The most exciting part of Afrofuturism is seeing it in action. When our favorite graphic novel, song or book, comes to life through exceptional visuals, it seems as though the worlds created in our favorite stories are closer than we thought.
It’s especially wondrous when music videos consider Afrofuturist aesthetics. Some of the weirdest, strangest, most popular and memorable music videos actually fall under the Afrofuturism umbrella: like Michael and Janet Jackson’s “Scream,” almost every Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes video, Grace Jones, TLC—the list goes on and on.
We rounded up some stellar Afrofuturist music videos for you to enjoy, and briefly unpacked some of the symbolism within them—but keep in mind that this selection is merely the tip of the iceberg.
These particular videos showcase diverse subplots of Afrofuturism: from surrealism and space travel, to dystopians and love fantasies. We wish we could include all the Afrofuturist music videos we love, but that would take light years to complete.
Petite Noir “Best” (Magical Realism)
In this stunning, otherworldly music video, Congolese artist Petite Noir travels, by foot, to several otherworldly destinations. There’s a barren desert, harboring only beautiful souls that haunt him as he runs; a neon green forest of digital nature, and a foggy heaven where beautiful angels await, before he’s transported to a deeper spiritual state. By fusing magical realism with the beauty of Africa, Petite Noir illustrates a narrative where fantasy is juxtaposed against nature: emphasizing the notion that Africa is a place of wonders and mystery.
Erykah Badu “Didn’t Cha Know” (Space Travel)
It’s no surprise that Erykah Badu, a queen of afrofuturism, is on this list. Most of her music and videos ponder feminine energy, social issues and the power of love and rejuvenation, but this video in particular exhibits a blatant fantastical tone. Badu wanders a lonely planet like an extraterrestrial visitor who has “made a wrong turn back there somewhere.”
Wu-Tang Clan “Triumph” featuring Cappadonna (Social Sci-Fi)
The Wu-Tang Clan rhyme over a thrilling beat, turn into killer bees, travel throughout the city on fiery motorcycles and teleport from one place to the next in this creepy yet empowering video. The opening news report positions them, the killer bees, as a threat, but it’s up to you to decide if the media is truly trustworthy, or if The Wu are misrepresented heroes.
FKA Twigs “Pendulum” (Future Feminism)
In this dark fairytale, FKA Twigs levitates and swings, bound by her tightly woven and inextricably long hair. The scenario looks as beautiful as it is uncomfortable, and her rope-like extensions expand on ideas of sexuality, complicated romantic relationships that can encapsulate a woman’s love, and a black woman’s social and cultural struggle with the texture of her hair. The conclusion is hopeful and liberating: she finally lets her hair down, literally and figuratively freeing her body and true self.
Ibaaku “Djula Dance” (Dance Apocalyptic)
Senegalese producer Ibaaku’s Alien Cartoon album actually started out as the soundtrack to Selly Raby Kane’s black fantasy fashion show. Thankfully, it blossomed into a collection of electronic dance music that motivates you to move your body and imagine distant, extraterrestrial inhabited worlds. “Djula Dance” is a funky, intergalactic video with ecstatic Senegalese dancers and fun graphics.
Kanye West “Runaway” (Romantic Fantasy)
In Runaway, Kanye West’s short visual album to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, horror, beauty, sensuality and wonder meet to narrate an afrofuturistic love story. The sickening red skies, supernatural essence of nature, awkward, all-white dinner party, lonely dark roads and, of course, the stunning Phoenix (Selita Ebanks), all contribute to a sublime, yet symbolic, world that critiques our views on love, fetishization, sacrifice, rebirth and how we interact with people who differ from us. It asks: what does it mean to be a runaway? And can we run away from our realities?
Bootsy Collins “Party on Plastic” (Funkadelic Future)
One of the grooviest, jivest, funkiest cats around, Bootsy Collins was a spearhead for Afrofuturism, along with George Clinton, Earth, Wind and Fire and Sun Ra. In this quirky video, fashion, funk and the future coincide to create a fun rendition on technology, Godzilla and space. It’s a joyful celebration on being extra, and being excited for the future.
Janet Jackson “Rhythm Nation” (Dystopian Revolution)
An all black-and-white, straight choreography music video may not seem afrofuturistic to you, but “Rhythm Nation” is intentionally a dystopian tale about revolution and racial harmony. Janet Jackson, as a militaristic activist, rouses her community to fight for justice and equality through the power of their stomping feet and swift arm movements. Janet is no stranger to afrofuturistic themes: peep “Doesn’t Really Matter” and “Feedback”.
Flying Lotus “Coronus, the Terminator” (Afro-Supernatural)
An ill, bedridden man, surrounded by eager loved ones, dreams of ominous spirits who taunt his imminent demise. Flying Lotus, a master of electro-jazz and futuristic sounds, often utilizes his music videos to contemplate death, the afterlife, and soul searching – usually through the gracefulness and unpredictability of dance. “Never Gonna Catch Me” and “Until the Quiet Comes” are two great videos that further explores these ideas.
Jojo Abot “Gods Among Men & Marching” (Unapologetic Black Superpowers)
Ghanaian musician Jojo Abot is known for her eclectic fashion and tantalizing music, so her new video, “Gods Among Men & Marching” was a pleasant but anticipated debut. In it, Jojo, as an indigo goddess, frolics around Johannesburg, spreading her eccentric, colorful spirit around the city. It’s a confident and unapologetic declaration of personifying oneself as a powerful, unique deity.
What are some of your favorite afrofuturism music videos?