Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine might be two of music’s most powerful forces, but they’re also two of the most private. The masterminds provide a rare glimpse into their lives and partnership in HBO’s four-part documentary series The Defiant Ones. Rap-Up recently attended a screening of the premiere episode at the Cinefamily Theater in Los Angeles, and it was as revealing as it was dynamic.
From the start of the Allen Hughes-directed piece, it’s clear that The Defiant Ones will be a star-studded series. It features sleek and candid interviews with hip-hop luminaries like Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, and will.i.am, as well as rock legends like Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, and Bono. This is fitting given the influential legacies of Dre and Jimmy. While on separate roads, different eras, and varied genres, they’ve been able to cultivate successful careers while nurturing iconic talent along the way.
According to Hughes, this created an avenue for various documentary vignettes within the series. “This first episode is just the set-up,” he said during a Q&A at the screening. “In part one, you’re seeing other artists’ stories. That was challenging because Dre and Jimmy are the ultimate collaborators, so ultimately, it becomes one big movie about their collaborations, so you get the Springsteen documentary, the Bono documentary, the N.W.A documentary. It’s hard to describe…But before you know it, you’re in another documentary.”
Beyond the music, The Defiant Ones also taps into Dre and Jimmy’s personal lives, struggles, dreams, failures, and triumphs. So, just as it includes superstar collaborators, the series also features interviews with family members and friends. The Compton producer is notorious for avoiding interviews, but he made an exception to dig deep into his past for this documentary. “He was turning 50,” Hughes said of the shift in Dre’s perspective on interviews. “Writers, when they turn 50, they hit their stride and start to open up. I saw him changing and he was ready to talk.”
In the first episode alone, there are various musical and personal stories that are uncovered about the start of Dre and Jimmy’s careers and about how their upbringings and memories influenced their actions. That breadth of information became a challenge, a challenge that every director wants, but a challenge nonetheless. That’s because great stories and moments were eventually left on the cutting room floor.
“There was a lot more to the making of The Chronic that was way more fascinating,” Hughes exclusively tells Rap-Up. “It’s just not in the film. [It was about] the environment that it was made in. This is interesting. He recorded that album in a house and everyone — Nate Dogg, Lady of Rage, Kurupt, Daz — everyone was there, in the house they were living in. It was an empty house with a recording studio. It wasn’t until later in the process that I learned that Dre had purposely arranged it that way. I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Because, who knew what would happen if those guys went back out on the streets? I had the women there, I had the liquor, I had the weed. There was a swimming pool. There was everything so no one had to leave. It was safe.’ He elaborated. He went way into it. I said, ‘You designed it that way?’ He said, ‘100 percent.'”
The Defiant Ones premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on HBO.