Machine Gun Kelly in "World Series"

Machine Gun Kelly in “World Series”

Rapper Machine Gun Kelly released a music video for the single “World Series” in early November. While the act of releasing a video is not extraordinary, taking a page from hip-hop’s long history of music videos is. MGK takes the premise of Guy Ritchie’s hit 2000 film “Snatch” and turns it into a mini-movie starring himself as Mickey O’Neil, made famous by Brad Pitt. While MGK doesn’t have Pitt’s looks or acting chops, he has created a visually interesting video for the track.

Hip-hop and movies have a strong bond. In hip-hop’s 35 years of existence, many rappers have released videos paying homage to their favorite films, stars or styles. Some of their directors, including F. Gary Gray and Hype Williams, have moved onto feature films. Here are a few videos that have been released over the years with cinematic influences. Some of the lyrics are NSFW.

Frank Vincent and Nas in "Street Dreams."

Frank Vincent and Nas in “Street Dreams.”


Nas, “Street Dreams”

Released: 1996

Movie reference: “Casino”

Director: Hype Williams

Nas takes on Robert De Niro’s role in a music video shot in Las Vegas. The video also features character actor Frank Vincent, best known for his roles in “Goodfellas” and “The Sopranos,” and pre-“Real Housewives of Atlanta” cast member Kenya Moore. “Street Dreams” is Nas’ more successful single.

2Pac and Dr. Dre, “California Love”

Released: 1996

Movie reference: “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”

Director: Hype Williams

In the middle of 2095 Oakland is anarchy. Misfit vehicles comb the desert as people scream inside a dome. At its center are Dr. Dre and a newly released 2Pac. A little-known Chris Tucker and R&B legend Roger Troutman appear in the video. Revisiting this video known is relevant with the release of “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Straight Outta Compton” this year.

The Notorious B.I.G. and 112, “Sky’s the Limit”

Released: 1997

Movie reference: “Bugsy Malone”

Director: Spike Jonze

Released shortly after Biggie’s death, “Sky’s the Limit” was done with child actors portraying hip-hop icons, including Diddy, Faith Evans and Lil’ Kim.

Jay-Z featuring Blackstreet, “The City is Mine”

Released: 1998

Movie reference: “The Usual Suspects”

Director: Unknown

This is an example of a double whammy: a bad single and a poor video. Jay-Z steps into the role of Verbal Kint, the same Kint for which Kevin Spacey won his first Oscar. Actor Michael Rappaport, who directed a documentary on A Tribe Called Quest, also appears in the video.

Busta Rhymes, Diddy and Pharrell Williams, “Pass The Courvoisier, Part II”

Released: 2002

Movie references: “Harlem Nights,” “Coyote Ugly” and “Rush Hour 2”

Director: Hype Williams

There’s no need for Netflix after watching this video. Busta benefits from appearances by pre-Oscar winners Monique and Jamie Foxx. Busta has also made videos based on “Coming to America” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX, “Fancy”

Released: 2014

Movie reference: “Clueless”

Director: Director X

Released 19 years after the beloved high school comedy, Azalea released what was known as the track and video of the summer of 2014. Director X is a protege of legendary video director Hype Williams.