Video director Hype Williams said the time he spent working with Aaliyah during her last days was among the most memorable of his life, and he wants the world to see the footage they shot for “Rock the Boat.”
“Those four days were very beautiful for everyone. We all worked together as a family,” Williams said Monday, adding that the camaraderie on the set was a refreshing change from the usual shoot. “The last day, Saturday, was one of the best I’ve had in this business. Everyone felt part of something special, part of her song.”
A brief clip of the footage itself looks beautiful, too. Aaliyah is on the beach, her back to the ocean. Wearing a red top, dangling hoop earrings and shimmering gold eye shadow, she sings “Rock the Boat”‘s slyly suggestive lyrics.
Though this was the first time Williams — who’s filmed clips for Busta Rhymes, Notorious B.I.G. and Ginuwine, among others — worked with Aaliyah on a video, they’d been friends for six years, he said. They began shooting the video Wednesday, flew down to the Bahamas Thursday and shot all day Thursday and Friday, he said.
Williams wants people to see what they created.
“It’s a very special project. Everyone put their heart and soul into the work, as we always do, with the intent that the world would enjoy it,” he said, speaking slowly and softly. “I know there’s a lot of pain involved, but that’s all the more reason people would appreciate what we’ve done as a group.”
He added that he knows it’s up to Aaliyah’s close friends and family to decide what to do with the footage, but he hopes they turn it into a tribute to the singer. A spokesperson for Aaliyah’s label, Blackground Records (run by her uncle, Barry Hankerson), said it was too soon to say what would become of the footage.
Aaliyah shot another video, for “More Than a Woman,” earlier this month in Los Angeles with director David Meyers. The clip was to have been edited Monday, though the Blackground spokesperson couldn’t say when it would be released.
Williams wants Aaliyah’s fans to know that she was as wonderful a human being as she was a singer and actress (see “Jermaine Dupri, Hype Williams, Others Recall Aaliyah As ‘Risk Taker,’ ‘Groundbreaker’ “ ).
“She was a very happy person. She had nothing but love to give to others and she selflessly shared much of who she was,” he said. “I don’t know if anyone really understands that about her. She had these incredible, graceful qualities as a person. I don’t know if her fans know that about her.”
Williams said the best way to honor Aaliyah’s selflessness is to bear in mind that it wasn’t just the star who died in the Bahamas on Saturday (see “Aaliyah Plane Crash Investigation: No End In Sight” ). The crash also took the lives of the singer’s makeup artist Eric Foreman, her security guard Scotty Gallin, Blackground Records executive Gina Smith and Virgin Records director of video production Douglas Kratz.
“I would say that if her fans really wanted to honor her memory, they should also honor the memories of her friends who also died on this flight,” he said. “Know that she loved them and would want everyone to know we’re all the same, everybody. This is a loss for the world, not just the world of music or film. This tragedy goes beyond that.”