $tick” for another viewing, it’s not for the gimmick.
D.R.A.M. - "Broccoli" feat. Lil Yachty
No music video released in 2016 was built more GIF-ready than “Broccoli,” partly because rhythmic GIFs are superimposed all over the place. Like the audio of the track itself, every moment of this clip is goofy, expressive, and 2016 in a nutshell. It was a massive hit because it was designed for the music industry of the future – a place where generic tropes and song structures don’t make hits, memes do.
In the landscape of rap, Lil Yachty and Big Baby D.R.A.M. roll in different crowds. Yachty is so in tune with the youth, he’s been crowned king of the culture, one year in. D.R.A.M. is the friendliest cat in rap, Hip-Hop’s Hagrid, overly capable and respectful. The two don’t make sense together on paper, and that’s what feels monumental here, not that it matters. This video is fun. Try not to have fun watching this video. And now that the lingo war has been settled, that fun can be felt guilt-free.
The Weeknd - "False Alarm"
Watch the clips for “Starboy” and “Tell Your Friends,” and try to explain to us why The Weeknd is constantly dying in his own music videos. With his own mortality clearly haunting his creative psyche, stardom in and of itself must be a form of death for Toronto’s lost boy Abel Tesfaye. Along with spiritual collapse, super stardom can be represented by a massive robbery, as The Weeknd takes us on a POV bank heist in his video for “False Alarm.”
Proving that he’s got the means to pull of a blockbuster budget Hollywood action flick, Tesfaye brings us the blood, guts, explosions, and sex appeal that we didn’t know we needed. And of course there’s the girl, the Caucasian runway type that Abel seems to have a thing for. Face smeared in another man’s blood seems to be when she looks prettiest, and we’ll let you decipher by the end of the clip if she was plotting this turn of events all along. Was her innocence a false alarm?
And in one fatal swoop, Kanye West made Teyana Taylor a bonified star. The GOOD Music-signed singer, who appeared at one time on “My Super Sweet 16,” was certainly on the radar, contributing vocals to West’s timeless MBDTF intro “Dark Fantasy,” but it took a moment as big as an insanely sexy premiere at the VMAs to bring her name into the minds of plebeians worldwide.
The impeccable chemistry between Taylor’s smokin’ hot post-pregnancy body and the star sphere of layers to Kanye’s Ty Dolla-assisted single was hard to deny, and why would you try? In the case of a video like “Famous,” the concept overshadows the video’s enjoyability, and in Kanye’s headier moments, this is often the case. But in “Fade,” Taylor’s intoxicating sexuality and world-class dancing makes for one of West’s best clips in recent history, if not ever. Package that with her endgame cat-transformation, and a naked Iman Shumpert holding a baby, surrounded by live sheep, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a conversation around the water cooler.
Out of all the rappers slated to drop projects in 2016, we seriously doubt anyone touted YG as the artist behind this year’s political anthem. And by “political,” we don’t mean a socio-economic critique that vaguely connects to the structures imposed by the powers that be. We mean an explicitly political anthem, one pertaining to a specific candidate of a specific election. In all fairness, Donald Trump wasn’t any typical candidate (and he likely won’t be a typical President).
The Donald’s unique flavor of populist, racist, authoritarian politics is an affront to Americans across partisan lines. His status as a threat to everything demanded a response that reached beyond political and gang affiliation. YG’s brilliant vision, black-and-white footage with only the colors of blue and red bandanas visible, sends a clear message. When faced with an existential crisis, people of all walks of life can and must put aside petty beef, and defeat the threat.
Alas, despite the strength of “FDT,” Donald Trump will be President of the United States of America. If anything else, this song and video is a reminder that a hip-hop song can become the soundtrack of a struggle at the forefront, and provide strength to its tired soldiers. And make the FBI pay attention in the process.
Solange – "Don’t Touch My Hair" feat. Sampha
Two days after Solange dropped A Seat At The Table, the career achievement she’s been destined to reach, the Texas-born singer released two promotional music videos. “Don’t Touch My Hair” was one of them, and it immediately went viral, hitting a vital nerve in the chest of the zeitgeist. The revelatory video clip was directed by Solange’s hubby Alan Ferguson, which may make it sound like a kitschy family affair, until you take a look at Ferguson’s impressively eclectic resume (notable entries include Jay Z’s “Feelin’ It” and “Cupid’s Chokehold” by Gym Class Heroes).
Often employing the use of large empty spaces, “Don’t Touch My Hair” tours through nostalgic imagery of blackness without ever seeming trope-ish, instead relying on the nuances of lived experience and recorded history. If it seems like the title bares an obvious meaning, you’ll find that the lyrical and visual content of the clip does not. The tightly knit choreography and DP work creates a tenseness that is only cut by Solange’s redemptive wylin’ via Sampha’s hook. And Solange’s redemption only feels as great as it does because it she seems like she genuinely wants to bring us all into a state of spiritual relief with her.
