The golden age of music videos was 1999-2010
Making the Video premiered on MTV in 1999. One of the earliest versions of reality TV, it offered a candid view of superstars across genres as they created videos that would define a generation. Every 30-minute episode was capped with a world premiere of the video elevating Making the Video into must-see TV.
We’ve compiled the top 5 hip-hop music videos featured on MTV’s Making the Video.
By Busta Rhymes
Fire shows us Busta Rhymes at peak Busta Rhymes. It’s fun, it’s chaotic, and it doesn’t make any sense. The video has a narrative, something about animals, a CGI tornado, a fire, and a mob of head-banging fans. But none of that matters because Busta with his signature dreads, breakneck lyrics, and wild dance moves is so magnetic he pulls all of the attention. Director Hype Williams plays to Busta perfectly, using close-ups and quick cuts to match the frenetic energy. The best scene of the video has Busta wearing an all-leather outfit dancing in a sea of flames projected onto a green screen. Do the effects look like a screensaver from a ‘90s PC? Sure, but that’s a part of the fun.
The Real Slim Shady
If you like South Park than you’ll love The Real Slim Shady. The video, directed by Philip Atwell and Dr. Dre is Eminem’s absurdist take on his role in popular culture. From a deeply problematic portrayal of a psychiatric ward to an equally upsetting scene at the Grammys, Eminem revels in his rudeness and the discomfort he elicits. The absurdity is heightened by the use of odd camera angles, and distorting lenses, the directors frequently positioning the viewer just too close to the cartoonish antics. Altogether, it’s a time capsule of the problematic things we let slide in 2001, so watch at your own risk. Eminem says it best himself, “Half you critics can’t even stomach me, let alone stand me.” And 20 years on, he’s not wrong.
Hot in Herre
On its surface Hot in Herre is a steamy music video. Like the song, the video is very straightforward. Nelly and his crew are in a nightclub, the nightclub is too hot, everyone takes off their clothes. Simple and relatable, who among us hasn’t been drunk and overheated in a crowded nightclub? But the true star here is the lighting. It’s not uncommon for Black people in film to have their features obscured due to poor lighting. Director X easily overcomes this and has fun with the lighting without distracting. Dark skin-pops under blue light and shines against orange backdrops. The lighting alone elevates the music video into something more than just 4 minutes of dancy club footage. And with the focus on clothes being taken off it actually becomes an ode to 2002 women’s clubwear.
By Missy Elliott
The only reason this wasn’t just a list of Missy Elliott videos is that she was only featured in 2 episodes of the series. Work It is just one of many wildly entertaining cinematic worlds Missy has created. The video is fast-paced and filled to the brim with references from the early aughts. Playing on the lyrics “Flip it and reverse it” the director Dave Meyers plays and rewinds scenes over and over again giving the whole video the feeling of a record scratching. But effects aside it’s Missy who’s the star. Even in the most ridiculous scenes like when she’s covered in bees or is being dragged by her foot through an abandoned playground, she still looks as cool as ever.
99 Problems is Jay-Z’s black and white tribute to New York City. With director Mark Romanek they tell the all too familiar story of a Black man in NY who (spoiler) gets gunned down in the end. The video takes us through the less glamorous parts of the city. From bodegas to jewelry stores, abandoned lots and basketball games, to underground dog fights and funerals, it shows the varied existence of life below the poverty level in New York. It would have been easy to tell the story in a way that encourages the viewers to take pity on the people. But instead, the people are all portrayed with dignity, the love for them and New York is evident in every frame.
The hottest craze from 1999 becomes dated in 2010 only to find new life again in 2020. When they reemerge they are then redefined by the new generation. As more performers look to the past for inspiration the reimagining of the golden era of music videos is going to be exciting to watch.
Stick a fork in it, we’re done!