To the question, “What is Hotline Bling?”, there is little consensus on any one answer – largely because “Hotline Bling” is not a thing. The problem, as it often can be with rap, is grammar.

In this instance, however, we are not confronted with your usual case of aural inadequacy, or naïve misinterpretation of what Nelly describes in his 2000 hit as an intricate rural dialect of, “…be’s ebonics, gin tonic and chronic”.

No. With this title, Drake has tricked you – a grammatical ruse so shrewd for the simple fact that, presented primarily in the context of an isolated song title, nobody would ever suspect that “Hotline Bling” is not in fact a noun.

The strength of the hoax is further compounded by nostalgia and an impulsive word-association that has been driven into our subconscious by lexical pioneers of the very music genre through which Drake serenades us with this compelling tale of wayward booty. In fact, the seminal drive behind this pivotal word was so powerful that, in 2003, it was added to the most prestigious of vernacular archives; The Oxford Dictionary.

I am of course referring to the term, “Bling”;

Bling pronounced: /blɪŋ/
[Noun]

Expensive, ostentatious clothing and jewelry:
‘look at the bling he’s already wearing on his left arm’

As I previously mentioned, however, the application of “bling” in Drake’s somber ballad is not an allegiance to authenticity, but what can only be described as a “Re-Slanging” of the term into the state of a grammatically spurious verb.

Not only has Drake unilaterally expanded the definitive essence of the term, but he has simultaneously shrouded it in two layers of improper grammar, making the obfuscation almost impenetrable without a careful analysis of the chorus lyrics…

You used to call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love
Call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love
I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing
I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing   

The first layer of grammatical misdirection is the complex juggling of tenses; while Drake is clearly referencing historical events, as illustrated by the phrase, “You used to…”, he insists on framing his understanding of the bygone transmissions in the present tense, as illustrated by the conjugation, “I know…”

Then, as the meaning of “Bling” slowly dawns upon us, we see that the author has again forsaken tense by stripping the infinitive of either an “ed” or an “s”.

Corrected for proper use of the language, but allowing an artistic shift to the present tense as an ironic reflection of permanence and hope, the chorus reads as follows:

You used to call me on my cell phone
Late night when you needed my love
[You used to] Call me on my cell phone
Late night when you needed my love
I know when that hotline blings
That can only mean one thing
I know when that hotline blings
That can only mean one thing   

Now, after thorough examination, the definition of, “Hotline Bling” is finally uncovered. It is not a single term, but instead a two word fragment containing a noun and a verb.

In plainer parlance: it just means the f***ing phone is ringing.

About The Author

Contributor

Benjamin Mann is a Toronto-based contributor who enjoys awkward thigh rubs, giving Outback Steakhouse gift cards as a wedding present, and sending unsolicited audition tapes to the producers of The View. He is the author of the blogs, This Is Your Brain on Dating and Love Gone Cray and is the Editor-in-Chief of SnapMunk.com. He is “the ex” dating columnist for The Toronto Standard, has been featured on Huffington Post Live and can be found in numerous publications including Thought Catalog, Offline Magazine, Eligible Magazine and Gasm.org.

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