Published May 04, 2016Director X has made a significant impact in the hip-hop world with his vivid imagery, letterbox formats, colour blocking techniques and unique approach to music video art, but the Brampton, ON-bred artist has also made an impact on Toronto's film community. "You just make something, and then people connect with it," he tells Exclaim!
To celebrate his career, the Prism Prize announced that Director X, who's also shortlisted for the 2016 Prism Prize (for best Canadian music video, awarded May 15) would become the recipient of the Special Achievement Award in 2016, adding to the many accolades in his back pocket. The announcement also follows the recent release of Across The Line, Director X's first feature film about hockey and the black community in East Preston, NS.
It's been almost two decades since Director X shot his first music videos for the likes of EPMD, Maestro Fresh Wes and Rascalz, and he's since directed some of the most iconic videos in music — Sisqo's "Thong Song," Sean Paul's "Gimme the Light" and, more recently, Drake's "Hotline Bling," to name a few.
"I'm an artist and I still believe in the energy," is how he characterizes his approach to work today. "The things I made that people reacted to, I never walked into like 'Okay, how do I make a big hit? Let's get out my hit tricks!' Art needs to be made purely in order for it to really work." As we celebrate his success, we're also taking a moment to reflect on Director X's favourite five videos — and while he admits that they change often, he stands firm in his belief that each of these five are great pieces of work.
Director X's 5 Favourite Videos:
5. Iggy Azalea
"Black Widow" (2014)
Taking on a Kill Bill approach, Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora play their own versions of Uma Thurman here. Embodying the characteristics of a black widow spider (the female kills its mate post-coitus), the video is much more than single shots of Iggy rapping — it's a full-fledged narrative short film about sour love and revenge, rooted in feminism.
"Hotline Bling" (2015)
More than ten years after the release of "Gimme the Light," Director X revisited the lighting techniques and big-box framing for Drake's chart-topping single, "Hotline Bling." Financed by Apple Inc., the colourful video is minimal in approach, but bold in terms of impact. With dance moves credited to Toronto artist Mo-G, the video has gone on to become one of the world's most parodied clips, with politicians like Norm Kelly and Donald Trump having a go.
3. Sean Paul
"Gimme the Light" (2002)
At a time where dancehall was still finding difficulty breaking into the American charts, Sean Paul's debut single "Gimme the Light" hit number two on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop chart. While Sean Paul took the raw energy of Jamaican culture and channelled it into the song's catchy hook, Director X called on fellow Toronto artist and choreographer Tanisha Scott to choreograph the latest Jamaican dances into the basement jam-styled video for a commercial music audience.
2. G Dep (ft. P. Diddy & Black Rob)
"Let's Get It" (2001)
A gritty record despite sampling Al Green's "Love & Happiness," "Let's Get It" served as a Bad Boys crew cut, with the inclusion of Black Rob and P. Diddy. They turned to Director X for the clean visuals, framed by X's iconic black bars, black and white colour scheme and tight chemistry between the trio.
"U Got It Bad" (2001)
"U Got It Bad" was the ultimate R&B love ballad, becoming one of two number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Usher would have in 2001. The video, however, highlights the desperation of losing a woman you loved, played by Usher's real-life love interest, TLC's Chilli (a.k.a. Rozonda Thomas), and the incomprehensible pain of not being able to get her back — including the saddest pouring rain dance scene of all time.