Science fiction has always informed hip-hop's history. Even before “Rapper's Delight” hit the charts, Afrika Bambataa and The Zulu Nation were sampling man-machines Kraftwerk to create the sound of breakdancing, along with the gnarliest costumes since Funkadelic. The bond remains strong with artists like the reunited Outkast (ATLiens who always seemed to orbit safely around prevailing rap trends), Janelle Monae, Nicki Minaj, and many, many more.
Mainstream sci-fi has generally been more open to representing people of colour than other fantasy mediums, and music videos are an example of an outlet that has kept the bond alive and allowed black rappers to colonize their own chunk of the universe with amazing images, characters, and stories. So we got in our time machines, left the modern era in the space-dust and rooted around the past for some great classic sci-fi hip-hop videos. Check them below:
TLC, “No Scrubs”
Left Eye, Chilli, and T-Boz look like gladiators dropped in a chrome-finished training room, honing all the dances that will fend off lesser men than they deserve.
2Pac feat. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman, “California Love”
Hype Williams draws parallels between Mad Max's post-apocalyptica and Tupac and Dre's very real Thug Life, with a script from Pac himself.
Michael Jackson feat. Janet Jackson, “Scream”
Getting trapped in a spaceship with one of your siblings might sound like hell, but the Jacksons make it work and take advantage of the anti-gravity and 24 hour anime screenings to pass the time. It's been listed in Guinness World Records as one of the most expensive videos ever made, at $7 million.
Beastie Boys, “Intergalactic”
A loving spoof of the corniest kaiju and invading robot movies, which unlike its campy targets, is good for one or two sincere gut laughs.
Deltron 3030, “Mastermind”
If as a kid you ever searched your neighbourhood for the weird rock or toxic waste that would give you superpowers, “Mastermind” gives you a fairly realistic depiction of your day subsequent to that encounter. Oh, I can shapeshift? Let's see if the swings are free.
MF Doom feat. Kurious, “Questions?”
I loved the premise of Hancock, a drunk and suicidal anti-hero in need of fixing. A student film version of that, “Questions?” gives MF Doom the chance to rap his heartbreaking backstory while wandering around the hood that created him, wielding a bottle of Jack Daniels and a machete. Much better.
Missy Elliott & Da Brat, “Sock It To Me”
Despite her multi-platinum sales, Missy Elliott's videos never lost their innovative - and very bonkers - sensibility. Here, she evades robots through a world that combines Mega Man, Dragon Ball Z, and a bit of Tom & Jerry.
Andre 3000 is The Funk Man Who Fell To Earth, along with a fleet of funny walking aliens. A day in the park leads to love and interstellar miscegenation, once our visitor's legs get used to the gravity.
Bobby Digital, “You Can't Stop Me Now”
The comic book format helps narrate a Batman Begins for RZA's alter-ego Bobby Digital, who's more concerned with posing on buildings like a gargoyle than solving any crimes.
Aaliyah, “One In A Million”
Unlike Missy, Aaliyah's clip got a slicker composition, a gloss worthy of the pop star she was. But sci-fi is no stranger to big budgets, and “One In A Million” makes great use of its cash with incredible sets and one very cool eye-patch.