The 15 Most Expensive Hip-Hop and R&B Videos of All Time
These days, you can make a reasonably decent music video by buying an affordable camera or a good phone and some basic editing software. With shows like BET's 106 & Park and Rap City obsolete, and MTV's TRL focusing more on social media than music videos, low-cost videos are aligned with the way we consume music in the streaming era.
There was one time, however, when some record labels would seemingly pay any price to get an excellent video made so that it would get played continuously on MTV, VH1, and BET. Music videos in the '90s and '00s were the equivalent to feature films. There were explosions, storylines, and out of this world graphics.
We've listed 15 of those pricey videos and included the most expensive of all time.
TLC - 'Waterfalls' $1 Million (1995)
Directed by F. Gary Gray, TLC's "Waterfalls" combined stunning visual effects with well-written storylines.
Not only did the visual tackle the pertinent social issues of the day, but it also provided sheer eye candy, like the scenes that show Left Eye, T-Boz and Chili liquefied and performing in front of a real waterfall.
$1 Million in June 1995 when the video was made equates to $1,646,162.94 in 2018.
Sisqó - 'Thong Song' $1 Million (2000)
There are actually two videos for Sisqó's "Thong Song," one that shows him having the time of his life in Miami, with guest appearances from LL Cool J, Method Man and others, and the other with Foxy Brown for the song's remix.
Despite the six-figure budget, Joseph Kahn, the director of the original "Thong Song" video, said he wanted to keep things straight-forward and true to the concept of the cut.
"I listen to 'Thong Song,' and I say, 'Well, this song is about asses," he said. "So you can either accept it and do something like I did, or you can go and try and turn the 'Thong Song' into some kind of Chemical Brothers video and make it all pretentious about some f----ing communist upheaval or something."
"Let's just relax and make a booty video, and let's make a really good one, and make it fun," added Kahn.
$1 Million in March 2000 when the video was made, equates to $1,463,469.63 in 2018.
Kanye West - 'Stronger' $1.2 Million (2007)
Mr. West recruited Hype Williams for this one, and they went to Tokyo, Japan for the filming.
In the 4: 26-minute video, you'll see an intricate storyline that involves Ye being part of a motorcycle gang. There's also appearances made by Cassie and Daft Punk to add to the overall excitement.
Rumor has it that Ye's boss at the time L.A. Reid approved the 1.2 million budget without even seeing a storyboard or any concrete ideas.
$1.2 Million in April 2007 when the video was made equates to $1,454,647.15 in 2018.
MC Hammer - 'Here Comes the Hammer' $1.3 Million (1991)
It's easy to tell where the money went for this video. A huge set, crazy special effects and it clocks in at almost nine minutes in total.
In the video, Hammer and his friends are being chased through a haunted house and end up in a nightclub. The whole thing is fun to watch if you feel like sitting through the entire video.
$1.3 million in March 1991 when the video was made equates to $2,412,665.19 in 2018.
The Fugees - 'Ready or Not' $1.3 Million (1996)
Helicopters, a high-speed chase on the ocean, all kinds of explosions and a submarine for Pete's sake.
All of those things and more make up the Fugees epic video for "Ready or Not," which competes with the actual song as far as dopeness goes.
There's also that crazy scene that shows Lauryn Hill, Wyclef, and Pras leap off a pier into the sea to get away from their potential captors.
$1.3 Million in August 1996 when the video was made equates to $1,464,096.77.10 in 2018.
Blackstreet Feat. Janet Jackson 'Girlfriend/Boyfriend' $1.5 Million (1999)
This Joseph Kahn directed video turns into one big pinball machine, and the viewer is taken on a colorful, futuristic journey.
Eve makes a cameo at some point and rides around the virtual world on a high tech motorbike.
1.5 million in May 1999 when the video was made equates to $2,261,245.49 in 2018.
TLC - 'Unpretty' $1.6 Million (1999)
The clip starts off with the trio sitting on these flat illuminated seats that hover in the air.
Then there's one scene that shows Chilli dealing with a man who doesn't appreciate her body and wants it to be surgically enhanced.
