Julien Christian Lutz, a.k.a. Director X (a.k.a. Little X, and also, simply, X), is that rarest of creatures: a hyper-successful, Canadian, hip-hop music video director. One or two is easy, but hitting all three of those qualifications takes more talent and hard work than taming a unicorn.
The Brampton-born, Toronto-based director quickly made a name for himself with eye-catching visuals for the likes of Canadian hip-hop notables like the Rascalz, Maestro (née Fresh Wes), and Choclair. The videos were instrumental in proving that Canadian hip-hop could become a viable commercial force, and forced the Great (quite literally) White Northern music industry to take note.
Following his time as the protegé of Hype Williams, X maintains a heavy directing schedule, not to mention a clothing line and film work. With a career stretching from the heady days of 1998 with “Northern Touch” to the more recent Drake visual output like “Worst Behaviour”, it’s clear that he isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Here then, in reverse chronological order, are 10 of the most iconic Director X music videos, complete with more letterboxes than Canada Post.
Drake – “Hotline Bling” (2015)
rip-off single features the Director at his most minimal and restrained. The out-of-control party vibes from previous videos have been replaced with a call center, a mood-lit staircase, and enough awkward moves to power community centre dances ’til the end of time.
Drake – “Started From the Bottom” (2013)
The song that let bloggers everywhere slam dunk their article titles still has Aubrey’s most iconic visual treatment. Who can get the image of Drake in a Shoppers uniform out of their heads after watching this? Please, reach out, it’s becoming a dangerous BLIT-esque situation for me here.
Justin Bieber – “Boyfriend” (2012)
The swagee heard ’round the world. X showcased the Grown Biebs in his “Boyfriend” clip, complete with unexpected letterboxes. Just when you thought you’d escaped ’em, here they come.
The Wanted – “Glad You Came” (2011)
Similar to the Biebs, the image makeover for Irish-British boy band The Wanted was largely Director X’s doing. If you’ve got a sugar-sweet image to shake, you know who to call.
Nelly Furtado ft. Timbaland – “Promiscuous” (2006)
Nelly Furtado’s transition from “I’m Like a Bird”-era singer-songwriter to club fixture worked out thanks to the strength of Timb’s production, but it was really when the “Promiscuous” video dropped that we all instantly forgot about Whoa, Nelly!, and that we ever thought of Timbaland as “husky.”
Usher – “Yeah” (2004)
Director X only has one regret about his iconic, laser-heavy treatment for Usher’s smash hit: that he didn’t include enough lasers. “Part of me wishes we’d just done the whole thing with lasers,” he told the Huffington Post in 2013.
Nelly – “Hot in Herre” (2002)
All the Director X trademarks are in full effect
here, sorry, “herre”: letterbox opening, garish neon lights, and attractive women who probably getting pretty cold by hour 6 of the shoot.
Sean Paul – “Gimmie Da Light” (2002)
Kind of the spiritual predecessor of “Hotline Bling”, now that I see it again… except with much less dorky dance moves.
Choclair – “Let’s Ride” (1999)
“Let’s Ride” reached #37 on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart in 2000, largely on the back of the video getting MTV airplay, which is no easy feat for a Canadian hip-hop music video. I’m sure wireframe glasses manufacturers took note of a sales uptick, too.
Rascalz – “Northern Touch” (1998)
One of the very first videos directed by Little X, as he was then known, heralded a new era of mainstream acceptance of Canadian hip-hop, with “Northern Touch” winning the Juno for Best Rap Recording in 1999. A year earlier, the Rascalz refused to show up at the ceremony, since their acceptance of the award for their album Cash Crop would not be televised.