Drake follows dancehall trend with Hotline Bling

24 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Director X on Making Drake’s Dance-Crazy, Meme-Ready ‘Hotline Bling’.

Director X has been making music videos with pop’s biggest stars for over 15 years — but he’s never seen anything like the reaction to Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” Released earlier this week, the “Hotline Bling” video became instantly memorable (and meme-able) for its hypnotic, minimal vibe showcasing Drake’s endearing goofball dance moves and X’s highly stylized sets. Ever since social media got a hold of the album cover for 2011’s Take Care, the rapper’s every move has been a subject for scrutiny, parody, think pieces, GIFs. Released in July on his label’s SoundCloud page following a premiere on Apple Music’s OVO Sound Radio, it felt like a casual throwaway, a breezy compatriot to “Charged Up,” his anti-Meek Mill song, which landed at the same time.

Considered a visionary by many, 72-year-old James Turrell was once arrested for coaching young men to avoid the Vietnam draft and he wears his snow-white hair in a Kris Kringle/Charles Darwin-esque beard. The beauty experts at Tom Ford are launching the second installment of the Lips & Boys collection, an extensive line of 50 lipsticks all named for significant men in Mr. After the debut this week of the music video for his latest single, “Hotline Bling,” it’s safe to say that Drake has become a master at capitalizing on his awkward, boastful, at times slightly petty and emotional persona. As X prepares to shoot his first feature film — he won’t name it, but mentions it’s a dance movie — he took some time out to talk about musicians as directors, the talented choreographer Tanisha Scott, his relationship to the work of acclaimed light artist James Turrell and more.

Keen observers were quick to point out the similarities between Turrell’s prolific work with light projections and the setting of “Hotline Bling.” Indeed, Drake has nursed a long-abiding artist crush on Turrell, as evidenced by a scene in his Rolling Stone profile that shows him entranced by the septuagenarian’s 2014 retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “I’ll f—k with Turrell. Late Monday night, Drake released its video, mostly made up of long shots of him dancing in front of a plain background that’s constantly changing colors: mustard, lavender, baby blue, peach, chartreuse. He was a big influence on the visuals for my last tour,” Drake says before entering a work called “Perceptual Cell.” When he comes out, he exclaims, “All my questions about life are answered!” Though the music video’s director, Director X, told VICE that any connection to Turrell is accidental, the artist himself doesn’t seem to think so. The clip, directed by Director X, is both warm and slick, giving this song — part of the lo-fi catharsis segment of Drake’s catalog — the grand-scale sensation that thoughtfully minimalist approaches can trigger.

Turrell responded Wednesday through his lawyer’s blog in a post headlined “What a Time to Be Alive” (ostensibly a nod to Drake’s latest mixtape of the same name). Drake’s awkward dancing has been mashed up with the ’80s Latin classic “Suavemente,” the Peanuts theme song, even a ukulele in the spirit of this week’s Canadian elections.

The statement reads: “While I am truly flattered to learn that Drake f—ks with me, 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.” In a single sentence, this statement conveys a couple important revelations. First: Turrell has listened to — or is at least aware of one song from — Drake’s mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.” (For those who are less eclectically cultured, Turrell is referencing Drake’s oft-repeated lyric, “Runnin’ through the six with my woes.” “Woes,” according to Rap Genius, is either an abbreviation of “Woadie,” New Orleans slang for people living in the same geographic ward, or of “working on excellence.” It’s unclear which definition Turrell had in mind.) Alissa Walker writes in Gizmodo, “‘F—king’ must be the new ‘appropriating.’ Music videos are known for borrowing concepts from film and TV for sure but this is a little different — most of Turrell’s art isn’t even allowed to be photographed.” The statement from the grandfather of light art leaves many questions hanging in the air. There are the lyrics, deemed problematic by feminist critics, in which Drake’s narrator trolls a woman for not living by his definition of a “good girl.” And there is the musical vibe: “Hotline Bling” borrows elements from Virginia singer D.R.A.M.’s hit song, “Cha Cha.” When Drake first premiered “Hotline Bling” on his Apple Beats 1 show, it was titled and socialized as a “Cha Cha” remix.

For Jake, well, let’s just say Tom Ford’s suits were practically made for the heartthrob—which, you know, they probably were considering how often he’s worn them to red carpet events. In an unused excerpt from his recent FADER cover interview, published well after the original story ran, Drake says “Hotline Bling” — which is built upon a sample of Timmy Thomas’ 1972 R&B track “Why Can’t We Live Together” — is an example of when artists put a twist on a similar rhythm (or “riddim”), a practice popular in music derived from Jamaica. “In Jamaica, you’ll have a riddim and it’s like, everyone has to do a song on that. He once poeticized in an interview with The Guardian, “This wonderful elixir of light is the thing that actually connects the immaterial with the material — that connects the cosmic to the plain everyday existence that we try to live in.” The lipsticks, which fetch $52 a pop, will hit stores on Black Friday, meaning just in time to make the cut for any Drake or Jake fanatics on your holiday shopping list this year. There’s also the nature of the dancing itself, which is also more or less blank: a series of slight shifts of weight, quick hand gestures, head bobbles and side-to-side steps.

His co-signs and remixes have moved artists, some already on track for success, an inch closer to the mainstream, from D.R.A.M. to Migos to Fetty Wap. I like doing my own thing, but I also like it when an artist has a clear vision for themselves and you can focus on molding that idea into a full working piece.

Within hours — minutes, really — Twitter and Vine and Instagram and Tumblr were filled with short clips pulled from the video set to other songs: Elvis Crespo’s merengue conflagration “Suavemente,” the “Seinfeld” theme, “Danza Kuduro,” various Vince Guaraldi ditties from “Peanuts,” and, most crucially, “Obsesion” by the bachata boy band Aventura. (If there is a style parent to Drake’s dance micro-moves, it is probably bachata.) Often these clips were accompanied by the hashtag #DrakeAlwaysOnBeat, though, strictly speaking, he wasn’t. Another replaced the music with the zippy horns of the later-seasons theme song from “The Cosby Show,” overlaying the video with a credits scroll for “The Aubrey Show.” (Drake’s given name is Aubrey Drake Graham.) Most technically impressive was the clip that superimposed lightsabers into the hands of Drake and his dance partner-choreographer, Tanisha Scott. Transparency has always been Drake’s bailiwick, but this approach to content creation takes it past a place of emotional vulnerability and into an advanced space where an artist induces people to create their own narratives: The star is at the center, but not in control. I look at James Turrell’s stuff and I go, “Oh, I’m in that wheelhouse.” I came out of the Hype Williams school — I was lucky enough to have him as my mentor, and this was his style. Art has been on Drake’s mind since at least 2011, when, on the song “Dreams Money Can Buy,” he rapped, “I got car money, fresh start money/I want Saudi money, I want art money.” Like many rappers faced with growing wealth and outmoded options for what to do with it, he understands art as a different layer of class transcendence — something beyond expensive clothes, cars, houses. (In this, he follows rappers like Jay Z, collector of Basquiat and imitator of Marina Abramovic; Kanye West, who has collaborated with Takashi Murakami, Vanessa Beecroft, George Condo; and Swizz Beatz, a well-regarded collector and sometime artist.) Drake is something of a meme artist himself, or at minimum a meme archivist-historian.

Miceli — who makes a T-shirt representing Drake lyrics in the style of Jenny Holzer’s “Inflammatory Essays” — curated a group show at Alt Space that included a handful of Drake-related pieces. Memorably, in 2013, a photo taken of him on the set of DJ Khaled’s “No New Friends” video, which caught him mid-pose wearing a throwback Damani Dada athletic outfit, became a web sensation. Eleven hours is long enough to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco with two stops along the way to watch a movie and a football game in their entirety.

And over the course of 11 hours of hectoring, insinuation and questions that started out redundant and turned into echolalia, Hillary Clinton never lost her cool. To begin with, it’s now the longest sitting special committee in American history, having surpassed the investigation into the Iran-Contra scandal and the historic Church Committee, which investigated not only Watergate but abuses by the CIA, FBI and NSA.

That this committee has lumbered over the political landscape like some idiot golem willed into existence from a pile of trash only highlights the insignificance of its focus. If that weren’t bad enough, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy went and gave the game away, admitting the truth that anyone with two brain cells to rub together knew all along: that the committee’s signature accomplishment had been driving down Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, which was the only reason for its existence in the first place. By the time Thursday’s events were gaveled into order, anyone paying attention knew they were about to bear witness to the toxic alchemy of campaign ratfucking melding with a surpassing waste of everyone’s time. With that in mind, Trey Gowdy, Congress’ own version of Matthew Lillard lengthened by a machine press accident, had Hillary sworn in, in private, foregoing the political dynamite of an image of her once again standing with her hand raised and swearing to tell the truth.

Despite being billed as a hard-nosed prosecutor, Gowdy let the proceedings wander all over the place, to the point where it’s impossible to tell what the Republicans even wanted to know, let alone what they thought they could charge Hillary with. Her case of the piles signaled an unawareness of the face that the State Department conducts the majority of its communications through cables, and that things like telephones exist, and that one of the unfortunate byproducts of conducting business on the telephone is that it doesn’t generate an email afterward.

Even the most generous interpretation of her questions can’t elide the fact that the disparity in emails could easily have indicated general conversational traffic about Libya that eventually shifted to the official cable system as the maintenance of the Benghazi compound became more urgent. Mike Pompeo of California did show a familiarity with the telephone that then wandered into absurd territory as he tried to show that Hillary was a much worse friend to Ambassador Stevens than she was to people she’s been friends with for decades, like Sidney Blumenthal.

Well, hell, a fax machine, there’s your damning evidence that Hillary Clinton wasn’t willing to be found during an emergency: She didn’t give someone the number to a machine that she’d have to be standing next to, to notice a message churning out. He should have asked why they didn’t have prearranged hills to conduct semaphore chats on, or whether they’d picked out a lake to meet at and really rap about Libya via Aldis lamps. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul dropped a proverbial turd in the Gowdy punchbowl midway through this line of questioning: Heaven knows what the you don’t love your ambassadors like you love Sid Blumenthal feint was supposed to accomplish. Cummings condemned the committee for selectively releasing portions of Blumenthal’s testimony, which Gowdy has justified under the argument that full transcripts will coach witnesses as to what kind of questions the committee asks, and allow them to prep evasive answers in advance. But of course Thursday’s hearings and the seven previous Benghazi investigations have already given potential witnesses almost all the information they’d need.

The selective releasing and leaks only allow Gowdy to work the media with the choicest quotes, out of context, and stoke the Deceitful Clintons narrative again and again. The unintentional comedy went off the charts when Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia actually said “aye” in response to Cummings’ call for transparency, leading Gowdy to shake his head at him and remind Westmoreland that his opinion was actually different. When Cummings kept pressing back, Gowdy raised his voice and said, “If you think you’ve heard about Sidney Blumenthal, wait for the next round.” Which, great — except, if you’re going to keep asking about someone totally unrelated to Libya, just cut the bullshit and subpoena Monica Lewinsky.

When Clinton didn’t say the things they wanted her to, they interrupted her, dismissed her, badgered her with louder questions, made baseless assertions and eventually just started testifying for her. Short of Ted Cruz, Jordan probably set the land speed record with most Americans for going from “guy I’ve never heard of before” to “guy I wish would jump up his own asshole.” His entire schtick seemed to be based on the presumption that bullshit magically turns into less bullshit the faster it comes out. During every round he eventually abandoned the slow pace of his first questions in favor of rapidly testifying at Hillary to produce the statements that neither she nor the factual record were able to provide him. “You picked the video narrative. So you can’t be square with the American people.” This last bit was of a piece with the testimony from many of the Republican committee members in two ways. At one point, he said, “Secretary Clinton, I think you should have added this,” then began reading a rueful prepared first-person statement admitting guilt and shame, and asked Clinton if she agreed.

The only flaw in his plan was that she said no, and also failed to move her mouth up and down while he spoke to give the impression that she was the one talking. It’s a flawlessly savage criticism until the moment you realize that something that really wrecks the “Libya is a success!” narrative is four corpses, and that it relies on the premise that Hillary is somehow so calculating she would deprive the compound of security for appearance’s sake, yet not calculating enough to do the math of “one dead body, plus three more, equals something really bad.” “You just recited the Clinton doctrine to us and let me tell you what I think the Clinton doctrine is. And at the precise moment when things look good take a victory lap like on all the Sunday shows, three times that year…and then turn your attention to other things.” As is the case with almost all Clinton malfeasance, the definition of something unethical is Hillary doing anything literally every other politician does. It’s like she didn’t even care about those people, a point that Republican Martha Roby of Alabama made while grilling Hillary about her visits with the survivors, minutes after failing to notice that she accidentally asked a sex question and insisted for the record that she is not amused and would never be amused. Humorlessness was the order of the day, because something this preposterous threatened to shatter into a million little pieces if anyone started laughing at it.

She didn’t lose her cool under circumstances that would have sent any of us screaming for the exit or climbing over the dais to try to brain someone with a shoe. The Republicans on the Benghazi committee just inadvertently put her through an 11-hour stress test of her intelligence, patience and composure as a leader.

They just vetted their own opposition, and they did it through such a protracted, disingenuous, confused and obnoxious display that even people who have every right to feel ambivalent about her doubtless felt a twinge of sympathy. At this rate, barring something truly remarkable by Bernie Sanders, it will probably come in the form of her official presidential photo. 2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don’t see ’em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don’t bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings.

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