Drake becomes instant meme

Drake in his latest video Hotline Bling. PHOTO: YOUTUBE
Drake in his latest video Hotline Bling. PHOTO: YOUTUBE

NEW YORK • Drake's Hotline Bling video was the moment when the rapper fully became a meme.

Late last Monday, he released the video, mostly made up of long shots of him dancing in front of a plain background that is constantly changing colours: mustard, lavender, baby blue, peach, chartreuse.

The slow-moving song, about romantic disappointment and shortcomings, has become a surprise radio hit and is No. 2 in the United States. The clip, directed by Director X, is designed to be broken down into screenshots and few-seconds-long GIFs.

Within hours - minutes, really - Twitter, Vine, Instagram and Tumblr were filled with short clips pulled from the video set to other songs. Often these clips were accompanied by the hashtag #DrakeAlwaysOnBeat.

The most ambitious memes tweaked the video. One took a segment where Drake was swatting his arm and put a tennis racket in his hand, making him thwack away balls fired at him. 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.

Drake, of course, knew all of this would happen. "We were looking at playbacks, and he was like, 'This is totally going to be a meme,'" Scott told the Complex magazine.

This moment of full meme absorption comes just as Drake and the art world have been dancing around each other.

Last year, he took a writer for Rolling Stone magazine to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see an exhibition by James Turrell, whose influence is strong in the Hotline Bling video.

This summer, he partnered with Sotheby's to help promote a gallery show of contemporary black art.

In this, he follows rappers such as Jay Z, collector of Basquiat and imitator of Marina Abramovic; and Kanye West, who has collaborated with Takashi Murakami, Vanessa Beecroft and George Condo.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2015, with the headline 'Drake becomes instant meme'. Print Edition | Subscribe