Don’t let his party-hearty, backfield-in-motion clips for Ghostface Killah’s “Cherchez LaGhost” and Mystikal’s James Brown jam, “Shake Ya Ass,” fool you — Little X, born Julien Lutz, is one serious dude.
“I’ve been drawing all my life,” the twenty-four-year-old Toronto native says. “I wasn’t growing up thinking about film. I thought I was going to be a graphic designer.” As a teenager, Lutz acquired his nickname because of his outspoken nature. He was deep into the local hip-hop scene, designing party fliers and logos. He moved out of his house at sixteen, sleeping on the floor of an older friend’s recording studio with a bunch of other kids. “There was a lot of hip-hop, a lot of weed, a lot of girls,” he recalls. His life took a turn when he landed a job at Much-Musio Canada’s version of MTV. “I was assisting the producer on a show called Rap City, and that got me interested in the medium,” he says.
After a few months, X landed an internship in New York with Hype Williams, the top director in hip-hop videos. “I liked his style,” X says. His five-month internship turned into a five-year apprenticeship, during which he did everything from drawing storyboards to fetching coffee. Since then, he has directed videos for some of the biggest names in the business: DMX (“What’s My Name?”), Mystikal (“Shake Ya Ass”), Ice Cube (“Until We Rich”), Chris Rock (“No Sex”) and the Roots (“What You Want”).
“I’ve always been the young guy,” he says. “So it feels weird now when I’m not. I’ve worked with artists who are even younger than me. Aaliyah is twenty-one; Eve is twenty-one; the girls in Blaque, who I’m working with next week, are all like seventeen and eighteen. I’m just like, ‘Whoa.’ ” X is versatile, with a mutable style; his skill lies in an understanding of the songs he conceptualizes. His clips smoothly run the gamut from flossy (“Cherchez LaGhost”) to cartoony (Redman’s “I’ll Bee Dat”) and satirical (“No Sex”). “I get into songs that allow me to do a concept or look,” he says. “My background is illustration, and my appeal to film has always been the visual side. I listen and listen to a song until something clicks. I’ve done videos without feeling the click and it just didn’t flow right.”
X hopes to work in features, but not too soon. “The video directors I admire who have moved into movies, like David Fincher, took their time,” he says. “They didn’t grab the first script they were shown, like, ‘Hey, Eminem and Snoop are doing a movie about farting!'”