In a year in which there were few ways to hear music beyond the comforts of your own home, music videos served as a welcome — if not essential — way to experience our favorite songs. From big-budget quasi films to the most humble of bedroom recordings, 2020 was an interesting year in music videos to say the least. With hip-hop continuing to dominate the cultural consciousness, it’s no surprise that many of the year’s most innovative and exciting music videos came at the behest of rap songs. I might not have been able to go to a live show all year, but putting these videos on the big screen (a.k.a. my TV) made things slightly more tolerable.
“Pardon Me” — Lil Yachty ft. Future
Lil Yachty had an underrated run in 2020. His album Lil Boat 3 was a formidable addition to his catalog, made stronger by a bevy of flat out enjoyable music videos. Standout visual “Pardon Me,” featuring Future dressed in swaggy business causal, is a delightful entrant into a whole other world of flexing.
“PI$$ED OFF” — BbyMutha
One hopes that, in 2021, the excellent releases we may have been too distracted to fully appreciate get their time in the sun. The Chattanooga-based rapper BbyMutha dropped her excellent studio debut Muthaland this year, alongside the visuals for “Pi$$ED OFF,” a phantasmagoria of quarantine malaise. Finding enjoyment and pride within oneself is certainly a theme of BbyMutha’s music, and “PI$$ED OFF” proves why watching her do anything is more exciting than some artists’ most intricate endeavors.
“Face” — Ovrkast. Ft. Navy Blue
There’s a cinematic quality to the music video for “Face” by Oakland-based MC Ovrkas. Directed by Skyler Vander Molen, the video takes the producer and MC’s sullen introspection to new heights. Though he’s part of a crop of underground rappers with their hearts on their sleeves, OvrKast’s visuals suggest the creative vision of a major player.
”@ MEH” — Playboi Carti
Oddly, “@ MEH” was nowhere to be found on Playboi Carti‘s long awaited Whole Lotta Red. A shame since the video alone is so strong. Directed by Playboi Carti & Nick Walker, the video feels like a photoshoot from Carti’s new vampire dimension. Dark hues dominate the minimalist set while Carti’s signature warble ushers us through what feels like an aesthetic rebirth for the 24-year-old rapper.
“Korleone” — BBY Kodie
Houston’s BBY Kodie seems quietly ascendant. With the attitude of someone who spent 2020 building in secret, “Korleone” arrives almost fully realized. BBY Kodie has described himself as Houston’s answer to Drake and it’s increasingly clear how serious he is. The video for “Korleone” has a delightfully cinematic quality, and some of the best shots of Houston’s landscape in any music video I can remember.
“STFU” — Rico Nasty
They should have cast Rico Nasty in Fight Club and the video for her unflinching anthem “STFU” is only slight retribution.
“Jobs” — City Girls
In a year dominated by OnlyFans, leave it to City Girls to do the platform, and the rich narratives therein, justice. With a premise that’s universal — hating your job — the Miami duo crafted one of 2020’s most enjoyable videos. Almost enough to make you forget every ridiculous headline you saw this year.
“The Bigger Picture” — Lil Baby
Lil Baby responded to the uprising this summer with the pitch-perfect “The Bigger Picture,” a moment of reflection that felt genuine and vulnerable in a year full of posturing. The music video for the song is no exception. Plenty of music videos have used the imagery of protests to get a point across but few have done so as poignantly as what’s achieved here.
“Body” — Megan Thee Stallion
Sometimes a video comes around that connects a whole lineage of music history together without even trying. Megan Thee Stallion‘s “Body,” an infectious tune that should solidify her place as one of the best to do it, is accompanied by a music video that can only be described as a classic. The choreography is perfect, reminiscent of the Nineties when music videos really mattered.
“Laugh Now Cry Later” — Drake
Drake‘s penchant for theatrics makes perfect sense for the former actor, but he really outdid himself with “Laugh Now Cry Later.” Filmed at the Nike headquarters and featuring several future Hall of Famers across sports, the video is a reminder of how talented an entertainer Drake is when he’s not being, well, Drake. There were any number of missteps for the rapper this year — the lukewarm Dark Lanes Demo Tapes, that Architectural Digest spread, “Toosie Slide” — but somehow he managed to pull off the year’s most joyous video, offering a brief respite from what’s been one hell of a 12 months.