Drake is no lord of the dance — he'll never be remembered as a superhuman, MJ-style movement artist. But just as he crafts a compellingly imperfect persona in his music — tough when he needs to be but always vulnerable and just a little bit dorky — he's turned himself into an everyman's dance icon. In honor of the instant-viral-smash "Hotline Bling" clip, which offers the most complete portrait yet of Aubrey Graham's many charming moves, we review 10 key Drake dance moments, from Degrassi: The Next Generation to Nicki Minaj's infamous "Anaconda" lap dance.
During the 2014 OVO Fest, Drake gushed over guest Usher's influence on his childhood self. "I used to try to swing the little chain I had on my neck around," he admits to the singer before asking for a "sidewalk battle." Drake goes first, showing that he's clearly studied Usher's most iconic move before the singer shows who is the sidewalk dance king — and even tosses his chain around his neck for some added flair.
Drake pulls out all the stops in this video. He dances while standing in the back of a convertible; he shimmies through a snow storm; he windmills chaotically in the aisles of a Staples outlet; he swaggers up and down in front of a line of partygoers like he's auditioning for Soul Train. He caps the whole thing off by abandoning choreography completely and jumping haphazardly into his pool.
In this amusing 2011 skit, Drake decides the key to his future success is winning over a geriatric audience, so he heads to an old-folks home and starts introducing the aged to hip-hop. Part of this process naturally involves dancing: The MC body-rolls as respectfully as possible next to one lady and attempts to teach another gentleman how to Dougie.
Drake works through a repertoire of restrained moves in the "Tuesday" clip: dipping his torso gently from side to side, swaying back and forth with his eyes closed, and executing a series of miniature arm motions as if he’s conducting a symphony. A white Styrofoam cup gives him an excuse not to rock the boat (the vessel reappeared in red Solo form as his trusty accessory in the Game’s "100" video). For a different side of Drake in the club in 2014, check out the videos of him dancing energetically to Bobby Shmurda’s "Hot Nigga" and Young Thug’s "Danny Glover."
"Truffle Butter" was originally planned for Drake’s Nothing Was the Same album, but according to the producer Ninteen85, "we didn't finish it in time." Nicki Minaj eventually put out the track with a Drake feature. When the MC cues it up onstage at Coachella, his movements simultaneously evoke the robot and a child’s crying fit. Then he transitions into the rag doll.
Drake's appearance in Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" video is less about him dancing — which he doesn't do at all in the clip — and more about his reaction to Minaj's twerk-heavy lap dance as Drake tries to keep his cool around his collaborator and friend. From the moment she crawls over to a stoic Drake in his chair to the swift rejection she serves as he attempts to touch rather than merely look, the interaction instantly became an iconic moment in the Dancing Drake lexicon.
Drake's hosting debut on Saturday Night Live was a strong one, but the ridiculous "Slumber Party" sketch was easily the night's funniest moment. In it, Aidy Bryant's teenage character Melanie develops a massive, uncontrollable crush on her friend's dad, played by sweater-and-mustache-sporting Drake. Between the dad jokes and Melanie cooing over how Mr. Gorman is "the realest man" she's ever seen, Dad Drake busts out some choice body rolls.
Forgoing a complicated plot or excessive imagery like those found in many of his previous videos, Drake keeps it simple and sleek in "Hotline Bling," the first clip to focus exclusively on his dance moves. From shimmying to shaking to cha-cha-ing by himself and with an even better dance partner, Drake is silly and surprisingly adept on his feet in a clip that is as wonderfully simple as the song it accompanies.
Back in his child-actor days, Drake donned a Michael Jackson outfit and hit the floor to do his best impersonation of Thriller-era MJ. His footwork is passable; his spins are better. It’s the split that causes him the most trouble: he ends up tearing open his pants. Drake hasn’t dared such a bold dance move since that scarring incident.
Sure, Drake's appearances in Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" clip and his own "Hotline Bling" video basically broke the Internet, but nothing quite compares to the enduringly adorable sample of baby Aubrey Drake Graham dancing at his own bar mitzvah, which opens the hilarious and celebratory "HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)" clip. Young Drake moves with confidence, staring at the camera as he moves like he knows that one day his dance-floor skills will be taken to a much bigger arena.