The Worst Rap Videos of My Adolescence
The Worst Rap Videos of My Adolescence
When I was a kid, I watched more than my fair share of MTV and 106 & Park. Rap music videos of that era were characterized by horrible green screen edits and scantily-clad models. There was also the juxtaposition of labels trying to market rap music -- which was widely considered lewd and vulgar to mainstream America -- while complying with the Federal Communication Commission's overzealous censorship of lyrics, images, and videos. Rumor has it that MTV had to produce four different clean versions of The Clipse’s "Grindin’’ because they kept discovering coke references in the record. On top of the excessive censorship, this was also an era of major label rap where artists would sign away all of their creative control for a nice record label advance. At the very least, the label’s control of artist image and output based on what they thought was marketable did make for some amusing visuals. Don't get me wrong, there was a lot of good music that came out of this era. However, there was also a lot of manufactured garbage that should never see the light of day ever again.
Rap music has now evolved to the point that anyone promoting their music on YouTube and SoundCloud doesn’t have to worry about keeping it clean. Wiz Khalifa can smoke weed out of everything imaginable on camera, Riff Raff can snort cocaine in his infamous Versace Python freestyle video, and 21 Savage can shoot a video with enough firearms to make the NRA executive board weep tears of joy. These modern era rap videos have made me realize just how ridiculous the stuff I watched as a kid really was. Here are the worst rap videos that I recall from when I was growing up:
I don't know who suggested the idea of a coffee shop as a metaphor for a crack house, but man this was poorly executed. The video begins with an obnoxious mini-me version of Yung Joc serving customers sneakers, cell phones, custom car alterations and coffee (which I guess is supposed to represent crack?) out of a drive-thru window. This is odd in itself because no one goes to a coffee shop to buy these things. It gets even stranger when you glance at the menu and see that it features items with dumbass names such as "Spinnwheelz", "Chromalicious" and "Fatz Wheelie" as customizations that customers can get on their cars, and sneakers with names such as "Classic Skids", "Grippz" and "Floats.”
Furthermore, there are way too many young children that appear throughout the video. This man Yung Joc is clearly channeling his inner Steve Jobs by exploiting this much child labor.
Whether it’s them helping out in the shop, or in the parking lot dancing, watching little kids get down to song about selling crack is actually kind of disturbing in hindsight. As if the video wasn't bizarre enough as it is, a full marching band appears in the parking lot during Gorilla Zoe's verse, and Rick Ross makes a five-second cameo getting a haircut in the middle of the coffee shop. Not where I would choose to get my hair cut but to each his own -- I just hope no one found one of Rozay’s stray beard pubes in their latte.
First of all, this video was exhausting to watch because it drags on for nine minutes. Off Chamillionaire's sophomore album Ultimate Victory, this double video offers him playing four characters: rapper, police officer, news anchor and news correspondent. What makes this video so particularly bad is that it is unbelievably predictable. It's the classic tough-guy cop versus the rapper who refuses to confess to anything. The dialogue is corny, and although the video is excruciatingly long, the reason for him playing all of these roles is never really explained. I’m still confused about what it was supposed to symbolize, or what the director was really trying to accomplish here.
It's safe to say that this video was a statement about censorship in rap music at the time, but how are we supposed to take it seriously when the whole thing is basically a bad comedy sketch? On top of that, the headlines that flash on a bad parody of CNN throughout the video such as "Rap Music Banned In All 50 States" and "Shipment of Rap CDs Stopped in Atlanta" come off as overdramatic. Rap music was already well on its way to becoming formal part of mainstream American culture; it was being played on pop radio all across the country. Lastly, something about Chamillionaire wearing whiteface a la Dave Chappelle is way too creepy to look at. At least when Dave Chappelle did it, we could still tell it was obviously him, with Chamillionaire, it looks like he had some crazy plastic surgery operation gone bad.
