The Defiant Ones is HBO’s newest music documentary and it is a very interesting 4 hours. The focus this time is Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, examining their friendship/business partnership over the last 25 years. It’s directed by Allen Hughes(of the Hughes brothers), most known for Menace II Society. And scored by Atticus Ross who is most known for working with Trent Reznor on the scores for Social Network, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl.
HBO has impressed me in the past with some of their other music documentaries like Sonic Highways and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. This time they kicked it up a notch in my opinion and I really learned something, especially about Jimmy Iovine. Who knew Jimmy Iovine was such a genius and involved in so many important decisions in music history over the last 40 years? He helped produce “Born to Run” with Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty’s “Damn the Torpedoes”, and U2’s “Rattle and Hum”. Then later he started Interscope Records which led to some of the most memorable music of the 90’s. His label signed Tupac, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, and of course Dr. Dre. His impact has even been felt as recently as shepherding Lady Gaga’s career and helping create Beats with Dr. Dre and the subsequent sale of that company to Apple for $3 billion.
The title is an obvious homage to the 1958 film starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis and directed by Stanley Kramer. The focus of the film is two prisoners that escape but are chained together, one black and one white. I think this is an obvious reference to Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine as they don’t seem like a usual partnership. However they make it work, as a team, no matter what. As we learn “I will never” is not in either of these men’s vocabulary.
If you saw Straight Outta Compton 2 years ago, or have been a fan for 25+ years (like me, since The Chronic) you really didn’t learn too much new about Dr. Dre. However, I did enjoy a few scenes of him really showing off his musical knowledge (listening to Nirvana and Kraftwerk surprised me). Also, you learn to appreciate how much of a genius he is when it comes to crafting classic music. He is involved every step of the way and often does multiple people’s jobs. Often serving as engineer, producer, and writing lyrics. Not to mention his own vocals which he is most known for.
The film also doesn’t shy away from the obstacles and drama both men faced along the way. From multiple legal issues with Tupac, and Dre, to major deaths (Tupac, Dre’s brother, Jimmy’s dad), and Jimmy’s divorce. They show you these important parts of both men’s lives that helped shape who they became.
The Defiant Ones was really a great look behind the scenes at how the music industry works and showed how important these 2 people have been to the music industry. There were a lot of people interviewed also that backed up the impact of these men. From Will.I.Am to Eminem, Trent Reznor to Snoop Dogg, Stevie Nicks to Bono. It amazes me to think what music of the last 40 years would’ve been like without these great influencers. Give Defiant Ones a watch on HBO, you will relive the music of your youth and hopefully learn more respect for the men who created most of it.