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Hype Williams Changed Hip-Hop Forever With These 10 Videos

Megan Thee Stallion is enlisting the help of legendary director Hype Williams for 'Fever: Thee Movie,' but his fingerprints have been on rap's visuals since the 90s.

by Kristin Corry
17 July 2019, 4:35am

Screenshot of Missy Elliott's "The Rain"

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

On Sunday, Megan Thee Stallion announced Fever: Thee Movie. It appears to be inspired by the blaxploitation action films from the 1970s, which inspired the treatment of her most recent video, "Realer." The brief clip includes appearances from Fever collaborators DaBaby and Juicy J, but it's a proclamation that appears toward the end that has left fans anxiously waiting for more details: "A Hype Williams Film."

Hype Williams has been translating rap cuts into vivid visuals since the 90s. Since his debut in 1994 with Wu-Tang Clan's "Can It Be All So Simple," the Queens director has lent his genius to everyone from Missy Elliott to Beyoncé. Williams has had a hand in creating larger than life rap personas, and when it comes to hip-hop's music videos, Hype Williams doesn't follow trends—he defines them. He brought avant-garde filmmaking techniques to rap videos, like the fisheye distortion that was his signature in the 90s, and split-screen formats he popularized in the early aughts. It's hard to imagine Tierra Whack's visual trickery, for example, without the foundation Hype Williams laid.

Hype has slowed down a bit since his heyday, but he's still made some memorable videos like Aaliyah's "Rock the Boat," Kanye West's "Diamonds from Sierra Leone," and Beyoncé's "Check on It" and "Blow." So in preparation for Fever: Thee Movie "coming soon," here are 10 of the director's most memorable music videos from the 90s to show that after 25 years, Hype Williams is in rap's DNA.

The Notorious B.I.G - "Mo Money, Mo Problem" (1997)

"Mo Money, Mo Problems" starts in an unlikely setting: a golf course with Puff Daddy winning a tournament, months after Tiger Woods' first major victory at the 61st Masters Tournament. Puff credits his success to a special friend. "I was having some trouble on the 17th hole, but my man B.I. from up above came down talked to me and told me to cool out…" Released a few months after the death of Notorious B.I.G., "Mo Money, Mo Problems" finds Puff Daddy and Mase carrying the torch for Bad Boy. The Life After Death visual celebrates Biggie's life and legacy by looking toward the future as the duo two-steps in shiny suits and Rolex watches. "The more money you make, the more problems you get," Biggie says in a piece of archival footage spliced between scenes.

Missy Elliott - "Sock It 2 Me" (1997)

Missy Elliott was singing some incredibly horny things on "Sock It 2 Me," but an ultra sexy video would've been too easy. Instead, Missy opts for an out of this world treatment that would make Buzz Lightyear proud. Da Brat and Timbaland join in on the cosplay, surfing through the Mars-like planet Missy inhabits.

Missy Elliott - "The Rain" (1997)

It's been more than 20 years and no one has made dancing in the rain quite as edgy as Missy. "The Rain" made iconic moments: the Michelin Man suit, cameos from Total and Lil Kim, the Hummer—and that was completely by design. "When we were creating the video, the goal was to create something that was so polarizing that it would be cemented in the brains of that consumer forever," said stylist June Ambrose in a 2017 Elle interview. Hype and Missy's partnership continued to defy expectations for how a woman could be portrayed in hip-hop.

Busta Rhymes - "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See" (1997)

From the minute Busta Rhymes has two women brushing his teeth in "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See," it's clear that this is not your typical grimy rap video of the late 90s. After mixing the record while watching Eddie Murphy's 1988 comedy Coming to America, Busta sought out Hype to update the film about Black royalty. "I told Hype, 'I want to do Coming to America all over and I want to be the Eddie Murphy nigga," he told XXL in a 2012 interview. The Brooklyn rapper estimates that the video cost around $800,000—a small fee to run from an elephant in a building in downtown Manhattan.

DMX, Nas - Belly (1998)

Belly isn't a music video, but it's evident that Hype took the same approach with his first feature film. Its intro might be one of the most iconic scenes of all time, with DMX and Nas walking into a black lit strip club wearing UV contacts lenses. The film, which remains one of the most important crime dramas with an all-Black cast, is proof that Hype didn't need to limit himself to music videos.

Missy Elliott - "She's a Bitch" (1999)

Just when you thought Missy and Hype's chemistry couldn't get any more futuristic than "Sock It 2 Me" and "The Rain," the duo up the ante with "She's a Bitch." The visual is monochromatic, a stark change for the vibrant colors Missy usually goes for. But it's not any less forward-thinking than her previous efforts. She sports a bald head in the Da Real World visual, in what she called "ghetto S&M." She and her dancers are militant in the video, challenging what it means for a woman to be a "bitch."

Jay-Z - "Big Pimpin" (1999)

Hype Williams gives Jay-Z's fun, flute-rap song the West Indian treatment on a yacht during Trinidad's Carnival. The video looks effortless, although Too $hort revealed there was a bit of chaos behind the scenes in an interview last year. According to the California rapper, Pimp C didn't make it to Trinidad to shoot with Jay-Z, but filmed his part in Miami.

Nas - "Hate Me Now" (1999)

Hype Williams considers the original version of Nas and Puff Daddy's "Hate Me Now" as the "This Is America" of its time. According to the director, the video, which uses the rappers to reenact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, was heavily edited before making its way to television. "The first edit of this video at the time had to be the greatest thing anyone has ever seen," Hype said at last year's Red Bull Music Festival Director's Series. "Because of who Puff was and where he was going, he needed a release so he had no restraints filming this video. The things that he did and the things we filmed him doing were so radical when edited to this music, I couldn't even describe it, but at this time, the greatest thing we've ever seen was Puff as a special effect, something that I feel is happening with Childish."

Busta Rhymes - "What's It Gonna Be?" (1999)

If Busta's $800,000 price tag for "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See" didn't make you do a double take, his collaboration with Janet Jackson for "What's It Gonna Be?" will. The video, which marries sexuality and Afrofuturism, is said to havecost over $2 million for the CGI effects that make the duo melt into literal sperm.

TLC - "No Scrubs" (1999)

Just four years after Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson's "Scream" found the siblings mad at the world, TLC's is a "Scream" of its own—except their frustration is broke men. The girl group seem safe in their scrub-free zone, where they don't settle for anything less than what they desire. In a 1999 interview, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, revealed that Hype's vision was for each solo scene to represent the group member's personalities. "[...] We each have individual parts on individual sets, so it's like our individual worlds," she said.

Kristin Corry is a staff writer for Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Tagged:
Hip-Hop
90S
belly
music videos
Rap
Jay Z
Missy Elliott
Hype Williams
DMX
TLC
Janet Jackson
Fever
The Notorious B.I.G.
nas
megan thee stallion
fever: thee movie