The 20 Best Hype Williams-Directed Music Videos

TLC No Scrubs
Courtesy Photo

TLC, "No Scrubs"

Before social media and streaming services took over how we consume music, music videos were a highlight of an artists work. These videos put faces on the artists and told stories in a way that audio couldn't do. The feeling of racing to our TVs (or later, our computers) and tuning in to the hottest, new videos is an experience all hip-hop fans can relate to.

These visuals would be nothing without a director at the helm and there have been many who have contributed to the growth of hip-hop within the music video format. But there was no MTV fixture as groundbreaking and influential as the visionary known as Harold "Hype" Williams.

Hype Williams began his journey as a graffiti artist in New York City before studying film at Adelphi University and working with Classic Concept Productions in the '80s. After starting his film company, Filmmakers With Attitude, Hype got his breakthrough moment with his first major video in 1994 with the Wu-Tang Clan's "Can It Be All So Simple." With his trademark fisheye lens style and use of aerial and tracking shots, Hype turned the mid-to-late-'90s into his playground.

In a short amount of time, the kid from Hollis, Queens became one of the most in-demand directors in the music business. To go along with his star-studded clientele (Jay-Z, Beyoncé, DMX, Ja Rule), Hype pushed music videos beyond their limits to a point where the creative possibilities were endless. He even flirted with Hollywood for a bit with his first and only feature film Belly, starring Nas and DMX. 

Today's generation of hip-hop fans may not be familiar with the legendary Hype Williams. Since 2016, Hype has only directed six videos -- a sharp contrast from the 10-plus visuals he directed every year between 1994 and 2011. Fortunately, hip-hop heads will get to familiarize themselves with the icon thanks to one of the hottest rappers in the business, Megan Thee Stallion. Back in July, Megan turned heads when she announced Hype will be turning her critically acclaimed mixtape, Fever, into a film. There's no exact date of when it will drop but if it's anything that we've come to know of Hype's artistic direction it will surely be exciting. 

Hype will forever hold a place in the annals of hip-hop history. To hold us over until the film's impending release, Billboard compiled a ranking of Hype Williams' 20 best videos. Check it out below!

20. DMX, "How's It Going Down" (1998)

Hype Williams highlights a softer, more loving side of DMX in the video for his 1998 single "How's It Going Down." Through his knack for visual storytelling, Williams tells a modern-day tale about the relationship between two lovers. We see the love blossom between the two in various locations, like the park and X's apartment, but we also watch the drama unfold in a project hallway. Ja Rule, Eve, Drag-On, and Irv Gotti all make cameo appearances.

19. LL Cool J feat. Keith Murray, Prodigy, Fat Joe, and Foxy Brown, "I Shot Ya" (Remix) (1995)

If you're a fan of gritty, lightbulbs swinging in a dark project staircase rap, then the video for LL Cool J's infamous "I Shot Ya (Remix)" is just for you. There's nothing pleasant about this black and white video, as Williams has all five rappers spitting lethal bars inside what seems to be an abandoned warehouse. Except for Foxy Brown's scene-stealing performance, the faces of the male rappers are mostly covered in the shadows of the ominous building. Various film reel and blurry camera effects disrupt the flow of the entire video, and LL Cool J gets into an impromptu bare-knuckle fight.

18. Ne-Yo, "So Sick" (2006)

Breathtaking clips of the snowy mountains of Aspen, Colorado played the backdrop for the video to Ne-Yo's 2006 hit single "So Sick." Like the cold tone of the heart-wrenching single, Williams has Ne-Yo sing his frustrations out in the desolate, icy landscape. The video received regular airplay on BET and MTV and helped the song become Ne-Yo's biggest hit and a worldwide success, topping both the Billboard Hot 100 and the U.K. charts. 

17. Snoop Dogg featuring Nate Dogg, Eastsidaz, Master P, and Butch Cassidy, "Lay Low" (2000)

Hype Williams is no stranger to incorporating a movie-like feel to his videos. In the year 2000, he did just that, as he took viewers back to the Roaring Twenties in the video for Snoop Dogg's single "Lay Low." Dressed in some of the cleanest suits you'll ever see, Snoop and his gang ignore the warnings of a mob boss, who advises they stay away from his club. The crew goes about their business inside and manage to piss off the mob boss, who's watching high above in his office. Shots of flappers, 1920s style cars, and the Great Gatsby-inspired hairstyles bring the mafia vibes full circle.  

