Lil Dicky Talks 'Freaky Friday' Video & Why Chris Brown Is the 'Best Dancer of Our Time'
"I turned 30 today. Oh my God," Lil Dicky bellows in anguish. "I’ve got so many people saying, '30 is great, you’re gonna love it!' Like, I just don’t ever see the upside. There's nothing I gain by it. Like if anything, I’m not the most manly person. I’m very boyish in my personality that I think just being 30 doesn’t make it any better, it just makes it more pathetic probably."
Though the sheer thought of turning 30 sounds like a buzzkill for Dicky, he did find one upside during his milestone birthday: His knee-slapping video "Freaky Friday" torched the internet. Based on the 2003 film starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsey Lohan (itself based on the 1976 film and 1972 novel), Dicky and the song's guest, Chris Brown, switch bodies for a day and experience life as the other person. Filled with playful quips, Dicky enjoys his newfound identity, flexing his dance moves and contorting his body like the celebrated dancer. On the flipside, Brown quickly despises Dicky's plain and insipid lifestyle.
When the two stars link up at the end of the video, they change back into their regular bodies, before the affable MC switches bodies again, but this time with Ed Sheeran, DJ Khaled and Kendall Jenner. "The cherry on top was Kendall," Dicky tells Billboard. "I waited on Kendall to the very end, and she killed it. We recorded it at Kris Jenner’s house, and I literally went there and recorded her, and it was so fun. She was having so much fun."
Billboard spoke with Dicky on his 30th birthday about releasing his "Freaky Friday" video, his favorite moment shooting the video, why he thinks Chris Brown is the best dancer of our time, and why he compares himself to "Russell Westbrook on a farm."
I have a weird inkling that you were eating a shitload of ice cream watching Freaky Friday on ABC Family and that's how the song came about. Am I right?
One-hundred percent. I mean, I wasn’t eating ice cream, I don’t like ice cream, but totally, I was sitting. I remember it, I was sitting in my parents house, like I was just home, and I was just watching TV and the movie came on, and I had seen the movie a ton of times, but like, I love the movie, and then I was just watching it and I thought, the concept is so universally appreciated, like the body-switch concept I think that everybody really enjoys, and I’ve never really seen it applied to music, and it’s such an opportunity because imagine being able to have access to other artists’ vocal range, like vocal cords. It’s just a funny thing to be able to, through a different artist's voice, speak.
Did the concept of the video come to your mind first, or was it the actual song?
Well I kinda like, when I have a song that’s very creative for the most part, I know i’m gonna make a video for it. There are some songs that I have that are more just kinda more rap songs and don’t have a narrative or distinct angle, but any song that’s really trying to be funny or tell a story, I don’t necessarily think of the music video but like I think the story in my head is the vision. I just know for a fact that any consumer is going to understand and see the vision clearer if they’re actually seeing it in motion as opposed to me relying on them to sit there and listen, and just, like, get every joke, you know what I mean? So I always think I kinda use them hand in hand.
Did you have choices prior to Chris?
I mean, Chris to me was my number one choice, like I knew I wanted it to be a really good-looking guy that can sing and dance, and I started thinking about who that is, and like you know, Chris Brown as a dancer, I don’t think anyone even comes close. It’s almost like a lost type of art, you know? Like an artist that can dance that way, you know? And like, I’ve played in a few different celebrity basketball games with him, so I had a relationship with him, and I was just hoping that he’d do it, and he did it!
Would you also wanna trade basketball skills with him? He has really great athleticism.
No, I mean, I don’t know if you’ve seen me play, but there's a lotta pride -- we’re different players, but like, I can’t tell who’s better at basketball, me or Chris Brown. Like, he’s definitely more athletic, and like I’d love to be more athletic for a day and do things like dunk. Like that guy can dunk on a whim, I’ve seen him just do it on a whim. But I’m definitely a really special shooter, and like I got really good savvy out there, and I don’t know, I’m a good player. I feel like we’re good yin and yang on the court, but for a day if I were to be something different, I’d like to be a little more athletic.
Being a shooter and having a great basketball IQ is a must, especially right now in today’s game.
