Lights, Camera, Action!

The days of being able to drop a single or mixtape and have it speak completely for itself are long since past. Artists now have to employ crazy tactics to attract a following from cats like up and comer Appleby hiding his face to keep attention on his music to guys like Post Malone who begin as nothing more than enigmatic internet presences. Conventional wisdom now dictates that for your new banger to chart you need visuals to go along with it. These are the rappers who are taking those visuals to the next level:

Big KRIT – R.E.M.

Directed by Luke Choi from the collaborative KRSP, “R.E.M.” is one of the most choice cuts from Krizzle’s killer 2013 mixtape King Remembered In Time. Propelled by an ethereal James Blake sample, repeating piano riffs and muted drums let Southern prodigy Krit finesse to his fullest. The video is dreamy, disjointed and a perfect complement to the beat.

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Thuggin’

If you haven’t seen this video yet, you’re missing out. Three years later, the loosie that spawned Gangsta Gibbs and Madlib’s collab album Pinata, “Thuggin’” has Gibbs narrating his life as a Gary, Indiana OG. “And it feels so good/and it feels so right” may be the end of Gibbs undeniable hook but it also describes the visuals by director Jonah Schwartz of DD172 Films Perfectly capturing the feeling of being in the life of a Gary thug, Schwartz shoots everything from Gibbs’ crew laying the beat down in a home invasion to an arms sale in the living room of a trap house.

Wara from the NBHD – Beige

Chances are if you’re a rapper still submitting your music to blogs, you need a side gig. Wara from the NBHD, a Brooklyn born, Atlanta grown new comer to the scene cops to it in his best video. While admittedly poppy, “Beige” is the kind of song that your mom can jam until she listens to the chorus and realizes that its about Wara’s “color of my skin/ that crack rock beige”. The video itself is a low budget tale of three janitors making the best of a boring day. While it’s not anything groundbreaking, the visuals make an otherwise forgettable pop rap song into a shareable single.

F. Stokes – Shaka Zulu

Not too many rappers out there nowadays were name checking African tribal monarchs before King Kunta but F. Stokes (pronounced F dot Stokes) isn’t most rappers. Hailing from Brooklyn by way of Madison, Wisconsin, Stokes gave listeners a pump up song that makes you feel like Gucci Mane back in 2009. Opening with traditional chanting and then repeating a mantra of “All my people mask up like Shaka Zulu” over a guitar and bass beat and the video goes along with the theme of resistance. Minimalistic black and white editing combined with “Shaka Zulu” graphics interspersed through the video that truly show the Midwest as it is.

GoldLink – When I Die

A lot has been written about recent blog favorite Goldlink already to good reason. The music is catchy, hip hop that has clear DMV influences but manages to reach beyond go-go and electronic to find something completely new. In terms of being timely, the emcee asks the question of what’s gonna happen when he dies. “When I die I need 100 bitches to call my phone/ When I die, I need my baby girl to come back home” raps Goldlink and the visuals by GoodBoy alongside the song deals with gun violence in America, an all too topical subject. If you’re digging the song but want something a bit less heavy, check out Goldlink’s recent collab with producer Kaytranada, “Sober Thoughts”.

WebsterX – Doomsday

WebsterX, known off stage as Sam Ahmed, is a largely unknown artist who’s just starting to make waves. In the last few weeks, he’s won the Philly area Battle of the Bands and him and frequent collaborator Mic Kellogg, Milwaukee boys both, are starting to get love from larger blogs like Pigeons & Planes and Complex. Check out the dope visuals for “Doomsday” and find WebsterX’s SoundCloud here.