I saw The Defiant Ones over the weekend. I actually saw all 4 episodes yesterday. When you hear HBO and documentary in the same sentence, you automatically think big budget, lots of detail, unseen footage and deep insight into whatever it is they are talking about. The Defiant Ones is a documentary about how Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine formed an unlikely alliance and are on the way to revolutionising all we know about music.
Jimmy Iovine was on my man Bill Simmons podcast a couple of weeks ago and until then, I knew he had some relationship with Dr. Dre, Eminem and 50 Cent because if you remember in the Ja Rule Hail Mary diss, he went in on Jimmy Iovine and on Straight to the Bank, 50 Cent shouted him out. Until I listened to that podcast, I didn’t know he actually set up Interscope. I thought Interscope was a large conglomerate on the scale of Time Warner or something. Now, Interscope is significant because when you run through the artists that have signed to that label, you will realise how big of an impact this dude has had on hip hop and pop culture in general – Death Row was under Interscope so are Aftermath, Shady Records, Star Trak and G Unit (at some point anyway). Other notable people signed (now or in the past) to Interscope are Nelly Furtado, Black Eyed Peas and The Game. I’m sure I’m leaving a few notable names out but you can get an idea of how big this guy’s influence is.
What’s more is that Jimmy Iovine has been involved in the music business since the early 70’s. He started working with John Lennon then moved on to Bruce Springstein then ended up working with U2 in the 80’s so he’s been around this business for a long time. Everyone knows about Dr. Dre so there is no need to tell you where he came from and how vast his influence is.
For the most part, episodes 1 – 3 chronicle the beginnings of both Dre and Jimmy. It’s almost as if each of those episodes have different strands – a Jimmy strand and Dre strand and both strands don’t meet. The strands meet at some point in episode 3. Before I get into that, the documentary gives you some pretty cool, candid behind the scenes footage of the early NWA stuff like Dre teaching Easy E how to rap while he was recording his debut album. I feel like I had seen everything there was to see about tupac but this one brings a new spin to it. From what I could see, it seemed early on like Jimmy had a closer relationship with Suge Knight which makes sense because Death Row was started before Aftermath. There was behind the scenes footage of football games at Jimmy’s house with Suge and JFK Junior (how crazy was that!)
By episode 4, Dre is a Boss and so is Jimmy and that episode is almost an epilogue showing how Dre and Jimmy lived happily ever after.
What I did like about the documentary is the detail they went into in the first two parts. It was just the way I like it. There was particular attention paid to key days – for example easter Sunday in 1973 when Jimmy had to go to work or Dre being born just after his mum turned 16. I also liked how they chronicled the influence of DOC on NWA – somehow he wasn’t really portrayed in the NWA movie.
It kind of seemed to me that once we got to episode 3, that attention to detail was lost. I’d have liked to see a bit more about Eminem. To be fair, they spent a bit of time on how Dre went overboard to sign Eminem but I’d have liked to see how they dealt with the success and controversy that Emimem brought after they signed him. On the one hand, I thought it’s not an Eminem documentary so maybe that’s why they didn’t go into that much detail but they spent a lot of time talking about NWA and Tupac so Eminem could have received the same treatment? I also found it curious that they didn’t really say much about 50 cent. The only footage of 50 cent was from a TRL episode where he said Dre and Eminem were influential to his success. I reckon 50 didn’t want to be part of the documentary.
I could have done without the amount of time they spent on talking about Apple Music and all this streaming business. I don’t really care about that. I reckon Dre and Jimmy wouldn’t have participated if they didn’t dedicate a chunk of time to talking about Apple Music.
The other thing I wanted to mention is Dre’s reputation as a woman beater. Now the one he is really infamous for is for choking and smacking a reporter named Dee Barnes but he also allegedly assaulted another singer named Michel’le – he broke her nose and ribs allegedly. He admitted the Dee Barnes assault so I wouldn’t put the Michel’le one above him. Those 2 things will always taint him for me. You know how they say if someone is abusive, they will remain that way. He puts the Dee Barnes assault down to being drunk and in a bad place. I just hope he doesn’t beat his fine wife like that.
All in all, I think it was worth the wait. You’ll like it if documentaries are your thing.