This week landmark rap label Def Jam Records celebrates its 30th anniversary. While the label's always been on the cutting edge of what's happening in hip-hop, tributes to the label's storied history often overlook how many iconic rap videos can be found within the label's catalog as well. It is with our glasses raised to Russell Simmons that we name Def Jam's five most iconic videos of all time.
5)Kanye West – "Through the Wire" 2003
Before he was throwing tantrums at the Video Music Awards, it's easy to forget that a music video is what made us fall in love with Kanye West in the first place. 2003's "Through the Wire" was a magnificently edited presentation of both Kanye's struggle post-accident, as well as all the traits that made his one-time underdog character endearing. Not unlike Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean, " for all the astronomical budgets the follow-up videos received, we'll never forget the clip that made us never pronounce it "Kane" again.
4) Slick Rick – "Children's Story" 1987
Not only was the medium of music videos still figuring itself out in the 1980s, but rap videos in particular had no clear formula as to how to present the larger than life characters that inhabited the genre. Slick Rick's The Great Adventures of Slick Rick album produced several classic videos that helped immortalize "The Ruler," but "Children's Story," the world's happiest bummer danceable morality tale made the fur coat wearing dwarf bedtime story-reading Slick Rick a legend.
3) Ludacris – "Stand Up" 2003
Ludacris' initial run of innovative unforgettable music videos is perhaps rivaled only by Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott. His magnum opus, "Stand Up," remains his most memorable. Cranking up the larger-than-life absurdity that matches his flow, "Stand Up" is a series of trump cards that not only cleared the way to make Chicken n Beer his strongest statement, but has remains in thr post-YouTube era as eye-popping as it was when it first dropped over a decade ago.
2) Public Enemy – "Fight the Power" 1989
Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing remains a landmark time capsule of early 90s tension, and its Public Enemy fueled soundtrack not only propelled the film's energy, but gave birth to one of the all time great rap videos. Seeing the hip-hop nation united under Chuck D's flow remains one of the strongest visuals in rap history.
1) LL Cool J – "Mama Said Knock You Out" 1990
Rap's first great
comeback…wait, we're sorry 'LL, we forgot we weren't supposed to call it that. "Mama Said Knock You Out" stands one of the greatest music videos of all time. Cool J's intense performance magnified by a minimalist sepia toned boxing ring shows why and how he became one of the timeless all time greats.