Here Are Ambrosia For Heads’ Picks For The Best Music Videos Of 2015
2015 might very well be remembered as the year the video took over the song in Hip-Hop. While audio platforms like SoundCloud, Spotify and Apple Music are growing in strength, high profile mixtapes decreased in number, and an increasing amount of releases were presented as videos even before the audio-only versions arrived. Even when that was not the case, seemingly every song was followed up with a visual soon thereafter.
Unfortunately, the uptick in music video production, did not bring a commensurate increase in quality. Instead, many artists gave little thought to creativity or uniqueness, often choosing simply to ride around with the homies, blow smoke in the studio or, when all else failed, head to the strip club. That’s why when innovation, powerful statements or just plain cool visuals did appear, they stood out all the more. It was not about production value, per se. There were plenty of high quality concepts that were executed on modest budgets. Instead, these videos showed us a world different than we had seen before, or at least put on a filter that changed our perspective.
Today, we celebrate the music videos that shook things up, supremely entertained, deeply disturbed, or all of the above, in the name of art. Take a look at Ambrosia For Heads’ picks for Best Music Videos of 2015 below (in alphabetical order by song title).
Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” had already achieved anthem status by the time of the June release of the supporting visuals. Even with the hype, the video exceeded expectations, from its opening, which featured a portion of an unreleased song, to Kendrick flying through the air like the Black superhero he’s become to many. Even in his ultimate demise at the end of the video, viewers were left knowing that “we gon’ be ALRIGHT.”
One of the most appealing things about Action Bronson, besides his prodigious rap skills, is his enormous sense of humor. That was never more on display than in his video with Chance The Rapper, where he created a mini-version of Eddie Murphy’s Coming To America, even taking on the roles of many characters as Murphy did in the film.
2015 likely will be the year cited as The Weeknd’s coming out party. After years of melancholy and hazy vibe music, he released what many considered to be the song of the summer, with some help from hit-making wizard, Max Martin. The Weeknd tipped his hat to Michael Jackson and channeled him unabashedly in the video with fresh dance moves, spins and an eerily-reminiscent fiery ending.
Open Mike Eagle – “Celebrity Reduction Prayer”
From hashtags to likes, memes to views, Open Mike Eagle brilliantly captured the new digital currency that fuels our obsessions.
In a year dominated by headlines about police brutality, Run The Jewels fought in the struggle and they showed it. The black and white visuals portray an endless battle between the police and a citizen, showing that, in the end, no one wins.
Oddisee walked backwards for hours through the streets of New York City while he was being filmed, and then showed the footage in reverse. Although it’s been done before by groups like The Pharcyde, the effect never gets old, and, in Oddissee’s case, it enhanced the song’s message about how turned around people can become in interpersonal relationships.
Before the song was even released, Macklemore dropped an epic visual which not only signaled his return, but brought along Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Caz and Melle Mel, three of Hip-Hop’s pioneers, for the ride. That, combined with the theatrics of a broadway musical, led to one of the more inventive and kitschy videos in some time.
If only Drake knew how prophetic this song would be upon its release in February…Even in early July, when the video arrived, his ode to his enemies was less targeted than it would become just a couple of weeks later when he and Meek Mill would ensue in a year-defining (and perhaps career-defining) beef. When this video hit screens, however, Drake took on the forms of several pop culture figures who shared his plight, but ultimately, perhaps the message was the enemy was himself.
A$AP Rocky showed his life in reverse, starting with his untimely demise, old and bloated, and racing through a life of untempered excess, everyday. The short film was the ultimate symbol of self-awareness, though its beginning and overall tone brought with them a feeling of inevitability.
In a year filled with isms–racism, sexism, terrorism and other forms of hatred and oppression–Pharrell released a bone-chilling video that juxtaposed binds with freedom. And, for the second year in a row, he showed us what it took to truly be “Happy.”
In 4 short minutes, Raury took a big swing at cynicism and scored one for humanity. He and a friend set out to travel from Atlanta to Chicago via a road trip powered purely by people they met on social media. Along the way, he converted virtual friends into actual ones.
Mick Jenkins showed that sometimes the best way to get up is by getting down. Three teens, dressed in 80s-style Adidas track suits and sneakers, showcased a number of dance moves from the 80s to the present, and lit up the screen.
The first time many saw Joyner Lucas was during the 2014 BET Hip Hop Awards Cyphers. The next time was in this harrowing and brutally honest depiction of the difficulties that may face those who become parents without planning.
Joey Bada$$ put his stamp on DMX’s 1998 breakthrough video for “How’s It Goin’ Down,” and added in some poignant depictions of police brutality as a sign of the times in 2015.
Sometimes simplicity yields the most power. Aloe Blacc did not even appear in this video. Instead, he ceded his spot to intimate and heart-wrenching images of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Oscar Grant, and the victims who died in the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, in the hopes that we keep their memories alive this Christmas.
After a 4-year absence, Jay Rock made his triumphant return with a psychedelic visual head trip. Several methods are used to paint a picture of the chaotic life through which Rock is fighting, and all give the effect of the MC watching a disjointed life flash before him.
Big Sean shared a powerful message with the world that his grandmother gave to him: each of us can change the world. Sean re-created moments in his life, including her death, in his most personal video to date.
Was this a music video or an action film?? Eminem (and Apple Music) pulled out all the stops, as Em fought multiple bad guys, took part in epic car chases and even jumped from a helicopter, in what looked like the most expensive music video of the year.
Lil Dicky’s “$ave Dat Money” video took balling on a budget to a whole different level, as he literally set out to make the world’s most epic video for free. As entertaining as that video was, his animated job interview with Snoop took the cake (and the head), with its one of a kind originality.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to pick someone up? Childish Gambino stalks, does magic, busts freakish dance moves, and more…or does he? For an artist with a long line of weird and dark videos, this stands among the best of them.
Your Old Droog looks back to take Hip-Hop forward, in a visual that was both contemporary and throwback, all at once. Droog journeys through modern day New York City, courtesy of some slick animation, but throughout, there are reminders of the days of yore.
J. Cole figured out a way to visually translate a song about a young couple’s first experience with having sex, in a way that was fully suitable for work. Staying true to the storyline, he took a tongue-in-cheek approach, by using dogs as the lead characters, and it underscores the song’s underlying innocence.
After pushing the boundaries of music videos as far as anyone in any genre, Missy took a 10-year hiatus. When she returned, it was with another game-changer with crazy costumes, dazzling dancing and even a Pharrell puppet.
Drake and Action Bronson weren’t the only MCs capable of playing multiple roles in the same video. Logic and Big Lenbo played the cops, the robbers and the cooks in a crazy crime caper.