Lil Durk pays tribute to Virgil Abloh in his new video for “What Happened to Virgil” featuring Gunna. Boardroom breaks down the significance behind references to the late fashion designer.
Lil Durk is swiftly following up7220, his first solo No. 1 album, with the release of his new Cole Bennett-directed music video for “What Happened to Virgil” featuring Gunna.
Produced by Bennett’s Lyrical Lemonade studio, the video is a memorial to the late-great designer and artistic architect Virgil Abloh, who passed away unexpectedly last November following a private two-plus-year battle with a rare, aggressive form of cancer. He was just 41 years old.
Abloh’s passing sent shock waves through the art, fashion, and music worlds alike. He was one of the most well-respected and beloved designers of the modern age as the founder of Off-White and artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear. Many paid tribute by sharing personal anecdotes.
Lil Durk does the same with the standout track from his latest album. The video opens up with Abloh’s heavenly blue skies palette and a quote from the man himself: “Life is so short that you can’t waste even a day subscribing to what someone thinks you can do versus knowing what you can do.”
Gunna, in very Gunna fashion, honored Abloh through his drip. In the visual, he sports the super rare Louis Vuitton Fall Winter 2019 Show invitation Michael Jackson glove, which read: “There’s only one.”
The rare, original white Louis Vuitton crystal-studded, mono glove created by Abloh pays tribute to MJ with its enriched Swarovski — one of the iconic symbols for the King of Pop.
The “What Happened to Virgil” music video closes out with on-screen messages also dedicated to Durk’s late brother DThang and frequent collaborator King Von.
Filmed in Chicago, home to both Durk and Virgil, the video features the rapper and Atlanta’s own Gunna dressed down in Louis Vuitton, where Abloh served as men’s artistic director for over three years. The scenes recreate Abloh’s fantastical fashion runways and cultural artifacts he gifted to the world — both with LV and his seminal luxury brainchild in Off-White.
The entire production design for the video was inspired by Abloh, including the 𝓛𝓸𝓾𝓲𝓼 Dreamhouse™ for one of his final Louis Vuitton projects, flowers placed in Off-White store, and Drake’s private jet “Air Drake,” which was designed by Abloh.
These three moments in particular shown throughout the course of the visual capture Abloh’s ubiquitous presence and impact on his many collaborators and friends, as well as the world at large, quite perfectly— through his high-and-low design sensibilities.
Below, we break down their significance in the grander scope of Abloh’s legacy.
Off-White’s Miami Flagship Store
In the opening scene, Lil Durk walks through a garden of flowers — representing one of Abloh’s most precious moments in his career: unveiling the Off-White flagship store in Miami.
Back in 2020, Virgil Abloh and AMO director Samir Bantal designed the Off-White flagship store for the Miami Design District to be a fulfillment center and a multipurpose events space.
After Virgil’s passing, Off-White stores across the world replaced it products with flowers to honor the life of its late founder.
Abloh founded Off-White as a luxury streetwear label in 2012. He previously teamed up with Bantal to design “Figures of Speech,” a retrospective exhibition of his career at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA).
The artisanal ready-to-wear brand deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Louis Vuitton, so it’s important that Durk captured the two fashion houses side-by-side. As Abloh once put it, he wanted Off-White to be more “adult.”
Louis Vuitton’s Fall/Winter 2022 Paris Fashion Show
The next scene immediately following the garden of flowers is the title card, which pays homage to Virgil’s affinity for quotations and Helvetica fonts in text over the recreated stage of Louis Vuitton’s Fall/Winter 2022 Paris presentation.
It was late January when Louis Vuitton staged the memorial show for its Fall/Winter 2022 collection at Paris Men’s Fashion Week. The 20-minute spectacle consolidated “the themes and messages of the eight-season arc Virgil Abloh created” for the LVMH powerhouse, as described by Louis Vuttion.
The runway show was held at the Carreau de Temple, as a grand gesture for one of the final projects from Abloh prior to his untimely passing. Celebrity stars including Tyler, The Creator, J Balvin, and Naomi Campbell all took the runway in the instantly iconic moment.
“Through the lens, the membrane between reality and imagination is non-existent. Dreams can come true,” explained the collection’s notes. “Yet to be programmed with the grown-up, manmade notions of society — ‘high or low’, ‘black or white’, ‘masculine or feminine’ — the mind of a child knows no limits; no prejudice.”
The music video similarly reads: “Within the wondrous architecture of the 𝓛𝓸𝓾𝓲𝓼 Dreamhouse™, Abloh employs boyhood ideology to his philosophy; Seeing the world with the unspoiled eyes of a child.”
The show was a moment that truly showcased the world of fashion through Abloh’s imaginative, child-like mind, constantly exploring the unearthed and leaving a manifesto behind for how to infiltrate an industry that never really wanted to claim people like him in the first place. Through the theatrical piece directed and choreographed by Yoann Bourgeois, the show became a mind-expanding interior of ideas, prospects, and encouragement.
“Air Drake” Private Jet
Durk and Gunna can be found on the runway often throughout the video, standing in front of none other than Drake’s Abloh-designed private jet, called “Air Drake,” a concept realized by Abloh Engineering back in 2020.
Abloh painted it entirely blue with a pattern of clouds that closely resemble both the cover of Drake’s 2013 album Nothing Was The Same and the main aesthetic theme of Louis Vuitton’s Fall/Winter ’20 show.
Abloh’s profound and often-displayed love for rap has been documented. He is not just a “hip-hop designer” despite the Recording Academy disrespectfully presented him that way during the 64th Grammys “in memoriam” section earlier this month.
Rather, Abloh was a world-builder and an architect who used the medium of clothing as a way to challenge the status quo, toy with streetwear’s populist possibilities, and tug on the heartstrings of haute couture. His products felt as aspirational as they were accessible.
“Air Drake” was just another example of this — as well as Abloh’s enduring impact on Drake — and another reason why those who knew and loved Abloh, including Durk and Gunna, will continue to honor and respect him as one of this generation’s greatest gifts to art long after “What Happened to Virgil” is out of prime rotation.