Hip hop and R’n’B owe their visual identity to iconic music video director, Hype Williams

Fish eyes, chrome casts and dolls, the director that changed the experiential music video deserves his just dos...

With a resume that spans over 20 years, Hype Williams has been cultivating the visual identity of the music industry for Hip hop and R’n’B’s biggest names. What began with a fish eye lens and a vision became one of the most recognizable and sought after directors in the 21st century. BET award nominated rapper, Megan Thee stallion teased the trailer to ‘Fever: Thee Movie’, the second installment following an immeasurable debut album, Tina Snow. As well as a long awaited visual experience, fans were at a frenzy at the announcement of the the extended video’s director being none other than the incomparable, Hype Williams. 

Director to music’s biggest and brightest including, Beyonce, Kanye West, Missy Elliot, Lil Kim, Busta Rhymes and more, to understand the scope of Williams’s influence on the industry, we must take a look back at some of the defining moments of both his career and the careers of those that stood behind his lense…

Who better to execute Busta’s droll than hype?


The Leaders of the New School, member Busta Rhymes, made a splash on the music industry. His raspy rage fueled, rapping style and incorporation of this Jamaican roots had become a strain on the cohesion of himself and the other member was an increasingly difficult feat to contain. With a distinct tone, outrageous personal style encompassed by comical lyricism that straddled the lines of political satire, it became lear that in embarking a solo career would require collaborators that would do his bombastry justice. There lies Hype Williams. By 1995, “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check”  had Hype Williams to thank for the ‘The coming’ single garnering great commercial and critical success and in turn Best Rap video in 1996. As the relationship developed so did the videos, each as outrageous as the next, Busta and Hype collaboration became characterized by bursts of vibrants coloring, narrow hallways and an exaggeration with scale.

Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot.

The following year missy Elliott & Da Bratt released, ‘Sock it to Me’. If you ever wondered where the inso for halloween costumes derived as of late, give thanks to this holy union. Hype Williams directorial prowess went from strength to strength and by 1996 he had completely changed the tone of the industry as whole. What was once characterized by 3-peice suits and singing in the rain about a love lost had now transformed into a different realm completely. slapstick, satire and solo vibe sequences, Hype Williams stripped the rigidness and honed in on the entertainment. Action figure costumes, finger waves and graphic lettering. Missy became known for her cosmic oeuvre and Hype made that visually possible.

Hype’s signature

Whether you know it or not, you can detect a Hype Williams music video. Pay attention to these 4 things: fish eye lens, chrome like set, strobe lights, dolls. Now, whether it’s all 4 , or 2, these characteristics make it impossible to miss. Be it Diddy doing the dad jig to the lens, Lil Kim doing the robot, or it’s the iconic Missy shot in the blown out bin liner, the lens defined the early naughts. 

IT’s Rainging dolls

Williams’ affinity to dolls became increasingly evident by the mid 00s. What began as 10 second snippets and occasional camera play with costumes resulted in an array of animations that we see in his current works. In the ‘What’s it Gonna Be?’ video of 1998 by Busta Rhymes featuring Janet Jackson, miniature Busta figures poured over Jackson as she caressed her body. Suggestive is an understatement. This set an interesting precedence for how scale and and animation were used to convey sex in music videos at a time when institutions were beginning to discuss the ills of portraying sex on screen. 

This later became running theme for Travis Scott’s 2016 album Rodeo  and similarly as an extended 5 minute animation.

wordsConnie Mangumbu