Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s Love for Music, Loyalty and Longevity Explored in ‘The Defiant Ones’
In an age where music documentaries are all the rage, particularly those chronicling the rise of hip-hop's most iconic and influential figures, veteran director Allen Hughes' latest film project, The Defiant Ones, stands in a class of its own. The documentary, released in four parts, focuses on rap legend Dr. Dre and record executive Jimmy Iovine's tenured partnership and the impact their union has had on the music industry as a whole. The Defiant Ones finds Hughes taking one of the greatest, yet most rehashed stories ever told and giving it added context and character by attacking it from a unique vantage point.
While Dr. Dre and Iovine's deal to sell their Beats Electronics empire to Apple in 2014, and their musical partnership—which dates back to 1992—stand as the crux of the documentaries narrative, Hughes delves even deeper, beginning at their respective genesis. Dre, an impoverished kid from Compton, and Iovine, a native of Red Hook, Brooklyn and the product of a working class family. Candid commentary from Dr. Dre's mother Verna Griffin, who provides never-before-seen home footage and photos, includes revelations of the abuse she suffered from Dr. Dre's biological father and stepfather, and fond memories of her son's earliest forays into music.
Rare nuggets like Alonzo Williams' recollection of becoming privy to Dr. Dre's prodigious talent and enlisting him as a member of his World Class Wrecking Cru are appreciated, but the insights The Defiant Ones provides while covering the life and times of Jimmy Iovine are pure gold. In addition to highlighting his work as an engineering and production vanguard—he helped jumpstart the careers of Hall of Fame rockers Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and Stevie Nicks—The Defiant Ones dispels the notion of Iovine being a music industry blue blood. His beginnings as a failed musician and a novice engineer are documented, as well as the paranoia and uncertainty that engulfed him while toiling with obscurity during the 1970s.
The life and career of a star like Dr. Dre are typically dissected to the most minute detail in standard music docs, however, figures like Iovine, who control many of the strings being pulled behind the scenes, are usually cloaked with an air of anonymity. The result is an enigma, akin to "the man" referenced in blaxploitation films of old. The Defiant Ones brings one of the most talked about high ranking executives in rap history and strips him to his bare essentials, giving him an identity beyond that of a stuffy check writer. He's presented as a true champion of artistic expression and creativity.
In addition to Dr. Dre and Iovine, the players that benefited from or helped facilitate the pair's rise also make appearances throughout The Defiant Ones, providing their own view of the men while detailing how their respective roles held together the fabric of the bigger picture. Rapper The D.O.C. speaks candidly about the events that led to the nearly fatal 1989 car crash that cost him his voice and career as a rap artist, as well as his experience of being the unsung cog in the machine that was Ruthless Records and N.W.A. Then there are executives Doug Morris and Ted Field, who recall the formation of Interscope Records and their own roles in the creation of one of the biggest juggernauts in music history.
The Defiant Ones does a great job in unmasking both Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine and humanizing their guts and glory. One of the more compelling moments is Dr. Dre addressing the infamous 1991 attack on TV host Dee Barnes, which has long served as a dark stain on his otherwise storied career. After years of avoiding the subject all together, Dre owns up to his actions and attacks it head on. He subsequently closes an ill-fated chapter and avoids making The Defiant Ones a one-sided affair, as director Hughes examines both men from all angles, flattering or otherwise.
The first two parts of The Defiant Ones focuses more so on the music, whereas the last two include insight on Dr. Dre's comeback with Aftermath Records and his discovery of Eminem. However, the latter parts focus more on his transformation from controversial rapper and record producer into a family man, business mogul and philanthropist. Jimmy Iovine, who is often criticized for capitalizing off the explosion and fetishization of gangster rap, shares his own reservations about the toll the drama and violence surrounding the music took on him and his business partners. He also opens up about his bitter war with Time Warner over his indecision to part ways with Dr. Dre in the wake of the East Coast vs. West Coast war.
Pulling together a cast that includes talents spanning multiple generations—Tom Petty, Fab 5 Freddy, Gwen Stefani and Kendrick Lamar, to name a few—and encapsulating more than 45 years worth of history is no easy feat in any capacity, let alone when the subjects are two of the most important figures in entertainment responsible for the career of dozens of other transcendent figures. But Allen Hughes accomplishes this and more with The Defiant Ones, a glimpse into the love, loyalty and longevity of two of the greatest men to ever impact pop culture as we know it.
To experience The Defiant Ones for yourself, the episodes are currently available on HBO GO and HBO NOW.