• 25. Aesop Rock - "Rings"

    Director: Rob Shaw

    Since his debut on the underground hip-hop scene 20 years ago, Aesop Rock has always stood out from the crowd. Though vocally gifted and creative with the flows, Rock really shines lyrically and conceptually—the Rhymesayers emcee has laced his tracks with poetry covering everything from personal tragedy to his favorite video games. On “Rings,” he eulogizes his former career as a failed visual artist; ironically, the video is anything but a failure.

    The video depicts the rapper’s brush with death after a car accident. He narrates in live-action from the operating table as a surgeon performs something between an autopsy and a heart transplant.

    This scene is cut with stop-motion dissections of the rapper’s brain and heart, wherein a wooden mannequin representing Aesop as a visual artist does battle with a serpentine beast, a veritable tape-worm of creativity bent on destroying his work. After the surgeon removes the mannequin, Rock comes back to life and must face the world without that vital part of his creative self. Though the lyrical message is one of resignation, the video feels positive, like a warning against abandoning whatever it is that inspires you.