16. Beyonce featuring Jay-Z, "Drunk In Love" (2013)

Hype Williams caught hip-hop's favorite couple in rare form for the steamy black and white visual for Beyonce's 2013 single "Drunk in Love." Shot at the exclusive Golden Beach, Florida, "Drunk in Love" has the Queen dancing and bending her body seductively across the sandy beach while the waves crash into her. Jay-Z, on the other hand, drunkenly raps beside his wife with a glass of D'usse in hand. The video received several accolades, including a nomination for video of the year and win for best collaboration at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards.

15. The Notorious B.I.G., "Warning" (1995)

For this chilling tale about betrayal and revenge, Hype Williams has Diddy and Biggie Smalls portraying the characters who are having the heated phone conversation in the song's cinematic lyrics. Diddy plays Pop, Biggie's friend who warns the Brooklyn MC of the plot on his life by a shady character -- who was first seen in the video for "Big Poppa," another Hype Williams-directed visual. From there, we see Biggie go about his day in his home, conjuring up a revenge plot of his own. The tension in the video is taken to another level at the end, when we see Biggie and Puff embroiled in an all-out firefight with trespassers, which leaves everyone dead except for Biggie. 

14. Wu-Tang Clan - "Can It Be All So Simple" (1994)

Hype Williams' mainstream breakthrough came with the visual to the Wu-Tang Clan's 1994 single "Can It Be All So Simple." The video takes place in the rugged land of Shaolin, where Raekwon and Ghostface Killah reminisce on their upbringing in Staten Island, while also thinking about their future. Williams connects the tone of the song to the video with laserlike precision, as various clips of inner-city life go side by side with the lyrical content.

13. Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx, "Gold Digger" (2005)

Kanye West's smash hit "Gold Digger" topped the Hot 100 and broke several digital download records in 2005. The music video supplemented the song's success with accolades of its own, like the 2006 BET Award for video of the year and best male video and best hip hop video nominations at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. In the video, Williams films Kanye performing alongside several video models posing as pin-up cover models. John Legend and Jamie Foxx appear in the video, with the latter singing his chorus along with Ray Charles' catchy sample.

12. The Notorious B.I.G., "One More Chance" (Remix) (1995)

If you want to know what a house party in the '90s was like, look no further than the video for the remix to The Notorious B.I.G's "One More Chance." Hype Williams took it back to Brooklyn for the festive affair, with cameos by Heavy D, Aaliyah, Jermaine Dupri, Mary J. Blige, Spike Lee, Da Brat, Queen Latifah, Tyson Beckford and more. The carefree atmosphere is the vibe that we '90s babies wish we experienced. 

11. Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre & Queen Pen - "No Diggity"

For their 1996 No. 1 hit single "No Diggity" Blackstreet called upon Hype Williams' talented eye for the visual treatment. The video has '90s vibes draped all over it, with the colorful club scenes and the backup dancers busting a slick routine on an empty road. We can't forget the iconic Lil Penny-style marionette playing the piano either. The video was a huge success, as it was nominated for best R&B video and best rap video at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.

10. Kanye West, "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" (2005)

Inspired by the gothic architecture found in the city of Prague, Kanye West flew to the capital of the Czech Republic along with Hype Williams to film this moving black and white video. Kanye is seen rapping throughout the empty streets while scenes of young children slaving away in a mine are mixed with scenes of the wealthy buying the diamonds that these kids are working to the bone for. The video was met with high praise, receiving nominations for best male video at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards Japan and outstanding music video at the 2005 NAACP Image Awards.

9. Busta Rhymes & Janet Jackson, "What's It Gonna Be?!" (1999)

If there's a video that pushes the limits of special effects in a time where it seemed impossible to do, Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson's "What's It Gonna Be" is the one. Costing over $2 million, Hype Williams turns Busta into a knight in shining armor, a bandleader, and a snake-like liquid creature, while Janet is dressed like a futuristic dominatrix. The video was critically acclaimed, earning nominations for best hip-hop video, best direction in a video, best special effects in a video, and best art direction in a video at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards. 

