In 1984, Run-DMC made history by becoming the first rap group ever to have their music video broadcast on MTV, and ever since, visuals have become a massive part of how the public consumes hip-hop.
Launched in 1981, Music TV (MTV) quickly became the go-to for young African-Americans wanting to see the latest hip-hop music videos, and as the genre grew decade by decade, the culture acquired its own allocated segments on the channel.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Yo! MTV Raps broadcasted a mix of rap visuals, interviews and live in-studio performances for two hours daily. However, by the 2000s, the genre had become so profitable that Black Entertainment Television (BET) had to create a new channel, BET Hip-Hop, to play rap music videos 24/7.
As the culture expanded and grew in popularity, major labels invested more in the artists and, by default, their music videos. This led to increased budgets for visuals, and in 1999, one emcee became the first to have a budget exceeding $1 million.
During an appearance on The Residency Podcast, former UGK lyricist Bun B revealed that in 1999, when he found out about the budget for Jay-Z’s 1999 hit single ‘Big Pimpin’ music video, he couldn’t believe it. Recalling his amazement, the Texas artist stated, “This was the first million-dollar budgeted rap video ever! I had never seen anything like it. It was the first rap video, I think on ‘Making a Video’ on MTV. It accelerated so quickly, and then within, I wanna say, three months it was the number one record on the planet.”
Directed by the iconic Hype Williams, the music video for ‘Big Pimpin’ was shot in Trinidad during its Carnival and sees Bun B and Jay-Z partying on a lavish, luxurious-looking yacht. Pimp C’s verse was filmed in Miami Beach, Florida.
Since 1999, several other music videos have had extremely high budgets, with Kanye West’s ‘Touch The Sky’ video hitting $996,000. However, no music video has topped the ridiculous music video for Diddy’s ‘Victory,’ which has been estimated to have cost around $4.3million. You can watch the music video for ‘Big Pimpin’ below.