On this day, November 4, in hip-hop history…
1998: After becoming the go-to music video director for hip-hop stars in the 1990s, Hype Williams’ Belly was released on November 4, 1998. Filmed in and around New York City, Belly was a gritty, hip-hop epic starring rappers DMX and Nas, alongside Taral Hicks, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, dancehall artist Louie Rankin and Wu-Tang star Method Man.
The film follows two career criminals Tommy (DMX) and Sincere (Nas) as they navigate the New York underworld as they try to make more of their lives. While the film was critically panned at the time and earned a mere $9 million at the box office, the film went on to great popularity on DVD and home video amongst hip-hop fans in the 15 years since its release. The film’s virtuosic cinematography won praise for Hype Williams for his electric visual design while DMX earned kudos himself for his magnetic and intense performance as the film as the increasingly unhinged Tommy.
In the 15 years since the film’s release, Belly has become a true cult classic in the hip-hop world and earned a legacy as a cultural artifact of the glamorous late 1990s rap scene in the United States.