Rap Music Videos That Tell a Story

rap music videos that tell a story

Rappers have begun placing more of an emphasis on visuals and storytelling to complement their provocative lyrics, realizing that an effective post-production team is essential in translating their lyrics beyond expectations.

Producing a rap music video requires both creative thinking and an appreciation of its cultural roots. Here are 10 of the best storytelling rap videos.

Eminem’s “Stan”

Eminem’s 2000 hit song, “Stan,” recounts an obsessive fan whose adoration for their hero becomes harmful and unhealthy. Inspired by an upsetting letter he received after releasing The Slim Shady LP, “Stan” became one of Eminem’s signature hits while simultaneously coining the term “stan,” a term now often used to refer to an obsessive fan.

Devon Sawa, playing Stan in the music video, plays out an obsession for Eminem that continues despite dying his hair blond and not receiving letters from him. After failing to receive correspondence from Eminem himself, his frustration builds until finally he takes drastic measures – driving off a bridge with pregnant girlfriend in trunk of car and dropping both off simultaneously.

Eminem later released “Bad Guy,” an emotionally engaging sequel that depicts Matthew Stan’s younger brother Matthew and highlights the perils associated with idol worship. It remains one of his best songs.

Kendrick Lamar’s “The Art of Peer Pressure”

Kendrick Lamar stands out as an incredible story-teller. His ability to seamlessly blend real life experiences with imagined landscapes and characters sets him apart; this can be seen on his 2012 album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City; wherein he explores peer pressure in Compton.

Kendrick and his friends start off this song drinking and smoking marijuana before robbing a house, only to realize there’s someone inside and still take things from it despite this knowledge, leading them into a police chase that ends favorably for them.

Kendrick laments how his “homies” persuade him to do things he doesn’t necessarily want to. Throughout the song, this term appears multiple times and its definition in OED reads as such: a group of male or male-like individuals.

“The Art of Peer Pressure” is an engaging tale about peer pressure and its potential danger to our health, which should be especially powerfully illustrated for young people living in high crime neighborhoods. It serves as an important reminder that no matter how hard we try, there will always be people pushing us toward doing harmful acts.

Lupe Fiasco’s “Intruder Alert”

Food and Liquor brought Chicago’s west side hip-hop into hip-hop’s spotlight; now Fiasco returns with his second project titled The Cool, another loose concept piece. Although less engaging than F&L, The Cool still boasts impressive themes while Fiasco proves himself adept lyrically to make for an entertaining listen.

Through his album, he paints vivid pictures of his environment – from drive-by shootings in his neighborhood to signs of impending apocalypse rumblings – by painting vivid pictures. He makes difficult topics such as child soldiers and rape more accessible without exploiting them, with hooks from songs such as Modest Mouse-sampled “The Show Goes On” and UNKLE produced “Hello/Goodbye (Uncool)” featuring carefully composed hooks perfect for singalong sessions.

At first, The Cool was largely produced solo; however, on Lasers Fiasco recruited outside talent to assist with production. He secured guest appearances by Snoop Dogg and Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump (on “Hi-Definition”) along with rapper Gemstones and vocalist Sarah Green from 1st and 15th, his record label co-founded by Fiasco; these guest stars contribute largely to its uneven yet still compelling nature.

Biggie Smalls’ “Hypnotize”

Biggie Smalls was an iconic rapper of rap’s golden age who left an indelible mark with both Ready to Die and Life After Death albums, released shortly before and shortly after his death respectively. Once proclaiming, “I ain’t no savior; I just know my own way around the city”, his music perfectly captured both anxiety and recklessness of an individual who knew his time could soon come to an end.

“Hypnotize,” Biggie’s second single, made its debut and reached number one just weeks after his shooting death in Los Angeles. The video for this track looks like something from an action movie with Biggie and Puff Daddy chilling on a yacht together while engaging in car chases and attending pool parties while dodging helicopters. Even though this song became hip-hop’s first posthumous #1 on charts, its success would have come regardless; thus cementing its place as a milestone moment. More than simply party or sex or party songs like its predecessors, this song stands as an anthem for young and reckless youth alike.

Nabil Elderkin’s “Prima Donna”

Vince Staples made waves with the release of his 2016 EP Prima Donna and subsequent short film directed by Nabil Elderkin that explores celebrity status and its dark side.

The video blends visual storytelling with cutting-edge deepfake technology to transform Kendrick Lamar’s appearance, providing insight into his complex artistic identity, the pressures of fame, and black culture.

Elderkin has captured many key events in music and art as a photographer. His essay of Kanye West’s Glow in the Dark Tour earned wide acclaim while his photographs of war-torn Congo were presented at the UN General Assembly.

“Prima Donna” features stunning visuals to accompany its impressive lyrics by rapper Nas. This video uses symbolism, harsh reality and inspired imagination to craft a riveting dark narrative, raising important questions like what the cost of fame and whether or not it’s worth it? Like other videos on this list, “Prima Donna” should not be watched without caution as its imagery will leave viewers speechless – leaving many reflecting upon their place within celebrity culture.

Pharrell Williams’ “Cash In, Cash Out”

Pharrell Williams joined forces with 21 Savage and Tyler, the Creator to craft one of Pharrell’s more stripped-back beats to date–airtight snare drums and blown 808s punctuated by vocal chirps–for his 2022 single “Cash In Cash Out.” 21 Savage raps about charging one million dollars just to show up while Tyler performs his Call Me If You Get Lost routine over this track’s intricate production.

Francois Rousselet’s revolutionary video, inspired by 19th-century zoetropes – circular devices used to simulate animation before its medium became widely available – took nearly one and a half years to produce, featuring CGI claymation figures of the trio as they walk around an ever-rotating set.

Pharrell Williams released this video just days before Pharrell’s Something in the Water festival in Washington D.C., featuring Calvin Harris, Dave Matthews Band, Lil Baby, Usher and Tyler the Creator among many other acts. The Juneteenth-themed event comes only months after Williams’ cousin was fatally shot by police officers near Virginia Beach; Neptunes mastermind Pharrell opted for Washington D.C. as a venue in order to raise awareness on police brutality issues in America.

Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks On Me”

James “Li’l J” Smith sought to form a group that represented Houston’s violent Fifth Ward as well as his own past gangbanging activities during the mid ’90s gangsta rap boom. To do this he recruited Willie D (who served time for robbery), Scarface, and Bushwick Bill; each an iconic figure in real life who were all characters he could draw inspiration from for this project.

These lineups would change frequently over time, yet for one brief and shining moment the Geto Boys took full advantage of their dynamic to create a track that transcended typical braggadocio to express fear, paranoia and guilt of being pursued or fated to end up on the wrong side of gun barrel. As a result, their sound set them apart from other hip-hop acts.

The Geto Boys were one of the key early hip-hop groups, their mix of extreme hedonism and bold social commentary making an impressionable mark across a wide spectrum of artists spanning their native Houston to Los Angeles and beyond. Now recognized as pioneers of Southern rap music, their songs about police brutality, drug dealing, and income inequality hold weight that surpasses nostalgia; but it is this song with its graphic depictions of life in the ghetto that stands as their crowning achievement.