Hype Williams’ 11 Best Rap Videos of the ’90s
The music may be the straw that stirs the drink in terms of it being the driving force behind hip-hop's popularity, but when it comes to culture as a whole, there are many facets of the culture, which have been documented throughout its history.
One way that the world was introduced to B-Boys, break-dancing, graffiti and urban street fashion was through pictures, but the most visceral conduit was through music videos, which captured the rap artists up close and personal, helping to put a face and style to the voice you'd been listening to for months on end.
As the '80s would progress, music videos would become staples of rap culture and a pretty big deal, with artists and directors taking pride in their work, resulting in some of the more memorable and iconic videos of the '80s.
However, the '90s marked the arrival of Hype Williams, a Queens native fresh out of Adelphi University who helped revolutionize the way we see hip-hop and what a rap music video could be. Influenced by the art of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hype would get his start in hip-hop as a graffiti writer before linking with Lionel "Vid Kid" Martin and VJ Ralph McDaniels of Video Music Box fame.
Starting his own video company, Filmmakers With Attitude, Hype Williams got his feet wet directing music videos for acts like Main Source, Zhigge, Cutty Ranks and BWP before hitting his stride in 1994, with now-legendary clips for Wu-Tang Clan, Craig Mack, Mary J. Blige and Usher, making him one of the most sought-out directors in rap. By 1997, Hype was regarded as the most prolific and influential music director in the history of hip-hop— a crown he still holds to this day.
In celebration of his excellence behind the camera, The Boombox handpicked 11 of the most iconic visuals from his catalog that helped define an entire decade.
In 1994, Hype Williams officially set off what would be considered the genesis of the Bad Boy era with the visual to Craig Mack's "Flava in Ya Ear (Remix)." Shot in black-and-white with close-up shots of all of the rappers involved, the "Flava in Ya Ear (Remix)" music video would cement Hype Williams as hip-hop's "it" boy in terms of captivating visuals, and go down as one of the best clips of its era.
One of the first music videos that put Hype Williams on the radar of the greater hip-hop community was the visual for Wu-Tang Clan's 1994 single "Can It Be All So Simple," which showcased the director's knack for encapsulating the vibe and aesthetic of the inner-city. From Raekwon's iconic Snow Beach jacket to a cameo from Compton's Most Wanted frontman MC Eiht, "Can It All Be So Simple" was a gritty precursor to his more glossy clips that would shift the paradigm of '90s rap vids.
In 1995, Bad Boy Records released the music video for The Notorious B.I.G.'s smash single "One More Chance/Stay With Me (Remix)," which featured cameos from Uncle Luke, Heavy D, Spike Lee, Da Brat, Jermaine Dupri, D-Nice, Queen Latifah, Cypress Hill, Tyson Beckford, Aaliyah, Changing Faces, Kid Capri, and Zhane, among others. Introducing the world to what a true Brooklyn house party looks and feels like, Hype Williams knocked it out of the park with this classic music video, gifting the Biggie and company with another gem of a visual
Released as the lead-single from his third solo album E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front, "Gimme Some More" be accompanied by a zany video. Nominated for "Breakthrough Music Video Of The Year" at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards, "Gimme Some More" would strengthen the Flipmode general's case for having the most captivating music videos in hip-hop, or all of music for that matter.
After being released from prison and signing with Death Row Records, 2Pac came back with a big splash in the form of his Dr. Dre produced single "California Love." Directed by Hype Williams, the accompanying music video was inspired by the film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and included cameos from Chris Tucker, Tony Cox and Roger Troutman
Missy Elliott helped shift the paradigm in the world of music videos with her Hype Williams-directed epic for her 1997 hit single "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)." The classic over-sized hefty bag was enough to put this vid in rap lore, but cameos from Puff Daddy, Timbaland, Lil' Kim, Total, 702, Da Brat, Tamara "Taj" Johnson-George of SWV, Yo Yo, and Lil' Cease made the visual even more memorable and help it earn a nomination for Best Rap Video at the 1997 VMAs.
Hype Williams and Busta Rhymes gave the classic film Coming To America a modern twist with the music video for his Grammy-nominated single "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See," which would be among the first to make Busta a conceptual vanguard. "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See" earned nominations for Best Male Video and Best Rap Video at the 1998 MTV VMA's and remains one of the signature moments from his career.
Released as the album's second single, "Sock It 2 Me" would help push Supa Dupa Fly past the platinum mark and continue Missy and Hype Williams' streak of groundbreaking music videos.
The Notorious B.I.G.'s death shook the rap world to its core and put the culture in a state of uncertainty, but Hype Williams helped counter the mourning with the celebratory visual to the late rapper's Life After Death single "Mo Money Mo Problems," which captures Puff and Ma$e living adventurously, expenditures aside, in the memory of the King of New York.
Catching backlash for making a more mainstream-friendly album with It Was Written, Nas clapped back in epic fashion with his fiery 1999 single "Hate me Now," from I Am..., the QB deity's third solo release. The Hype Williams-directed music video created controversy and lead to an altercation between Puff and Steve Stoute, but it's ultimately remembered as one of the finer examples of the decadence that defined hip-hop in the late '90s.
Hype Williams ended the '90s in grand fashion with his music video for Busta Rhymes' Janet Jackson-assisted single, ""What's It Gonna Be?" Costing upwards of $2 million dollars, "What's It Gonna Be?" was one of the most expensive music videos ever made, and stretched the limits of what a rap visual could be.