In an era inundated with a surplus of visual content, it takes a true visionary to break through the noise; which is especially important for artists striving to leave their mark on the ever-evolving music industry.
Despite sentiments surrounding the decline of Hip Hop, the year has borne witness to a plethora of compelling narratives by way of attention-grabbing music videos from the likes of Cardi B, whose “Bongos” took fans on a tropical escape alongside Megan Thee Stallion, and Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s bubble gum pink “Barbie World” explosion. Rising star That Mexican OT also stood out from the pack with his icy offering for “Johnny Dang” featuring Paul Wall and Drodi — which sees a cameo from the track’s namesake himself.
In a remarkable feat, Kendrick Lamar has secured two nominations on DX’s list for the second year running, with both “Count Me Out” and “The Hillbillies” with Baby Keem impressing rap fans in 2023. Elsewhere, Doja Cat caught people’s attention with “Paint the Town Red,” forsaking her pop prowess to confront her inner demons in a bloodbath of powerful bars.
With the latter three making the cut for HipHopDX‘s shortlist of best music video of the year, you can check out the 2023 nominees in full below.
Review all of our Hip Hop Awards categories and nominees.
Editor’s Note: Nominees are listed in alphabetical order.
BEST MUSIC VIDEO OF 2023 NOMINATIONS
- Doja Cat – “Paint The Town Red”
- Drake (Feat. J. Cole) – “First Person Shooter”
- Kendrick Lamar – “Count Me Out”
- Kendrick Lamar & Baby Keem – “The Hillbillies”
- Tyler, The Creator – “Sorry Not Sorry”
The Best Rap/Hip Hop Music Video of 2023 is…
DIRECTED BY: GIBSON HAZARD
Drake and J. Cole’s “First Person Shooter” video begins with a cameo from The Office‘s Brian Baumgartner — played Kevin Malone — who hilariously tackles the role of a company CEO outsmarted by his employees who duck of into a conference room to watch the 6 God and Dreamville boss battle it out in an intense game of ping pong — replacing themselves with life-sized puppets.
Including a play on the famous Spider-Man meme with both Drizzy and Cole in costume and a post-apocalyptic scene featuring a group of men donning canine masks (a nod to the title of Drizzy’s new album, For All the Dogs) while parading down a dark subway tunnel, the widely cinematic sparring session is the collaboration we didn’t know we needed. From start to finish, this video was perfectly executed and left no room for debate about who had the video of the year.
Doja Cat — “Paint the Town Red”
DIRECTED BY: NINA MCNEELY
After having her rap skills questioned, Doja Cat proved doubters wrong by scoring the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Paint the Town Red” — making her the first solo female to achieve the accolade in 2023. With that said, it comes as no surprise that the summer smash hit’s accompanying visual, which is filled to the brim with demonic undertones, would prove just as impressive. The nearly five-minute clip opens with a semi-nude, bob-bearing Doja seated in a dark room as she stares intently into the camera before gauging her left eye out and placing it atop a writing desk.
The scene pans to Doja braving the skies alongside her trusty companion, a horned devil-like creature as she hums lyrics like “Yeah, bitch, I said what I said,” and “She the devil/ She a bad lil’ bitch/ She a rebel,” suggesting the rapper is unafraid of whatever fallout may accompany the message.
Later, dressed in a crimson floor length gown Doja cozies up to the Grim Reaper. “I’m going to glow up one more time/ Trust me, I have magical foresight,” she spits hinting she has no intention of slowing down. In another attention-grabbing scene, the 27-year-old dons a pair of devil horns as she dances around a cart full of bloody, raw meat. While the video both captivated and angered folks it was a thought-provoking pivot from her pop roots that begged the question: What’s next?
Kendrick Lamar — “Count Me Out”
DIRECTED BY: DAVE FREE
Off his latest album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, the brooding “Count Me Out” touches on the human experience. It begins, with a piano-bound Kendrick sitting in a dimly lit room while pondering the many mysteries of life during a therapy session, with Oscar-winner Helen Mirren. Oozing with vulnerability, the visual treatment continues with Lamar, who after contacting his therapist at 2 a.m. sits uncomfortably while processing a host of emotions, before admitting that “life” has gotten him down.
Introduced with a furious flicker of fast-paced images from the bedroom to the boardroom and beyond, K. Dot takes fans on a rollercoaster of sorts while reflecting on what it feels like to navigate this little thing called life, amid unearthing what is locked deep down inside of us all, all the while in pursuit of happiness.
“I care too much, wanna share too much/ In my head too much, I shut down too/ I ain’t there too much, I’m a complex soul/ They layered me up, then broke me down/ And moralities dust, I lack in trust (and I’m trippin’ and fallin’)/ This time around, I trust myself/ Please everybody else but myself/ All else fails, I was myself/ Outdone fear, outdone myself/ This year, you better one yourself,” he spits as the camera in the Dave Free-directed video pans to him inside the studio.
The simplicity of the imagery throughout is not a distraction but reinforces Lamar’s intention to encourage viewers to sit and marinate on his words.
Kendrick Lamar & Baby Keem — “The Hillbillies”
DIRECTED BY: NEAL FARMER
Unlike the feels onset by Kendrick Lamar’s existential “Count Me Out,” his Baby Keem collaboration boasts a braggadocios world takeover with the dynamic duo declaring: “We gon’ fuck up the world.” Compiled from various home videos, the EVILGIANE-produced track is brought to life as K. Dot and Keem (the Compton rapper’s cousin) travel the globe aboard a swanky private jet.
The dynamic duo, showcasing their goofy side, are seen bottle in hand, invading city streets, hotel lobbies, shopping malls, and the Dodgers Stadium while exchanging soccer-inspired bars about fame as well as their interactions with women. Further, the video flaunts a cameo from a gold grill-bearing Tyler, The Creator who humbly plugs his Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival, as he flashes a button to the camera. The Odd Future co-founder’s event went down at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles mid-November.
Tyler, The Creator — “Sorry Not Sorry”
DIRECTED BY: TYLER, THE CREATOR
In an age where it feels like we’re walking on eggshells and having to tiptoe around certain topics — aka the age of sensitivity — Tyler, The Creator delivers “Sorry Not Sorry.” Best described as a firehose of apologies, the Grammy-winning rhymer attempts to make amends for his flaws — as well as for hiding his sexuality. “I’m f-cking sorry,” says DJ Drama in the opening seconds of the track, the video for which features Tyler, standing in a field of hay, accompanied by a series of his personas from over-the years.
“Sorry to the freaks I led on/ Who thought their life was gonna change ’cause I gave ’em head on/ But instead, I sped off, yeah, I know I’m dead wrong/ Sorry to the guys I had to hide/ Sorry to the girls I had to lie to, who ain’t need to know if I was by the lake switchin’ tides, too,” he raps over the track with the camera panning to a young woman in tears.
In what feels like an intentionally violent conclusion, a shirtless and bloody-faced Tyler pummels his old selves to death with his bare fists, further communicating he’s ever-evolving. The track was one of a handful of songs released to create buzz around Call Me If You Get Lost: The Estate Sale, which dropped this past spring.
Check out our previous Music Video of the Year award winners.
Artwork and Graphic Design by JR Martinez.
Paragraphs written by Ruth Hawkins