Jay-Z Says Working With Hype Williams on ‘Can’t Knock the Hustle’ Felt Like ‘Cinema’

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Jay-Z has been a longtime collaborator of music video visionary Hype Williams, and the rapper sat down for a rare interview with Complex honoring the director’s work to share some memories.

HOV first worked with Williams back in 1996 for the mob-inspired “Can’t Knock the Hustle” music video, which goes off the track’s interpolated Scarface dialogue about getting deeper into the drug game by painting a picture of the high-end, illicit life. “‘Can’t Knock The Hustle’ felt like cinema,” Jay told Complex. “We also have to talk about Malik [Haseen Sayeed], the cinematographer Hype worked with. The cinematography was just so beautiful and the way it was shot it just elevated it to another level. We weren’t spending that sort of money then to finish the pyrotechnics. So when the limousine blows up it’s really janky, you know. But the vision and the cinematography was just beautiful and his eye was just different. The combination between Hype and June [Ambrose] elevated our look and feel. I remember people talking about how great a video it was. “

He further gushed over Williams, adding, “I would say that Hype could take credit for 50 percent of the success of the music at that time. If not 55 percent. We gave people an audio experience that they imagined in their mind and when he put those visuals to it, it took it to a whole new level.” 

Jay continued, “I remember hearing [Busta Rhymes’] ‘Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See’ on Hot 97 and thinking this song is crazy. We played it a thousand times that night. But when I saw the visual, I was like, oh, this is a rock n’ roll record. This is way bigger than a nice club song. This is a cultural moment for us.”

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