On the lyrics site Genius.com, if you scroll down to the bottom of the page about any song gaining some attention, you’re likely to find a certain kind of user comment. Comments that say things like “this song had me like,” or “that beat got me like,” and then maybe this image—
Or this one—
Or this one—
The “had me like”/“got me like” formulation isn’t just for music reactions. Adderall can have you like the guy from A Clockwork Orange, Game of Thrones can have you like the stunned Fresh Prince, and most commonly, booty can have you like any number of things—an airman facing off against gravity, someone possessed by the devil, or Nelly marveling, “Goodness gracious ass is bodacious.”
But whether the cause is a beat or a body part, the object of the typical had-me-like sentence—the thing to which you’re comparing yourself—is someone or something that has lost its chill. People resort to had-me-like when they’re overwhelmed with emotion, when whatever they’re feeling can only be expressed physically. No wonder that dance, mankind’s greatest and least-chill mode of physical expression, shows up a lot.
Drake has provided a lot of source material for had-me-like illustrations over the years. That’s mostly because he likes to dance in ways that most famous rappers do not. At the beginning of his “HYFR” video, there’s a home-movie clip of Drake as a kid, pushing his little arms down and rocking back and forth on a Bar Mitzvah dance floor. In “Started From the Bottom,” he does a funny shuffle step while rapping in the snow. All of this makes for great GIFs.
But Drake has also provided a lot of reasons for declarations of had-me-like. He’s indisputably the most popular rapper of 2015, and his songs often make people want to sway, or stomp, or act out the words with their hands. His latest hit, “Hotline Bling,” uses a cha-cha rhythm, which isn’t heard all that often on popular radio (though it seems Drake’s team came across it via the rapper D.R.A.M.’s “Cha Cha”) and which triggers, yes, a dance reflex. In the Genius comments for the song, there are a few uses of “had me like,” including one that includes Drake himself:
That “I know when that hotline bling” have you like
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On Monday night, Drake posted the video for “Hotline Bling.” In blank, colorful rooms inspired by the artist James Turrell, Drake leans back and then bends forward, cha-chas while undulating his arms, shakes his finger at the camera, wiggles his neck, and so much more. It’s all sandwiched between shots of a phone-sex office staffed with women, some of whom also dance in the same colorful rooms as Drake. As soon as it was released, the Internet quickly went to work breaking the video into GIFs, pairing Drake’s movements with other songs, and pairing his song with other people who dance like Drake.
The Internet also went to work trying to figure out what exactly Drake was thinking, releasing a video like this. It’s not that he’s a bad dancer, per se, but that he’s so committed to doing things that look, by most standards, silly. Kara Brown at Jezebel wrote a piece titled “Drake Is the Biggest Dork in Hip-Hop and He Knows It,” arguing that “Drake has buoyed his career by making corny things cool almost solely off of his unbridled enthusiasm and inability to accept that whatever it is he enjoys may not actually be particularly dope.” Her colleague Rich Juzwiak at Gawker isn’t so sure Drake’s in on the act, comparing him to past icons of camp who unwittingly blundered into so-bad-its-goodness.
To me, it seems pretty clear what Drake’s probably up to. The video is one big had-me-like, or rather a few overlapping ones. There’s the self-congratulatory “this song had me like.” There’s the widely relatable “booty had me like.” And, as reflected in the lyrics, there’s “the prospect of affections from a girl whose relationship with me is mainly defined by distance and her availability to other men had me like.” Had-me-like imagery, remember, isn’t about looking cool. It’s about what happens when you aren’t able to.
But the video’s also the culmination of Drake’s meta impulses. Earlier this year, he responded to a rap diss by recycling the memes people made about his response to that rap diss. Throughout his career, he has unapologetically ransacked lesser-known rap scenes for their musical innovations—flows, beats—while also co-signing the figures within them. With the “Hotline Bling” video, he finally declares himself the alpha-and-omega of Internet culture, someone who makes a video intended for mockery and then puts the mockery on his Instagram.
And he does this all the while becoming only richer. A week before the video dropped, Drake wrote about how deeply he yearned to have “Hotline Bling” be his first No. 1 song. This, like his dancing, wasn’t a risk-free declaration—it was a transparent sign of thirst. But it also helped rehumanize someone who’s become an abstract cultural figure with immense wealth. It also helps explain the video. After all, everyone rewatching it for the perfect freeze-frame to sum up what life has them feeling like is also helping push the song up the Billboard charts.