araabMUZIK - "The Prince Is Coming"
There is an understated utility in making a video for an instrumental track. We watch movies all the time with the addition of lyricless scoring, making the song and the visual compliment one another by creating a well-rounded experience. That's what the video for "The Prince Is Coming" does for araabMUZIK's latest track off For Professional Use Only. The beat is tough enough as it is, with dholki (Indian drum) and been (Indian flute) samples that are slid comfortably into a Hip Hop track. Then comes the video. araabMUZIK keeps switching from the days of old Egypt to the club, with random spurts of his hands whipping around frantically on the MPC. The most intriguing part of the video is watching araabMUZIK make the beat. Known for his crazy fingertip skills, you can see why his production is so complex and can handle so many sounds. The 7-minute video is like a documentary. Hopefully we'll be seeing more of these from araabMUZIK. - Kathy Iandoli (@kath3000)
Chance The Rapper featuring BJ The Chicago Kid - "Good Ass Intro"
From Sean Price's "STFU Part 2" to Yelawolf & Travis Barker's "Funky Shit," the last few months have brought us some exciting animated videos that have offered some respite from the usual slapdash approach that doesn't push things much further than a camera gliding over a parked Bentley and some lip-synching in the Gold Club parking lot. My favorite of the bunch though is the OJ Hays and Andrew Straw-directed video for "Good Ass Intro," the third single off Chance The Rapper's upcoming Acid Rap. "Acid" is the key word here as a sketched-out world emerges that matches the Chicago emcee's wild off-kilter delivery and makes Dumbo's pink elephant sequence look sober. With BJ The Chicago Kid (and an un-credited Jon Legend) providing the hook, Chance serves up his rhymes in the form of a psychedelic patterned silouhette or a decapitated head, veins and arteries getting in on the rhythm. The live action footage Hays and Straw use isn't to create some Roger Rabbit hybrid scheme but rather as a canvas for building out their hallucinogenic-fueled universe. And what's even more impressive was the scouting done to find things around Chicago that already looked like objects they would pick to use in animated form. There are frogs, mushrooms, a dancing skyline, and a Chicago high-rise resembling a piece of corn that morphs into an actual cartoon vegetable and finds itself on a dinner plate. Then there's the utility company eyesore on a curb that is repurposed as a bug-eyed robot and the store windows that become a multi-colored kaleidoscope backdrop. The fact that all of this doesn't upstage Chance tells us how captivating he is as a rhymer and why April 30th's "Acid Rap" may be the trip of the year. - Michael Sheehan
AZ - "Thank You Freestyle"
I always admired how Masta Ace's records in the '00s felt better than his records in the '90s, and both decades of material were distinct and dope. Another Brooklyn, New Yorker has this same quality. AZ's albums like A.W.O.L. and The Format rang bells just like his acclaimed debut, 1995's Doe Or Die and the Pieces Of A Man follow-up. As Tha Visualiza gears up for Doe Or Die II, I'm personally anticipating because AZ—like Nas with Illmatic to Stillmatic, isn't just projecting a throwback, he's simply honing in the qualities his fans (like me) seem to admire most in him. This set-up freestyle was just all in good fun, and what better deejay to link with than Doo Wop, who drops some breaks and beats for AZ to kick wisdom over. This felt like the freestyles you hear at shows, and AZ has that calm, ease and introspection that makes even his free-hand lyrical sketches feel like blueprints we can look back on. - Jake Paine (@Citizen__Paine)