Six in the Six: Half a dozen burning questions for Director X, the guy behind Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video
On Monday night, Canadians could watch the Liberals and the Blue Jays kick butt, or they could watch Drake shaking his booty on the just-dropped video for his song “Hotline Bling.” Released on Apple Music just over 48 hours ago and already viewed, GIF-ed and parodied a bajillion times over, the video is the work of Brampton’s own Director X, a longtime Drake collaborator who has also worked with Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Bieber and Nicki Minaj. Here, X weighs in on whether Drake’s dance moves are supposed to be dorky and tells us what’s up with the turtleneck sweater.
How does a collaboration like this work? Does Drake come to you and say, “So, X, let’s make a video where I get to dance around like a drunk uncle for four minutes?” Or was the concept your idea?
Normally Drake has his own ideas. I actually think that every other time we’ve worked together the concept has been Drake’s idea. Like HYFR, where he’s at the Bar Mitzvah: that was Drake’s idea. For Worst Behaviour, he said he wanted to go to Memphis. This time, though, they came to me for the concept. Drake is very busy. They wanted to go back to what they called the “classic Little X” videos, from the nineties. Back then, I was known as Little X. I pitched a few ideas and now here we are.
What is the concept, exactly?
It’s a performance video. A good-old-fashioned you’re in a studio, you make some sets and you’re singing the song to the camera. It’s a type of video that I’m known for. I had ideas for set design and lighting. The girls at the call centre at the beginning—that was all Drake. We put the two pieces together. It’s a nice little disconnect. I like how it all works.
What was the most challenging part of making this video?
Building stages big enough to fit the sets. It’s all real—the squares, the stairs, the big iceberg-type shape. We had two stages. The logistics were crazy.
There has been a lot of debate about whether Drake’s dance moves are intentionally dorky, or whether they’re supposed to be cool.
I don’t know if it’s a debate. He’s dancing. Men dancing nowadays is a lost art form. I don’t know what’s wrong with all these guys at the nightclub: they’re standing around, holding a drink in their hand. I’m dancing, I’m having fun. I’m going to go find a girl to boogie with and have a good time. Cool men dance. I think the thing is that people are used to seeing people dance in music videos who are professional dancers. Drake isn’t that. It’s good old grownup enjoyment. He’s having fun, and that comes through. People are haters.
There have been a lot of parody GIFs, Vine videos, and so on. Is that a good thing?
Yeah. You don’t see that happen very often, where something makes such a splash. My two favourites would be Star Wars and the one where he’s playing tennis.
Maybe even more than the dance moves, the turtleneck and track pants outfit that Drake wears has been getting a whole lot of attention. Did you have wardrobe input?
That’s out of my hands. He has his own system worked out and that’s not me. I’m happy when the artist is happy. You come on out, you’re ready to rock—let’s rock. Nobody’s telling Drake how to dress.