In a conversation with Complex's Aria Hughes honoring Williams' iconic work over the years, the Brooklyn rap legend reflected on the music video for his 1997 single "Sunshine" off his sophomore album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. Williams' sat in the director's chair and had an incredible idea for the song that blew Hov away.
However, the director had an asking price between $75,000 and $1 million for him to shoot a video. His résumé spoke for itself as he worked with artists such as the Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Boyz II Men, Wu-Tang Clan, 2Pac, Busta Rhymes, and more, but Jay wasn't trying to make that type of deal.
Jay-Z had already worked with Williams on the music video for the 1996 single "Can't Knock the Hustle" featuring Mary J. Blige, which he said "felt like cinema." Hov praised Williams for his "vision" and figured they could recreate the magic for their next project, "Sunshine."
Williams had an idea for a $1.8 million video that was a "whole circus" that included "elephants" and more. The idea blew away Jay-Z, but Roc-A-Fella Records was only paying $20,000 for music videos at the time as they were still an independent record label.
"So there was no way I was spending that sort of money," Jay-Z told Complex. "He pitched this really grand idea that was amazing...I think he may have given the idea to Busta. I don't remember exactly what it was, but I remember being blown away by it. And then he said the number, and I think it was, like, $1.8 million or something. And I was like, 'Hype, come on, bro.' Like I got mad at him. Like are you trying to play me? You think I'm dumb?"
Hov explained they had to fit the budget, and the idea for the music was stripped down to the visuals we have today. He has stated in the past how much he didn't like the song and video, but now he is singing a different tune and understands a lesson was learned that day.
"Either I'm going to trust Hype's vision or I'm going to go with another idea. Don't condense ideas," he said. "Either shoot the brilliant idea or move to another idea. Don't take a brilliant idea and make it less, and then expect brilliant results. That's not how life works. We broke down the idea and it looks like a cheap version of what we were trying to shoot."
He continued, "I remember receiving criticism from that video, but I think because of Reasonable Doubt, everyone had this different sort of expectation for me. I'm not going to say it was great. It's a good song and I just think people didn't want that from me at the time. They wanted Reasonable Doubt Part Two. They wanted 1,000 "Streets Is Watching" and "Where I'm From." Those records were actually the first records I recorded for Vol. 1. So that was the direction people expected from me. So that played a part in the perception of it."
Read the full interview with Jay-Z, plus insights from Missy Elliot, DJ Khaled, about Hype Williams legacy and impact right here.