The Curious 21st-Century Decline Of Hype Williams

On Friday, a link to three-minute making-of video for a scrapped, Hype Williams-helmed clip of "XXXO" appeared on M.I.A.'s twitter. The footage shows M.I.A and a small group of dancers (including Beyoncé choreographer Jonté) painted head-to-toe and gyrating to the song's hissing, whirling beat. There's also a tiger. And there's M.I.A. wearing side-slit leggings and Timberlands and looking really awesome in one scene, and in a metallic, skeletal chest plate thingy looking very uncomfortable in another.

"XXXO" isn't Williams' only aborted video with evidence floating around the Internet, where even music videos receive trailers, teasers, and making-of EPKs. The trailer for Rick Ross' "Live Fast, Die Young" has been removed, but the blog posts touting it remain. An 11-minute behind-the-scenes clip for "Robocop" remains just a Google search away.

And then there are the dozens of videos Williams made (and completed) over the course of the past ten years, very few of which rise above being adroit. What happened?

The '90s music video innovator was somehow both an excessive panderer (shiny suits, big boats, money flying through the air) and an avant-gardist (fish-eye lenses, formalist color freakouts, that scene in Belly where Nas and DMX watch Gummo), but his post-'90s videos pretty much fall into one of two categories: Moderately artsy, black-and-white slow burners (Slim Thug's "I Ain't Heard Of That Remix," Fam-Lay's "The Beeper Record," DJ Khaled's "Go Hard," Diddy-Dirty Money's "Angels"); or brightly colored, firework-laden freakouts (Lupe Fiasco's "Superstar," Diddy-Dirty Money's "Hello (Good Morning)," Ke$ha's "We R Who We R"). And new technologies have led to him helming some disastrous computer graphics-aided videos (Common's "Universal Mind Control," The-Dream's "Walkin' On The Moon") and engaging in a Dogme 95-like abuse of digital video (Consequence's "Whatever U Want").

Both Williams videos released this year have been inexplicably disappointing clips for main-event rap songs: Kanye West's star-studded "All Of The Lights"; and Lil Wayne's post-prison comeback single "6 Foot 7 Foot."


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