Lil Yachty - "1 Night"
This is your brain on memes. For all the hate Lil Yachty received this year, held responsible by haters for the rise of “mumble rap” and the dumbing down of America, this young stuntman can make a clever ass music video. “1 Night” encapsulates the intelligence of Yachty that is so wildly overlooked by the masses at large.
Humor and cyberspace psychedelia drive this video forward, with as many aesthetic ideas crammed in it quite literally makes one’s head hurt. Traversing through the ethers of the Internet, Young Boat and his gang flip the idea of the flex on its head, living all of their wildest dreams with the help of a green screen. Beginning with some hot thots on a boat, the video initially appears as usual hip-hop fare. When a couple of white teens are seen watching Yachty on an iPad, followed by a meta snapshot of the music video’s editing software, it becomes clear that this is far from a typical rap video.
Clowning celebrity couples, sing-a-long animation, and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is just part of the swim, as the video dives head first into the deep end quickly and with no remorse. “1 Night” by Lil Yachty completes the promise made by Yung Lean all those years ago, and it’s the most post-post-post-modern video we’ve seen all year.
Frank Ocean – "Nikes"
Perhaps no amount of hype culminated in a music video like Frank Ocean’s “Nikes.” Several days following the release of the singer’s visual Endless album, Frank dropped his first and only music video from Blonde on Apple Music. If Frank’s Endless was a painstaking single shot of one man building a set of stairs, “Nikes” was its antithesis, a music video under five minutes with what appeared to be thousands of separate video shoots and settings. Was some of that found footage? Or did Frank Ocean’s team really film everything we see in that video?
One could write a PHD thesis on the brilliance of this music video, so let’s just mention a few key shots: naked woman lying on a sea of dollar bills, the shirtless boy holding an old woman like his prom date, A$AP Rocky holding a portrait of the late great Yams, and the revelation that Frank Ocean does in fact look just like Trayvon Martin.
When it first was released, the excitement of “Nikes” laid in the anticipation that the long promised Blonde (we all thought it was called Boys Don’t Cry back then) was nearing release. Some time away from that young place, we can appreciate “Nikes” for the beautiful monolith it really is.
ScHoolboy Q - "JoHn Muir"
The rollout for ScHoolboy Q’s Blank Face LP was largely focused on the visual. Aimed at telling the stories of his own past and his homies’ present, ScHoolboy dropped a number of music videos (such as “By Any Means” and “Tookie Knows”) starring his real-life friends, that bordered on short films. Above any of his visual releases, however, the clip for “JoHn Muir” nearly embodied a music video at its perfect form.
Filmed entirely from the exterior of a car behind the passenger’s door, two of ScHoolboy’s homeboys can be seen bellin’ through the mothafuckin’ street, getting into various amounts of shit. They sell drugs, they jack a dude’s bag, and they even get head from what appear to be street-level sex workers. The story has a tragic end, and the poetic device of seeing life from the perspective of a car is clear. Not only is the automobile an accessory in its owner’s life of crime, but it actually outlives those who drive it. As it’s towed, we’re left to believe that the vehicle will eventually reach a new owner, igniting the cycle once again.
“JoHn Muir” is not an overly moralizing or depressing music video. Despite the tragedy of its plotline, the song carries an almost whimsical vibe, speaking to the young high school mentality of living life destructively partly out of boredom. Driving in circles, just bellin’ down the mothafuckin’ street.
Beyoncé - "Formation"
This is the kind of music video you phone home about.
This is the kind of music video you remove FB friends over.
This is the kind of music video you get a Tidal account for.
After Beyoncé's "Formation" hit computer screens worldwide, blackness was officially at the forefront of national discussion.
Is there any image as pertinent to 2016 as drowning on the hood of a sinking cop car?
The city under water.
And they wonder why Beyoncé reigns...
Martin Shkreli Has Allegedly Bought Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter V" Album; Streams Music Via Periscope
The infamous 'Pharma bro' claims to have acquired Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter V" album and leaks new music in a weird Periscope stream.
Just in time for Christmas. HNHH's Hottest 15 Music Videos of 2016.
As the world reaches a state of constant visual stimulation, it can be difficult for an artist, even at the forefront of their genre, to make a music video stick out. In an age where everyone is making music videos of themselves on Snapchat at all times, a truly great music video must extend further into the realm of creativity than ever before.
There were a few artists who went beyond visually where they had to, and created works of art that stand alone in greatness. Some made important political statements, and some expressed a deep, relatable personal struggle. And others just bang. Flip through the gallery, and enjoy the videos.