September 7, 2006

Notes from Armond White's "An Auteur Study of Hype Williams"

About a month ago (yes, I'm still cleaning out my backlog of half-finished posts), I attended the Lincoln Center's Scanners video series event, Believe the Hype: An Auteur Study of Hype Williams, "The Best Who Ever Did It", with tongue firmly in cheek, notebook poised to capture the plethora of absurd quotes that would surely fly, given such a ridiculous premise.

However, the presenter, New York Press film critic Armond White, managed to merely suggest ridiculous propositions, without really supplying ample evidence to back any of them up; this made the night disappointingly light on softball quotes. Also disappointing was White's selection of videos from Hype's considerable body of work (considerable in quantity if not quality), although he appropriately showed Ma$e's Feel So Good, which will almost surely be remembered as the Auteur's piece de resistance.

Compared to today's rap clime, "Feel So Good" recalls a happier era of hip-hop, when it was actually fun to have money and cars; rappers wore shiny suits and even danced in their videos (now all they do is this, which is apparently defined as "the same two-step with a little twist"). Warnings for this 50 Cent video ("Disco Inferno") include: nudity, lesbian kissing, wearing of bejeweled medallions, excessive ass-shaking, excessive ass-shaking while twin bottles of champagne are actually poured onto said ass, thugging, general objectification of women, general objectification of everything, some guy making a peace sign which may or may not be a reference to his ability to perform cunnilingus, body shots (referring both to the method of partaking alcohol, as well as the camera's object of interest), obvious silicon, miscegenation, some girl making a peace sign over 50's mouth which is kind of inexplicable, slow-motion, endangerment of the cameraman via shaking body parts, mistiming of aforementioned twin champagne bottles pouring on shaking ass so that one bottle runs out and is held awkwardly upended while the other continues to pour, crotch-grabbing, more ass-shaking.

Back to Mr. White's presentation, where the show was stolen by none other than the king of behind-the-times synthesizer beats himself, Irv Gotti, who got up to give his requisite props to Hype halfway through the presentation, only to turn and ask Mr. White, "what's your name again?"

The critic, belittled, on his own dais.

Ultimately, Mr. White did toss out a few zingers, in the form of far-fetched references to utterly dissimilar artists:

"Recent work has featured Williams' newest innovation--the radically reimagined split-screen montage. Or: Eisenstein goes Bop."

"Williams has won acclaim as both the Irving Penn and the Romare Bearden of music video."

"Georgia O'Keefe has nothing on Hype Williams."

To get his point across, perhaps Mr. White would have been better off quoting a high school classmate of mine, who attended Hype's feature film Belly under the influence of any number of illegal substances, and related to me the following evaluation: "Hype Williams can direct like a motherfucker."

I'm not sure exactly how a motherfucker directs, but it's probably a lot like Hype Williams.

Your Comment


As usual, beautifully written and ever so descriptive. I almost didn't have to watch the 50 cent video because the images were so well painted in your post.

My question is...are you familiar with the "credit check"? Some fellow teachers at Amherst this summer took implementing this hip hop creation. Credit checking involves swiping a credit card (or in our case your karate chop hand acting as a credit card) through someone's butt cheeks and/or cleavage, and as the swipe reaches its peak from the upward swipe, one yells "CREDIT CHECK!".

As harrassing and demeaning as this act may sound, when you accept its inevitablity while your back is turned and/or butt exposed, it can be quite liberating. I actually managed to credit check two people at one time and the credit was good.

Another teacher adapted the technique into something she called the "golden fee"; a risky, simultaneous, double swipe move. One swipe up through the butt cheek accompanied by a mirrored swipe up through one's junk.

Did this act get out of hand, bordering on pontentional law suits...of course...but what good is a cradit card unless it gets you into trouble?

September 18, 2006 at 8:24AM, Edited September 4, 7:14AM

Daryn Cambridge

Yes, I am familiar with the credit check. Having been in the apartment hunt in New York City lately, I have been subjected to many background and credit checks...

Oh, you mean the "credit check" as seen in Nelly's Tip Drill video (itself a dirty piece of slang I had to look up). The first time I saw it, I was dumbstruck. Was it a New Low? I think so. Surely only Ludacris could come up with something so... ridiculous. I mean absurd.

Sounds like even though you went up there to teach... you learned a lot.

September 18, 2006 at 10:03PM, Edited September 4, 7:14AM

Ryan Koo

Oh, and I also found this.

September 22, 2006 at 6:22PM, Edited September 4, 7:14AM

Ryan Koo

Like most music that crosses over into PoP.. rap has its fair share of trashy elements. What I find unfortunate though is the ignorance of painting such a revolutionary artform with the all-too-easy stereotypes as was done in this article. Whose fault is it that you can only find trashy rap? Someone like you can probably only find trashy rock, jazz, and blues too. Live a little.

Hype Williams does great work at combining high-end fashion (Dolce and Gabana "Dancefloor" commercial) with music and using cinematography to create striking images. He basically defined the music video-- most directors try and copy him but since they're not as good, it only makes HYPE look bad.

Refer to these pieces of Hype's Work:
Kanye West "Diamonds Are Forever", "Homecoming"
Robin Thicke "Wanna Love You Girl"


November 13, 2009 at 4:52PM, Edited September 4, 7:22AM


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April 11, 2014 at 3:49AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM