Hip-hop fans and music video lovers are having the best week thanks to the release of Drake's video for “Worst Behaviour,” filmed by award-winning Canadian music videographer Director X in Memphis. This video, which includes cameos from Drake's dad (and his glorious mustache) as well as local rap heroes Juicy J and Project Pat (formerly of Oscar-winners Three Six Mafia) marks the third time the Toronto rapper and the Toronto director have worked together.
The pair previously collaborated on the wildly popular and wildly entertaining videos for “HYFR” and “Started From The Bottom.” But Director X, former known as “Little X,” is far more than the man who makes sure that everyone looks good while Drake is celebrating his Bar Mitzvah or working at Shopper’s Drug Mart.
The one-time Hype Williams protege is also one of the most successful and important filmmakers in music. He’s helmed iconic videos for the likes of Usher, Sean Paul, Nicki Minaj, and Nelly. He helped put Canadian hip-hop on the international map with videos like “Northern Touch” and Choclair’s “Let’s Ride. And he’s even developed a bit of a reputation for helping teen idols like Justin Bieber and The Wanted (not to mention Nelly Furtado) shed their clean-cut images and develop reputations of their own.
We talked to Director X about some of his most famous and game-changing videos. Here’s what he had to say:
Rascalz “Northern Touch” (1999)
"I was just making the best video that I could make. It looked like it was really doing something. And here we are now, still having this conversation about it, so it seems to have really gotten in people’s minds." - Director X
Choclair “Let’s Ride” (1999)
"That’s really the beginning of when... hip hop has always had women around, but that’s when hip hop just went “Women! Women! Women!” It didn’t matter what the song was about, they just had a million girls in the video and this is the very beginning of that thing. A lot of these girls ended up receiving a bunch of other projects, too. So that one had some big reach. And that was on MTV for a while. They were playing that video on MTV and this is not a little thing for a Canadian artist from Toronto." -Director X
Sean Paul “Gimme Da Light” (2002)
"We did that here [in Toronto]. It was a different era for music videos back then. Since it got played on television, that video really turned that song into something else because people saw it and they got it. I don’t think you could do that now. Robin Thicke’s whole thing was launched off a music video [“Blurred Lines”], so maybe that whole thing’s not over over, but it’s much harder for that to happen. Television used to bring you videos and say “Hey, look at this! This is cool” and the staff at the network, they were much more a representation of the public. They watched it, they liked it, they played it more and it got on TV and other people liked it. And it wasn’t like “Hey, we’re geniuses, we know what everyone likes.” Everyone was playing what they liked, especially BET. There were certain things like “Oh, we love it! We’re going to play it.” Sean wasn’t on some big major record label, he was on BP Records, a small indie. Then he got the major deal after “Gimme Da Light” got on TV. It was very unique to that era. I don’t know if you could duplicate that now." -Director X
Nelly “Hot In Herre” (2002)
"'Hot In Herre' is a cool video, but I think the record pushed that a little bit more than the visuals did. But hey, it was fun." - Director X
Usher “Yeah” 2004
"I’m a performance video guy, very graphic, and part of me wishes that we’d done the whole video with just the lasers as opposed to the club, to be honest with you." - Director X
Nelly Furtado “Promiscuous” (2006)
"This is another one where I wish I made it much more about the party than anything else. It’s definitely a strong performance video." - Director X
Nicki Minaj “Your Love” (2010)
"For me, I was really all about the fabric. I sent her a reference that was from a Kung Fu movie because it was the only thing that really explained what I was thinking, which was going to be just a straight performance video wrapped around the fabric. But then she saw the martial arts and she wrapped that into the concept, too. She took it a further step and she’s the one who said “I want to die at the end.” She’s a really, really creative girl. I like her a lot. It was definitely and adventure working with her."
The Wanted “Glad You Came” (2011)
"Those guys wanted to change their image. That’s really what that’s all about. Before me, their videos were very... there’s just them. There was just the boys. A very clean-cut kind of thing. And when they came to me, they wanted to get rid of that image, which is why things got crazy [laughs]. If you want to do an exercise, look at The Wanted before “Glad You Came” and after “Glad You Came” and you will see it’s a whole other kind of thing. That party boy image of theirs? That’s where it’s all from."- Director X
Drake “HYFR” (2012)
"That’s Drake’s concept for that video. He’s been sitting on that idea and knew when it was time to do it, it was time to do it. And it’s pretty perfect. At that point, it’s my job to make everything look right. The concept was bigger than anything. It was just wild, wild, wild. It was definitely a lot of fun. You’d never seen anything like that before." - Director X
Justin Bieber “Boyfriend” (2012)
"That was the new introduction to the new Justin Bieber, definitely. More so than anything, that was “OK, this kid is not a kid anymore.” That wasn’t the plan, but... For a while, I would check a Tumblr page of me, and there would be these kids complaining because they knew that if I did the video, there were going to be all these girls around their favourite little boyband artist. So I’m the guy you go to to switch your image from clean-cut to man." - Director X
Drake “Started From The Bottom” 2013
"Drake grew up watching my videos, watching music videos when they used to have a really big impact and he just realized that “They’re not having an impact anymore and I need to do something more. There’s got to be more than my song and me running around for people to take to it.” So he spends the time to come up with his concepts and really conceptualize what he’s going to do. He wants to make videos that really entertain. So that’s what “Started From The Bottom” was, that’s what “HYFR” was all about. When we do these videos together, they get attention. But a big part of that is the artist himself. It’s just a different era. I feel like the artist nowadays has to put in a lot more work to make a good video. They don’t make videos like that anymore, so that was a big ride to be on as well. Concept-wise... anything, they just don’t do it. And look at the payoff. When he pushes for that level, look at the reaction. The reaction to that video is massive. When was the last time that pop culture reacted to a music video the way they used to back in the day?" -Director X