All of the Lights: The 91 Best Hype Williams Videos
A tribute to the director who changed music videos forever
There’s a Mic article about HBO’s Insecure that’s been making the rounds this month, extolling the show’s extraordinary use of lighting to make black faces and skin pop on camera. It’s spectacular technical work—and all too rare—but it’s also nothing new. For over two decades, Hype Williams has been making black skin beautiful on screens big and small. Just take a look at the stunning cinematography of the Queens auteur’s sole film, 1998’s Belly, in which Nas, DMX, Method Man, T-Boz and Taral Hicks appear not just as rappers and singers moonlighting as thespians, but as music royalty that literally glows. The film may have its flaws, but it’s also a spectacular culmination of Williams’ years stretching the imagination and edges of music videos, taking the culture—our culture—to unimaginable heights.
Hype Williams has been showcasing hip hop in its most expressive light for nearly 30 years, making and breaking trends along the way. Whether feeding Bad Boy’s excessive aesthetic, bringing Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes’ uninhibited visions to life, dropping R. Kelly into the wildest soap operas or taking Kanye West around the world, the legendary director has proven to be one of music’s most brilliant visionaries, which is why it’s fitting that he was honored as a “game changer” at VH1’s 2017 Hip-Hop Honors Ceremony.
Here, MASS APPEAL reflects on Hype Williams’ greatest hits—from his first video, BWP’s “We Want Money” in 1991, to Travis Scott’s “90210” from just two years ago. This isn’t every video he’s done, simply his best. Check them out and appreciate greatness at work.