Dissecting Drake's Dance: Hotline Bling's Director X Tells All
We can’t stop watching Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling‘ video, and we are obviously not alone. It’s instantly iconic–the candy-colored sets, the sweaters (Moncler has already experienced a huge Drake-inspired sales spike), and especially the dancing. The Internet has always shown love for Drake, and ‘Hotline Bling’ has inspired countless memes.
The video’s visuals were oft-said to be inspired by light artist James Turrell, and it’s so big that the 72-year-old made a statement about it. “While I am truly flattered to learn that Drake f*cks with me,” he said. “I nevertheless wish to make clear that neither I nor any of my woes was involved in any way in the making of the Hotline Bling video.” Amazing.
The man responsible for this giant hit is Director X, a legendary music video director (check out some of his greatest hits here). Director X is responsible for some of Usher and Kanye’s biggest clips, and he’s a frequent Drake collaborator; the two are both Toronto natives, and X did the videos for ‘Started From The Bottom,’ ‘Worst Behavior,’ and ‘HYFR.’ He’s currently in LA, working on pre-production for a Center Stage sequel, but we caught up over the phone to talk Turrell, the ‘Hotline Bling’ set, and memes on memes on memes.
Have you seen the statement that James Turrell made?
Is that thing real?
Your videos often feature men dancing. Is that an important theme for you?
Yeah. I want men to start dancing again! These cornballs are whack. It’s sad. Everyone would be having a better time if men started dancing again. You’re a lady. You like to dance, right? Wouldn’t it be nice to dance with a guy who’s not trying to hump you, who can just dance respectfully?
I think all ladies would appreciate that.
Right! We’re just dancing. That doesn’t mean we’re trading phone numbers, it doesn’t mean we’re having sex, it doesn’t mean we want to hump. It just means that we’re going to move together, to the music, and enjoy ourselves. And maybe, if you could just dance normally, another girl might see you and think you were very interesting, because of how respectful you’re being with the woman that you’re dancing with, and she’ll want to come in and do all of that stuff.
Right? What a revolutionary idea.
You might be starting a revolution with this video.
I hope so.
“We’re just dancing. That doesn’t mean we’re trading phone numbers, it doesn’t mean we’re having sex, it doesn’t mean we want to hump.”
Did you have a choreographer on set for Drake, or was it just sort of organic?
That’s him, that’s him.
It reminded me of the Carlton.
No, that was just his dancing. He just busted it out.
This is silly, but we’re dying to know: everybody at work was talking about the “booty nap,” when Drake sort of rested his head on a dancer’s butt. What was the inspiration for that?
The inspiration came in the moment. Very little was planned about the performance. The sets were planned, the lights were planned, but we were just staging the stage for Drake to do what he was gonna do.
What about the phone line scene? Were the girls’ lines improv’d as well?
The girls improv’d. We knew we wanted to do the phone line, but again, it was organic.
What’s your favorite ‘Hotline Bling’ meme?
Have you seen the pizza meme that just came out?
No, I haven’t.
It’s pretty good!
Do you have a favorite way that you like to dance to the song?
No, I’m much more of a two-stepper. I can get funky; I can get down. On the dance floor, I can do my thing, but nobody’s going to be paying me to dance. I’m fun at a party, how about that?
You and Drake are both from Toronto. Are there any references to Canada in the video?
No, I mean we just shot it there. But we did it with my production company, so I’m very proud. We just started up in May, a company called Creative Soul. This isn’t the first project, but an early project, so everyone’s very proud at the company. We’re a big operation. Everything was in house; post [production], editing.
You’re a legendary director, do any video experiences stand out to you in particular?
Well, this is one of them. I’ve never seen a reaction like this. It’s really, really crazy. This is wild. This is the biggest response that I’ve ever seen.
Oh wow! I just found a Star Wars meme! Wow! [Laughs] Oh my god! That is the greatest. That is the greatest one so far. The Star Wars light saber Drake meme is the greatest thing to ever happen. I’m showing everyone in the office right now. He’s fighting with double light sabers! [Laughs] That is the greatest thing ever.
Are you a Star Wars fan?
Oh, I’m a big Star Wars fan! I don’t even understand what’s happening. This is really just crazy. Oh, that’s the best. I’m texting Drake right now.
This is very wild! You seem to have directed the most iconic video in years. How have you been feeling since it came out?
I’m just enjoying it. Oh, wow. This is just hilarious. I thought everything was dying down, but this Star Wars one breathed new life into it.
The set design was influenced by your past work with Sean Paul. Did you come up with the whole concept?
Yeah, they asked me to come up with something. They wanted me to do something in the vein of the Sean Paul video [‘I’m Still In Love With You’]. That was a moment, you know? Everything with a hip-hop video involves so much money; it’s quite a big ordeal. So they decided that they wanted to do something like that.
Drake is about ten years younger than me, so he really grew up watching those videos. And knowing that I’m from the same town – so he’s watching those videos, going, “oh, that guy’s from here,” way before we had a Drake, the number one rapper. So yeah, we wanted to do something like the Sean Paul video. We wanted to do a set-driven performance piece.
I’ve read that you have a graphic design background. Did you design all of the sets yourself?
Yeah! I just sat down one day and did some sketches and went through them with the art director, and took it from there – they added the Star Wars theme! The music’s in there too, now. I just tweeted it; go on my Twitter.
This rules. Go Internet.
Check out more of Director X’s work here.