musings on music

Chicago has a great crop of talent. Check back here to see who I feature, from time to time!

Kiko's Top 20 List of Iconic Hip-Hop/R&B Videos of the 90's

This list was a bit on the difficult side. And I don’t even think I’m completely satisfied with the final product. Generally, I don’t even know how accurate any of these compilations are because it depends on the criteria that’s being judged. That being said, keep in mind this is strictly my opinion. I love the 90s–they were happier times. The economy was stronger, TV sitcoms were classics and screenshots and the Internet didn’t ruin lives. My how things change.

I have a deep appreciation for hip-hop culture–probably because a lot of its influencers draw from generations before it (I guess it’s the whole Sankofa thing) and being in this politics of hip-hop class, I’m learning WAY more than I anticipated, but that’s a rant for another.  I chose these videos because there was some sort of affective relationship to the listener (me) from them. Sure, I may not be able to the relate to the content of every one, but they evoked a certain feeling from me. Enjoy the videos:

20) “Jazz Thing”–Gang Starr (1990)

MC Guru and DJ Premier were just a duo that worked effortlessly. “Jazz Thing” was used on Spike Lee’s, Mo’ Better Blues (one of my favorite movies ever)soundtrack and pays homage to Bessie Coleman, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillepsie, Thelonius Monk, Charlie “Bird” Park, Max Roach…the list goes one! Respect the trailblazers.

19) “Smells Like Teen Spirit”–Nirvana (1997)

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “this girl doesn’t know what hip-hop is!” Wrong. This is my exception video. You can’t talk about 90’s culture and exclude the troubled Kurt Cobain. Everyone knew this song–whether you appreciated rock music or not. After all, where do you think rock music originated? It didn’t start with The Rolling Stones I’ll tell you that.

18) “Shorty Swing My Way”–KP & Envyi (1998)

This is purely a feel good song. You can’t listen to this without moving your body–especially after a long week, and this was a rough one for me. Man, 90’s style was something else smh.

17) “Player’s Ball”–OutKast (1994)

This video came at an interesting time–southern rap hadn’t really rose to prominence yet like it did in the earlier part of the 21st Century. It’s a classic representation of the laid back style we grew to appreciate from 3 Stacks and Big Boi. We can wish for a OutKast reunion all we want, but the likelihood of that anytime soon seems pretty low. Until then, reminisce.

16) “Triumph”–Wu-Tang Clan (1997)

So the Wu released a unique single–this song has no chorus, just full verses from all 8 members. But what I really like about the vid is, During GZA’s verse, a scene from the 1915 film, Birth of a Nation. If you know anything about American culture, you understand the importance of this film. If you aren’t familiar with it, I suggest you go read a book. What do you think the bees represent?

15) “Hat 2 Da Back”–TLC (1992)

If you ever have the pleasure of getting to know me, you’ll learn I’m a huge fan of TLC. For me, Left-Eye, Chilli and T-Boz were the first girl group to say it’s OK to be you and be comfortable in your skin…and they looked cool doing it! I respect them because they were advocates for safe(er) sex–be it intentional or not. I mean, Left-Eye used to wear a condom on one of her glasses lenses. How can you ignore a message that direct? A lot of the messages in their songs are still relevant today–it was obvious they had fun with each other like in the video.

14) “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”–Puff Daddy f. Mase (1998)

Puff may not be the greatest rapper, but there are 2 things he’s really good at: 1) making money…and lots of it and 2) making videos. I really had some difficulty trying to choose which one because there were so many classics. But come one, he’s driving a Rolls Royce in the middle of the desert–how much flyer can you get? PLUS, he samples,”The Message.” You remember that Sankofa thing I was talking about? I’m still not sure why or how Eddie Griffith and the Notorious end up hanging out together, but to each his (or her) own.

