Was ‘Hotline Bling’ By Drake Inspired By James Turrell? Can ‘Light And Space’ Artist Legally Press Charges Against Drizzy?

With the exception of those trying to stay off the grid by living under a rock, most people were bombarded this week with cuts of Drake’s new music video for “Hotline Bling” in response to its release on Tuesday, October 19. It should be noted that the music video was highly-anticipated due to the popularity of the song. However, the video may actually be more popular, thanks to Drake’s suave dance moves. As a result, said cuts of the “Hotline Bling” music video have been turned into viral memes of Drake dancing to Spanish music (as well as Beyonce).

Despite the sudden popularity of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” thanks to the outpouring of memes, people in the art community are quick to point out one peculiarity about the setting and backdrops. Are they inspired by James Turell. If they are, can the “light and space” artist legally press charges against Drizzy for it?

According to Hyperallergic, the glowing neon gradients and backdrops of “Hotline Bling” are peculiarly close to artistic light installations created by James Turrell. As of now, Drake or the director of “Hotline Bling” Director X (formerly known as Little X) have made no mention of Turrell. Yet, it is plausible Turrell is a source of inspiration given past events. For starters, Drake visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s James Turrell retrospective about two years ago. This is evidenced by numerous Instagram posts such as the one shown below of Drake and Turrell together.

Drake and James Turrell
Drake and James Turrell pose to take a picture together at one of Turrell's "light and space" exhibitions (Image via esther____ruiz's Instagram).

On top of that, Drake himself admitted James Turrell was an inspiration for him, specifically for the visuals for his last tour. This was printed in his profile for Rolling Stone back in 2012.

“I f**k with Turrell. He was a big influence on the visuals for my last tour.”

So after a bit of research, it surely seems Drake does indeed get inspiration from James Turrell not just for “Hotline Bling,” but for many other parts of his musical career. Yet, there is a major difference between creating art inspired by the style or another artist and outright plagiarism. People in the art community think Drake did the latter if one were to show a side-to-side comparison of Turrell’s work next to scenes of the backdrops for “Hotline Bling.” Even though the comparisons are not exactly one-to-one, some think it is enough for a legal case.

It should be known that musicians infringing on an artist’s copyright is nothing new, as reported by Slate. Back in 2011, Rihanna settled a lawsuit from photographer David LaChapelle. He said Rihanna’s music video for “S&M” copied his photographs. Apparently, the law believed LaChapelle had a case and granted him the right to contest Rihanna’s use of his images.

However, art infringement isn’t just about copying a look because if that were the case, numerous works of art would be found guilty of copying each other. To truly infringe on artistic copyright, one must also steal the “mood” of the art. Rihanna did that with David LaChapelle’s photographs because his work and Rihanna’s “S&M” share the same surreal mood of women dominating men in a claustrophobic domestic space. However, it is difficult to compare the “mood” of James Turrell’s work and “Hotline Bling.” It is most-likely safe to say Turrell wasn’t intending the mood of his works to be unique dancing. Also, Drake is not diminishing Turrell’s work by showcasing backdrop pieces inspired by the “light and space” artist. As a matter of fact, Drake might be promoting it.

James Turrell is taking the backdrops in “Hotline Bling” inspired by his work in stride. He recently released a statement on the matter, saying he is truly flattered as well as making it known he was not involved in the making of the music video.

“While I am truly flattered to learn that Drake f*cks 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.”

[Image via Screen Capture of Music Video for “Hotline Bling”]