Polo G's music video for "RAPSTAR" featured several references to popular videos from Kendrick Lamar, DaBaby, and everyone in between. Is the chart-topping rapper simply paying homage to some of his favorite artists, or is the "RAPSTAR" video a sign of the times?
Since elbowing his way onto the music industry’s radar with his 2019 breakout hit “Pop Out,” Polo G has been speaking his accomplishments, notoriety, and commercial dominance into existence. In 2019, he proclaimed that he would Die A Legend with his impressive debut album, and last year he manifested that he would one day be considered TheGOAT with a sophomore album that peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200. Mere weeks ago, he caught flack for saying that he’s “Pac rebirthed,” but obviously he has engineered his reality once more because he recently channeled Tupac’s commercial dominance, and had his latest single “RAPSTAR” debut atop the Billboard Hot 100.
A scene from Polo G "RAPSTAR" music video
Released on April 9, “RAPSTAR” arrived alongside a music video that has already garnered over 32 million views in a matter of weeks. The Arrad-directed video for Polo G’s newly minted Billboard chart topper is a cinematic treat, as viewers are transported through a myriad of scenes that find the Chicago rapper navigating the highs and lows of his ever-increasing celebrity. In an exclusive interview with Complex, Arrad said the following about the “Rapstar” video’s inception:
When he played the record, he said he wanted to really bring the lyrics to life. He told me he wanted to highlight some of the things that come with being a superstar. It’s not always about the good. There’s also a lot of dark things that can come with it, too. I wanted to create something that was very linear and brought the lyrics to life, but also highlighted multiple aspects of what it means to be a rap star.
The end result was a music video that featured Polo G giving each of his closest friends a brand new ribbon-wrapped BMW, winning a game of chess while flying private, playing some basketball in a driveway while holding his son in his arms, and baring his soul in the booth. The scenes are timed perfectly to add some visual context to Polo G’s lyrics, but there’s an additional layer beneath the surface of the single’s glossy visuals that further explores how the Chicago rapper truly defines a “rap star.”
Hip-Hop enthusiasts with a watchful eye probably noticed that the “RAPSTAR” video not only tells the story that Arrad mentioned in his interview with Complex, but also pays homage to some of the most notable rap music videos of the past few years, and of all time.
Around the 0:23-mark, the video’s opening gifting spree transitions into a scene from a private jet, in which Polo G dons a turtleneck and a bevy of chains while rapping from a window seat. Later on in the video, the Die A Legend artist takes a podium to accept a trophy that’s adorned with a golden goat and rap directly into the camera as if he was giving a speech. While the visuals are compelling in their own right, eagle-eyed viewers likely recognized that they were reminiscent of DaBaby’s “Going Baby” and Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” videos, respectively.
Other noticeable nods to popular music videos are prevalent throughout the course of the “RAPSTAR,” as Polo G and Arrad fully reimagine scenes from videos such as Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble,” Drake and Lil Durk’s “Laugh Now Cry Later,” and Tupac’s “Hit Em Up.” Near the 0:47-mark, Polo G looks up at a beam of light shining from the top-right corner of the shot, and with the arched doorways in the background, it's almost an exact recreation of the opening shot of “Humble.” One of the biggest differences between the shots is that Polo G gazes into the light rather than facing away from it, and instead of being draped in a religious garb like Kendrick was in the Dave Meyers-directed visual, the Chicago rapper adds his own flair by rocking a long white bubble coat while he talks to God about his mental health struggles.
A scene from Polo G "RAPSTAR" music video
Interestingly enough, Polo G’s homage to Drake and Lil Durk’s “Laugh Now Cry Later” video may be the most telling in “RAPSTAR,” as it actually highlights his fellow Chicago rapper and close collaborator, as well as incorporates a look from Tupac’s “Hit Em Up” video. “RAPSTAR” adapts the scene from “Laugh Now Cry Later” in which photos of Lil Durk and Drake flash paparazzi-style before Durk performs his verse in front of a monochrome backdrop. Polo G recreates the scene and retains most of the original’s visual aspects, but the “Martin & Gina” rapper opts to ditch Durk’s grey suit in favor of a dark denim jack and jean combo that mirrors Tupac’s outfit in “Hit Em Up.” To combine imagery from both Pac and Durk in the same moment really speaks to how much of a high regard that Polo G, who describes himself as “Pac rebirthed” in that very scene, holds these two artists.
From the “blink and you miss them” easter eggs to blown-out recreations of iconic Hip-Hop imagery, Polo G’s music video contextualizes his understanding of what a rap star looks like in the music industry today, and it also shines some light on who has potentially inspired the younger generation of artists the most.
Perhaps Polo G’s “RAPSTAR” video marks a paradigm shift, and across the board, new Hip-Hop artists’ may no longer be as inspired by Jay-Z, Kanye West, and even Drake as previous classes of rappers were. For the “Pop Out” rapper to show immense admiration for Kendrick Lamar, Lil Durk, and Tupac is eye-opening. We’ve already discussed at length the All Eyez On Me rapper’s decade-spanning influence, but it’s incredible to consider that Lil Durk has transcended from being a promising upstart in the Chicago drill scene to possibly being to up-and-coming rappers what Kid Cudi was to Travis Scott.
To be clear, Polo G’s “RAPSTAR” video can only be fully interpreted as an indication of who has inspired him throughout his career, but with the introspective record hitting the top of the Billboard Hot 100, his affinity for the artists who he paid homage to in the video may in fact be representative of who rising artists and young Hip-Hop fans alike connect with the most. If so, “RAPSTAR” hasn’t just given Polo G his first number 1 single -- it has also informed us that Kendrick Lamar, Tupac Shakur, and Lil Durk are the radiant examples of what the youth demands a rap star to look like today.