13) “What’s It Gonna Be”–Busta Rhymes f. Janet Jackson (1999)

This video had the whole, Secret World of Alex Mack thing going on. I guess that’s why I dug it. Bussa Bus was weird–but good weird.

12) “Up Jumps Da Boogie”–Timbaland & Magoo f. Aaliyah & Missy Elliot

Timbaland has so much personality and that always shines through no matter the project he’s attached to.

11) “It Was a Good Day”–Ice Cube (1993)

This is just one of those feel good videos. Sometimes you just have those days when everything goes right. Here, Cube rides around L.A. taking in the day–it was probably a Friday. Truth be told, any day you live to see another day is indeed, a good day.

10) “I Get So Lonely”–Janet Jackson (1998)

I miss 90’s Janet. This vid has one of my favorite dance sequences. If I could learn it, I would. Besides, who doesn’t get lonely sometimes?

9) “California Love”–Tupac & Dr. Dre (1995)

Set in 2095, this video was just so futuristic. And Parliament Funkadelic’s own, George Clinton, yelling in the beginning is just classic.

8) “Sky’s The Limit”–Notorious B.I.G. f. 112 (1997)

By the time this video came out, Biggie had already been shot and killed. It makes a nice tribute to his legacy and having the children portray him and various folks associated with Bad Boy, was a nice touch. It’s actually pretty somber and somewhat difficult to watch. The greats are always gone too soon.

7) “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”–Missy Elliot (1997)

Beep, beep! Who’s got the keys to the Jeep? Such a unique video–from Missy wearing a garbage bag (no really, she did) to their body movements. Where has the creativity gone in music videos?

6) “I Get Around”–Tupac (1993)

Pac’s happier days–just a feel good summer anthem.

5) “Crush On You”–Lil Kim f. Lil Cease (1997)

Yes, Kim! Nicki needs to be thankful. Because without Kim, there’d be no Nicki. Hello, do you see the colored wigs?! Shall I proceed? Yes, indeed!

4) “Black Or White”–Michael Jackson (1991)

This isn’t Hip-Hop either, but it’s Michael Jackson. Mike was known for doing these mini-movie type videos. This one in particular stands out to me because it’s one of the earliest representations, that I can remember, of equality being expressed in visual representation of a song.He says he doesn’t want to spend his life being a color, well that’s a great aspiration, but I would argue American society isn’t quite that progressive…yet. There’s a scene in the original version of the video where the words “KKK Rules” are spray-painted on a door and Michael expresses his frustration over that by throwing a steering wheel at the door and shattering it (which could be symbolic of wanting to destroy hate). Apparently, there was controversy over this–not sure why, hate groups are frustrating. Sometimes people can’t stand to see or hear the truth. Color aside, love everyone! This video is a great representation of social consciousness.

3)”Remember The Time”–Michael Jackson (1992)

I’m a Michael fan. Sue me. Directed by John Singleton, this video has some notable cameos and great dance sequences. Mike looks great too!

2) “Tha Crossroads”–Bone Thugs N Harmony (1996)

For some reason, I don’t feel like this group really gets the recognition they deserve. I remember the first time I saw this video, the Grim Reaper-type figure was a bit creepy to me, but it’s a really touching video.


1)”U.N.I.T.Y.”–Queen Latifah (1994)

We’re not too far removed from the Women’s Rights Movement. Equality for women is still very much an issue in this country. Women should value respect in personal relationships and professionally. But how can we expect something from our counterparts when we don’t even treat ourselves with common decency? I came across a gif the other day that said something to the effect, “Don’t try to understand women; women understand women and they hate each other.” So sad, yet very true. I’m not an advocate for calling any woman a disrespectful name endearingly. I don’t like it. I don’t tolerate it. We are so much better than that! My mother didn’t raise any female dogs–and I’m pretty sure yours didn’t either! I’m so glad the Queen did this video because even in 2013, there is so much disrespect of women in black culture from both ends. Where do we go from here?

Kikora N. Mason