Easily one of the most sexually explicit rap songs ever created, more vulgar than anything that Too $hort or the Ying Yang Twins ever came up with (even the whisper song). This video is bad on many levels. It’s one of the most ironic videos that came out during this era. The version of the song has to be clean (of course) but the video is so sexually suggestive it might as well be a softcore porno. Even as an adult, this video still makes me uncomfortable. The song "Play" is mostly about David Banner watching a woman masturbate, and even though the video is not nearly as suggestive as the song, in it, Banner still comes off as being way too sexually aggressive. I mean goddamn, it’s borderline sex-offender behavior. The whole video is really just weird shots of Banner getting way too close to women while they work out. Like... are women really into these hyper-aggressive sexual advances? When was the last time a girl you know was willfully wooed by the creepy, overly pushy dude at the bar? While the video should turn women off, it couldn’t possible appeal to straight men either. I certainly didn't get anything out of watching this man biting his lower lip and flicking his tongue in a suggestive manner throughout the whole video. Still trying to erase the image from my brain to this day.
Watching this video is a painful experience and it isn't even because of Nelly's jacket matching his banana-yellow doo rag. While this isn't as bad as another country-rap crossover (and let's be clear, the bar is not set high for country-rap crossovers) -- the Brad Paisley and LL Cool J collaboration, "Accidental Racist" (possibly the worst song ever recorded) -- it was pretty damn bad. The split-screens of Nelly and Tim McGraw are cringe-worthy. On the surface level, the premise of the video is not terrible. White man and black man going through the same relationship struggles (hey, look, they aren't that different!). However, it’s really nothing more than one big marketing ploy, and using this particular storyline was just part of it. I get it, Nelly had one of the best selling rap albums of all time called Country Grammar, so the label was like, “Let’s get him on a song with one of the biggest mainstream country artists so he can garner more white fans and sell more records!”
On top of that, in an effort to ensure that this crossover would appeal to as many people as possible they made the song about literally the most universal mainstream pop song topic ever: love and relationships. Something literally every living, breathing human being can relate to. That's probably why I dislike it so much; they made sure no one that might see the video would feel alienated. It isn’t a remotely thought-provoking or innovative fusion of cultures. The whole thing comes across as unbelievably manufactured and fake. Cross-genre collaborations can be cutting-edge. This was not.
Only God knows why Lil Wayne decided to do a rock album. It might go down as one of the most poorly calculated moves in the history of the music industry. Lil Wayne clearly didn't have any legitimate interest in rock music, because the result of this project… isn't a rock album. What kills me about the “Prom Queen” video the most are the parts when Wayne is pretending to play a guitar. We all know this man doesn't know how to play guitar! His fretting hand and picking hand are not even working together. From the label’s perspective this also makes zero sense. How could they think this would make him more marketable when his previous album, Tha Carter III, sold over a million copies in the first week? He already had the best selling rap album of the entire year! At least with some of the aforementioned songs, the videos were intended to be somewhat satirical. The fact that whoever directed this video expected us to take it seriously is blasphemous. I mean, the lyrics to this song are already so unbelievably bad, especially for an artist like Lil Wayne, who is undoubtedly a legend.
And then you add in a predictable-ass storyline about a young, high-school Lil Wayne falling in love with a girl at school. But of course, she denies him for someone else when she becomes prom queen, they grow up, Wayne becomes famous and the girl becomes pregnant by the boyfriend who has left her. Complete with corny-ass newspaper headlines appearing in the booth next to him as he ascends to fame, and you got yourself a video that is so cheesy that if Lil Wayne didn't have tattoos I might have mistaken this for a Bow Wow video. I guess maybe the video was supposed to be somehow salvaged by his performance in the final scene with Korn -- a band that never progressed past making music for degenerate teenagers. The fact that Lil Wayne gets a pass for doing this unbelievably trash "rock" album still blows my mind. If any other rapper at the time had pulled a stunt like this, their career would undoubtedly have been over.