In October, Drake’s music video for “Hotline Bling” became an Internet sensation, inspiring countless memes and even an SNL sketch starring Donald Trump. EW hopped on the phone with Director X, the man behind the video, to talk about the its concept, working with Drake, and of course, whether Drake is a good dancer. As we continue our end-of-year coverage, revisit that conversation below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What direction did you give Drake?
DIRECTOR X: Nothing. [Laughs] When you’re doing music videos, you’re dealing with artists that tour the world and perform to stadiums full of people, so they don’t need much help with the performance part of things. So I just turn on the camera and let them do what they’re going to do. It’s really setting the stage for them.
People have been debating whether Drake is a good or bad dancer. How would you describe his dancing?
He’s a good dancer, man. We’re all used to music video dancers being people you need to pay professionally, but that’s legitimate, out-on-the-dance floor, having fun, dancing right there. No, it’s not Chris Brown or Michael Jackson. People need to dance again. I’m always good to promote dancing. Men have stopped dancing. I go to night clubs and I see girls dancing and men not dancing. It’s a horrible thing. I dance. I still have fun. You’ll see me at a club dancing with a girl that I just met. Guys really need to understand what all they’re losing by refusing to dance. I go to a night club where I know nobody and I have got a female pressed up against me grinding, and they’re still standing with a glass in their hand doing nothing. So make your choice, boys.
Why do you think that men dancing faded out?
Everyone’s trying to be too cool, everyone’s trying to be too hard, and they started to associate it with being soft, which is completely the opposite of what it is. It’s just one of those things that people are afraid to do in public, which is again, why when a man goes out when he’s having fun, and they’re like, “Oh, you guys are having fun?” He doesn’t care about everyone’s opinion. It’s all positive things that come from having a good time.
Your music videos feature a lot of male artists dancing. Is that a statement?
No, it’s just birds of a feather flock together. Just serendipitously I end up working with men that are not afraid. Men. Real men. Real men dance. You know that I’m saying? And if you don’t think so, go tell those boys in Compton that are dancing in the Kendrick Lamar video [for “King Kunta”] that they’re not men. See how that works out for you, because that’s really Compton. Real men dance and have a good time and aren’t afraid to. [Laughs] So go on with it.
Back to “Hotline Bling”: Did you expect this response to the video?
I thought people were going to like it, be like, “Oh, cool set, it’s fun. He’s having a good time.” I had no idea it would be such a thing. I’ve done some videos that have gotten good responses, but I’ve never seen s— like this.
You think this is bigger than your other videos?
Yes. In the age of social media, this is crazy.
Was there a moment when you thought, “This is a great video”?
When they were building the sets, I was like, these are really big sets. This impressive stuff. You don’t see this stuff everyday.
What was it like watching the final cut for the first time?
Great. It was good to see it all come together. Back in the day, you used to make these videos. Back in the day, we used to build these big sets. They just went away. The budgets got smaller and it just stopped happening. So this is great.
How involved was Drake in the early stages?
Normally Drake has an idea of what he wants to do. Like “HYFR” and “Worst Behavior” and “Started From the Bottom,” he really had an idea of what he wanted the video to be. But this time, it was something they put on my side, and said, “All right, what do you think we should do?”
What was your other idea?
I wanted to do a dance competition like Silver Linings Playbook. I basically wanted to do the climax from Silver Linings Playbook. [Laughs] The other girl was gonna be some old lover. This wasn’t that type of video. We could do a performance video or we could do this crazy thing. So it became this crazy thing.
Have you seen the memes? Do you have favorites?
The tennis one and the Star Trek one, those are my favorites. It seems like it’s calmed down today. It’s funny, Instagram has a day of craziness and then it calms down. It’s a strange thing. Even now, I look at my timeline and I’m not really seeing the Drake memes. But yesterday was nonstop. It’s just a fascinating culture, so even capturing the culture for a day is quite a thing.