APPRECIATION: Hype Williams
by Marcus K. Dowling
I believe that new is boring and that history is inspirational. These opinions are not necessarily the views of the Couch Sessions. “Marcus Dowling appreciates…” celebrates the memories that define the future. Enjoy.
Pop music of the hipster generation was dealt a great disservice. Pop musicians of the hipster generation were given a terrible hand as well. Hype Williams, one of the greatest directors and videographers of the modern era has no modern counterpart, and is likely too expensive to hire for their clips. Thus, the breaking artists of the past five years have absolutely no way to compare to the largely Williams created visual standard of pop excellence. The director is so much more than a man who abused color saturation, dramatic vistas and fish eye lenses. The New Yorker, a child of hip hop, by blending the ordinary with the magical, made the genre, and what makes it great, a visual expectation of pop domination. For that, he is appreciated.
There are people in the modern generation who appreciate the tremendous lo-fi visions of current video dons the Hi-5 Collective who would argue that Hype was great because of his budgets. It is true that the estimated millions of dollars it took to shoot Busta Rhymes’ 1997 clip for “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” makes it one of the most expensive videos ever. It is also true that a wise man can separate a fool from his money. What likely fails in the continuing if/then syllogism is the video itself. Only a man with a most vivid of imaginations (and a history involving the direction of 2Pac’s “California Love”) could come up with re-imaging Coming to America as a giggly post-modern apocalypse. Amazing in its simplicity and execution, oversaturated muted colors heighten the stentorian blasts of bright colors in the video, the track and Busta’s delivery. Only the most blessed of geniuses create in that manner.
Hype Williams grew in line with hip hop. Able to match idyllic visions from the projects to the penthouse, he was the perfect auteur for rap music’s initial high class aspiring generation. When rappers switched from wanting boiled rocks to rock and roll, and needing to know Donatella Versaceinstead of Dapper Don, Hype was there every step of the way. Now 20 years in the game, its impressive to note that in every year since 1992’s clip for underground hyped Zhigge’s “Rakin’ in the Dough” to Willow Smith’s “Fireball,” he’s been the director of note for hip hop’s most immediate reflections of success at all levels of the game.
In later years, Williams, like hip hop has branched into defining rock’s future. Still impressive in that realm, like graffiti artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring who inspired him, he carries the sound of the streets alongside a vivid and expansive imagination. In expecting someone to excel and surpass the legacy of Hype Williams, you demand that the future exist with a foot squarely in the past, a foot squarely in the present, and hands grabbing beyond the future into an entirely imaginary space. As the present continues to be defined by amazing discoveries that render the magical as purely commonplace, will the future still be defined by an appreciated Hype, or where does the re-definition of visual extravagance reside?