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

Whenever Missy got together with Hype Williams to shoot a music video, viewers were treated to quite a visual. "She's a Bitch" is a perfect example of the limitless creativity between the two icons. For one of the most expensive videos of all time, Williams uses a plethora of special effects and electroluminescent stage set-ups for Missy to spit her fiery bars. The costumes were wild and unconventional, but proved that Missy was in a league of her own.

7. Craig Mack featuring Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Rampage, and Busta Rhymes, "Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)" (1994)

Hype Williams may have channeled Bruce Lee's famous quote "simplicity is the key to brilliance" for the black and white video to Craig Mack's "Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)." Unlike his later work, this video contained no special effects -- just bars, and Diddy dancing. Williams gets close-up shots of all five rappers in action in front of a white backdrop, spitting their verses with ease. Funkmaster Flex, Irv Gotti, Das EFX, and Mic Geronimo all make brief appearances.

6. Busta Rhymes, "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See" (1997)

Prince Akeem's journey to Queens, NY in 1988 classic Coming to America served as the inspiration to Busta Rhymes’ "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See" video. Williams uses his trademark fisheye lens effect to capture Busta living life as an African prince, while also running from an elephant and dancing in African garb and glowing tribal makeup. The video received four nominations at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, including best male video and breakthrough video.

5. TLC, "No Scrubs" (1999)

In 1999, TLC took over the world with the hit single "No Scrubs" and the music video was partially responsible for that. The futuristic Hype Williams-directed video featured the girls in an assortment of black, white, and silver leather outfits dancing and having fun. It received heavy airplay on MTV, VH1, and BET and helped TLC topple *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys for best group video at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards.

4. Jay-Z feat. UGK, "Big Pimpin'" (2000)

Jay-Z, UGK, and Damon Dash showed us how much fun the rapper lifestyle can be in the lavish "Big Pimpin'" video. It opens with Hov and Dame partying it up with a band of beautiful women atop a massive yacht. Viewers are then taken to one of Trinidad's famous Carnival parades, where Bun B spits his verse as the boys are enjoying the festivities with the local townsfolk. Pimp C takes the party to Golden Beach, Florida where he raps in a black fur coat and Dame pours champagne on everything. What a time.

3. Missy Elliott, "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" (1997)

Missy Elliott's very first video could arguably be her best. At the time, there was nothing that came close to the zany effects we saw in the video for "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)." If the iconic inflated garbage bag outfit wasn't memorable enough, Missy distorting her body alongside her back up dancers will have you doing the same to Timbaland's thumping beat. The video contains cameo appearances by Diddy, Lil' Kim, Total, SWV, and more. It was nominated for four awards including best rap video and breakthrough video at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.    

2. The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Puff Daddy and Mase, "Mo Money Mo Problems" (1997)

In 1997, the Notorious B.I.G's untimely death left a huge void that the hip-hop community did not know how to fill. Thanks to Hype Williams' eclectic vision, the video for Biggie's 1997 single "Mo Money Mo Problems" offered a temporary getaway from the pain. Diddy and Mase are living life in the video with their various shiny suits as they levitate in an air chamber and bust some dance moves inside a tunnel lit with fluorescent lighting. Archival clips of the late Biggie Smalls were a highlight of the video as their speed was adjusted to match his lyrics in the song. The video earned nominations in 1998 for best video of the year at the Soul Train Awards, and best rap video at the MTV VMAs.

1. 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre, "California Love" (1996)

Hype Williams was inspired by the 1985 film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome for this classic video to 2Pac's epic comeback single "California Love." With cameo appearances by Tony Cox, Chris Tucker, and Roger Troutman, the video takes place in post-apocalyptic California where 2Pac and Dr. Dre save a group of women from an evil villain played by George Clinton. The rest of the video takes place inside the actual Thunderdome used in the film where the two rappers turn up with their crew. It was nominated in 1996 for best rap video at the MTV VMAs and won the award for best video at the MOBO Awards.