“What would this video be without the dancing?”
Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video remains one of the most-memed moments of the past few years, with the OVO boss’ goofy dance moves inspiring a wide array of parodies from good (Ellen’s fake Bernie Sanders) to terrible (Donald Trump on SNL). The video dropped in October 2015 and has since earned over 1.3 billion YouTube views. Genius linked up with Director X to break down how the legendary video came together.
As he explains, Drake approached him with general interest in working together rather than a solidified idea. “Normally with Drake, he has a treatment. He has something in mind,” he tells Genius. “This one was one that they called me. Like, ‘There’s a moment going on here we needed to capture it. And we like your Sean Paul and performance videos that we grew up on. And instead of us coming to you, you tell us.’”
Drake’s dance moves became the centerpiece of the video, something Director X always anticipated. “What would this video be without the dancing?” he asks. “It’s him by himself on a fucking weird set and he turns it all the way up. What this shows you is that what matters with dancing more than anything else is that you vibe and have fun. That’s what people care about. How many times you’ve been at a party and someone is just fucking around and you, ‘Ayyy!’ It’s not the best dance in the world. The vibe is right, the energy. There’s an energy that you radiate when you do this. So, he’s dancing.”
A few days after the video dropped, he knew they had something special on their hands. “Normally, Instagram has a day that they get hyped up on a thing. This was like a week. It just kept on coming and coming,” he recalls. “There’s this meme, and that meme. It says something to today’s culture. You don’t just talk about it, you make something from it. There’s just something else. You know if people are really rocking with it. You know if a music video is really impacting people. I purposely follow like 6,000 people on Instagram. So in my timeline I get a fairly good idea of what’s impacting.
As he explains, the response surpassed his biggest expectations. “When we did it, I thought we had made something that our culture would love. Within the hip-hop, black music, urban world. ‘Oh, crazy video.’ I wasn’t expecting the madness,” he says.
Check out even more exciting, behind-the-scenes breakdowns in the video above