Hip-hop music videos drop every other day now. But few them really stand out. Following are five videos that have stayed with us as films and as a great accompaniment to the audio tracks. Look for the bonus track at the end of the page.
naqaab47 x Rebel 7 x Shoals x Andheri ka Kubrick – Kala
Andheri ka Kubrick has been putting out some of the most interesting music videos and visuals for hip hop tracks. The music videos’ aesthetic straddle between the genres of essay-films and landscape films. The video for Kala stands out from that tried and tested style. It juxtaposes the verses of naqaab47 and Rebel 7 with visuals that follow graffiti artists through the landscape of Mumbai, its railway system and its suburbs. The bars delivered by naqaab47 and Rebel 7 dwell on their relationship to art and liken to an addiction, a difficult path that one takes despite knowing all the risks and lack of rewards. The visuals on the other hand document certain graffiti artists and their process of tagging the Mumbai local trains.
Smokey the Ghost feat. Aerate Sound – Cherry Orange
Post-apocalyptic visuals after COVID have gained a new found relevance. The music video for Frappe Ash’s “Wish You Were Here”, already provided us with post-apocalyptic visuals. This track from Smokey’s beautifully crafted 2019 album The Human Form is now accompanied with visuals by Eleven Elements Studio. The visuals are rather straightforward and is bereft of too many symbols. Even while using a limited set the video achieves a degree of polish that is missing in well-funded music videos in the scene. The video evokes the environmental concern with visuals of a barren land, orange sky, some sort of digital overlords or users, and the possibility and hope of finding a way out of the environmental mess. Indian hip-hop needs such varied visuals as there is certainly saturation of videos deploying similar aesthetics at the moment.
Siyaahi x Dhanji x Acharya – 4424
This track from the EP Made in AMD takes us on a ride with Siyaahi and Dhanji on their Activa in the video and in their bars. This is not the first time we have heard references to scooters in hip hop tracks. Naezy in “Aafat” and Seedhe Maut in “101” had already referenced this staple feature of mobility in India. Siyaahi and Dhanji don’t just reference their scooter as a passing reference but make it the centerstage. The track navigates between the mundane, driving on the wrong side, police problems, rolling a joint, waiting under a building, looking for matchsticks while mixing in bars about dissing, hustling etc. The video sees them visiting a cigarette shop, messing with the police, driving an Activa and also hanging among other things. The video remains a testament to how a rewatchable music video can be crafted with basic editing and directing chops on a low budget.
Hanumankind x Kalmi – No Hook
Keeping with the theme of low budget music videos, the video for “No Hook” is even more minimal. The track is the opening track from Hanumankind and Kalmi’s album Surface Level. The track is a good display of the energy that Hanumankind brings to his live performances, with his masculine, animalistic energy what he calls “gorilla mode” in the track. The video dropped in October, 2020, a few months after the lockdowns were eventually eased. It captured that moment and its energy aptly. The video starts with Hanumankind drinking to the limit while someone displays some cash to entice him, rejuvenate him to take a step outside. The video moves outside and displays a rather mundane and relatable series of events, buying smokes, alcohol, driving around in a car, riding auto, just plain jumping around on the streets, interacting with street animals and having a good time on the streets. For what could have passed off as a vlog in the hands of a lesser visual artist, Lendrick Kumar manages to cut and stich the series of frames to capture the liberating feeling of getting on the streets at last and drinking, having fun and the mundanity of most alcohol sessions.
Bohiragoto (joesjoint x National Animal) – Notun Sohoj Path
What’s a good hip hop list without a political track? joesjoint has been at the center of the most exciting underground hip-hop coming out of the city of Kolkata for the last year or two. He teams up here with National Animal on the mic and The Scarlet Underground on the visuals to curate the a revolutionary call which is explicitly anarchist. The parts of the video featuring the rapper are in a lo-fi and glitch aesthetic while the the other half of the video uses a range of archival footages from films, news and videos shot by The Scarlet Underground for a previous project. The name Notun Sahaj Path refers to the elementary textbook written by Tagore which is used for learning Bengali alphabets and basic sentences. The track is not a listing of atrocities or a war cry but has a sly political tone which I really admire.
Arshaq Malik x Epoc x Karim Poocha – Free World Order
This is not a hip-hop track but features vocals by the Bengaluru-based rapper Arshaq Malik doing some spoken word over a track bordering on prog metal and prog rock. However the video deserves a special mention for it remains a significant piece of work, a documentation of a graffiti artist Epoc, at work in Bengaluru. The short film by Karim Poocha follows Epoc from morning to night, in search of the right place to tag with a good visibility. Wait till the end of the video to find out the best spot to few the graffiti form.