Hype Williams

The definitive video director for late-'90s rap music, Hype Williams worked with every major rapper of the era, from Nas and DMX to Missy Elliott and Puff Daddy, and even made the admirable leap to feature films as well. Born in the Hollis, Queens, neighborhood of New York to working-class parents, Williams grew up aspiring to become a painter like Basquiat or Keith Haring. Rather than take a traditional approach to art, he took the street approach, tagging graffiti throughout the city. "Hype" was his tag and, in turn, became his moniker of choice. In the late '80s he made the jump from graffiti to film. He attended Adelphi University, where he studied film, and subsequently joined Classic Concept Productions, where he swept floors on the sets of golden-age rap video shoots. In 1993, he launched his own production company, Big Dog Films, and made his first major video in 1994, Wu-Tang Clan's "Can It Be All So Simple." Following the video's airing, offers began pouring in, and Williams took on as many as time allowed, directing numerous videos every year until the decade's end.