I think between me and Chris Brown, if you combined our games, you’d get like a real Division I basketball player.
How did you present the concept/record to Chris initially?
Yeah, so I had the general idea, but then you know I’d do sessions where I’d get beats from different producers and whatnot, so I’m listening for the right beat for this type of song, which is like, in a way I was almost hoping for a Chris Brown beat over a Lil Dicky beat, you know what I mean? And it was Mustard. He played the beat, and immediately I was like, “That’s the one.” So then, I got with a bunch of people and started writing the song and thinking about all the different ways, like the jokes to be made and stuff like that. And we got it to a very rough, demo-y place, and I wanted to show Chris, and it’s hard. Like imagine hearing an unfinished demo without seeing the video? It’s like harder to understand from hearing just the song.
So I got a guy who sounds a lot like Chris Brown, to sing the song so it could help him really visualize it. I remember thinking in my head, “I can’t confuse him.” Like, already it’s such a confusing premise. I remember when I talked to people they were like, “Wait, are you gonna be his voice?” So it was very confusing especially without a video, you know? But I played him the demo, and I’ve never seen someone get my music more than when I played him that demo. Like he laughed at every single joke, understood every single angle, and like it was awesome to see cause I didn’t know what to expect. But he really loved it and he just gets me and my music, and he recorded it like the next night.
What would you say was your favorite moment or memory from shooting the video with Chris?
Oh, no doubt the choreographed dancing. I mean, what a bucket list moment that is. Like I grew up when Chris Brown was like, an icon. He was my ringtone when I was in high school. And I love dancing, it's always been a dream, and you know ever since the days of 112 and Usher, I just love choreographed dancing. And like to be in one with my biggest song ever with probably the best dancer of our time, you know post-Michael Jackson, what an honor.
Do you remember the ringtone?
Yeah it was. Starts singing "Yo"
The end of “Freaky Friday” was amazing because you see Ed Sheeran pop up, you see DJ Khaled pop up, and then you see Kendall Jenner come through. How did you go about getting all these guys for the video?
I knew in the end I wanted to turn to a few different other people, so really I made everything, but that, excluding the ending. And Ed Sheeran is a friend of mine, so like I showed him [the video], and he thought it was so funny, so good and he wanted to be a part of it. So, you know, now I got Ed on it, and once I got Ed, it was easier to go to Khaled ‘cause he’s friends with my manager, Scooter Braun. I don’t know Khaled that well, but he loved the video. I think the common thread is they all loved the video. The cherry on top was Kendall, I waited on Kendall to the very end, and she killed it. We recorded it at Kris Jenner’s house, and I literally went there and recorded her, and it was so fun. She was having so much fun.
Though you joke around a lot, you have moments in your career where you proved you can really rap, like your Sway in the Morning freestyle. Do you feel upset that you haven’t gotten that validation, as you pointed out in the beginning of your “Freaky Friday” video.
I mean, I certainly hope by the end of my career that I garner everyone’s respect as a rapper the way I garnered yours off of Sway, you know? Like I certainly want people, but I try not to spend too much time thinking about it. I care most about what rappers think about me as a rapper, and I’ve gotten a lot of praise. I think rappers understand I’m a really good rapper, and that means more to me than a random person, you know, ‘cause they know what goes into making rap music.
If you can give yourself an NBA comparison, who would you be?
This is the best question. To me I have this conversation all the time with people. Like JAY-Z is Jordan for me, Kanye is Kobe to me, you know there’s a bunch of ways to do it. But for me, you know, I made a song in 2013 called Russell Westbrook on a farm and I think right then and there I inherently tied myself to Russell Westbrook.
I just think we’re both hyper competitive human beings. I think he is kinda like a new model, like the same way I get thrashed for being a funny rapper, like how much flack did Westbrook get for like shooting too much unlike a traditional point guard? There's never really been a point guard with his level of athleticism. So personally, I feel like I’m trying to redefine what a really good rapper can be like. Like I think it’s not often where a good rapper can be making funny music. Like I know how much Russ wants it, and I’m pretty similar.