The colors come directly at you in the clip, practically in 3-D form and just like the "Waterfalls" video, the viewer is treated to some wonderful eye candy. "Unpretty," just like "Waterfalls" dealt with social issues such as self-esteem, eating disorders and more.
$1.6 million in June 1999 when the video was made equates to $2,411,995.19 in 2018.
Michael Jackson - 'Remember the Time' $2 Million (1999)
Director John Singleton and Michael Jackson brought in a who's who list of Black Hollywood for this video, including Eddie Murphy and Iman who play a king and queen.
If you recall, the gloved one is told to entertain the royal couple in the clip, and he does it so well that he wins Iman's heart.
Undoubtedly, this video stands right there among Michael's many classics.
$2 Million in January 1992 when the video was filmed equates to $3,628,472.12 in 2018.
Missy Elliott - 'She's A Bitch' $2 Million (1999)
Missy pulled out all of the creative stops for this one.
Crazy wardrobe changes, exotic cars, and that memorable scene of the rapper and her dancers grooving on that giant M under grey, angry looking clouds. The clip was haunting and beautiful all at once.
2 million dollars in May 1999 when the video was made equates to $3,014,993.98 in 2018.
Busta Rhymes Feat Janet Jackson - 'What's It Gonna Be?' $2.4 Million (1999)
It was all of the special effects that made this video so expensive, but some might say it was worth every penny.
Both Jackson and Busta find themselves in a sexy world that is full of silver liquid, a band and more.
Throughout, the New York rhymer performs on a big grey cube, while Janet rocks a body-hugging purple number and gives flirty eyes to the camera. Hype Williams directed this one.
$2.4 million in March 1999 when the video was made equates to $4,316,657.57 in 2018.
MC Hammer - '2 Legit 2 Quit' $2.4 Million Dollars (1991)
Arguably the most significant accomplishment of Hammer and director Rupert Wainwright for this video was getting all of those big stars together at one location.
James Brown, Eazy-E, Queen Latifah, Danny Glover and the actor Jim Belushi were just some of the celebs who showed up.
$2.4 million in November 1991, when the video was made, equates to $4,545,464.44.
Mariah Carey - 'Heartbreak,' Feat. JAY Z $2.5 Million (1999)
Directed by Brett Ratner, this pricy was based on the films Enter The Dragon starring Bruce Lee and Grease.
It starts of with Carey pulling up to a movie theater with her girls to confront a man that's cheating on her.
From there, there are some dance routines, an appearance by actor Jerry O'Connell, while Mariah pulls double-duty and plays an entirely different character.
$2.5 million in July 1999 when the video was made equates to $3,757,438.51 in 2018
Puff Daddy, Feat The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes - 'Victory' $2.7 Million (1998)
Puff has been known to spend a pretty penny to get some nice visuals, and he topped himself with the "Victory" video.
Based on the Arnold Schwarzenegger film The Running Man, the Bad Boy mogul finds himself in the middle of high drama, while Busta who rocks a black feathered outfit, sits on top of a statute watching everything go down.
If Puff and the German director Marcus Nispel was going for a real movie feel for this one, they indeed pulled it off.
$2.7 million In March 1998 when the video was made equates to $4,170,617.76 in 2018
Michael Jackson 'Black or White' $4 Million (1991)
John Landis who also directed the "Thriller" video directed this one as well and when it premiered on BET, VH1, MTV and Fox it gave each network their highest ratings its ever achieved to that point.
The clip also stars a young Macaulay Culkin, as well George Wendt from "Cheers" fame and the video premiered in 27 countries at the same time and broke a record by being watched by 500 million viewers in total.
Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson - 'Scream' $7 Million (1995)
Michael and Janet's "Scream" video is officially the most expensive music video of all time, in any form of music. In it, both float around the inside of a spaceship, while they give energetic performances for the camera.
The song is an answer to the media scrutiny Michael and the Jackson family faced at that time.
It'll be interesting to see if any music video at any time in the future comes even close to costing what this one did.
$7 Million in June 1995 when the video was filmed equates to $4,107,311.48 in 2018.