“Who you think brought you the oldies?
Eazy-E’s, Ice Cube’s and D.O.C’s and Snoop D O double G’s?
And a group that said “Muthafuck the police”

Allen Hughes, who made last year’s phenomenal NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton returns to familiar Crenshaw Mafia territory with HBO’s The Defiant Ones.

Taking its name from the Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier 1958 film about another unlikely ebony and ivory pairing who must work together to survive, this four-and-a-half-hour documentary follows the careers of music legends Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine on their path to partnership and Apple’s eventual $3.2 billion aquisition of their headphones and speakers line, Beats by Dr Dre. 

Hailing from two different coasts and two very different cultures, Italian-American Iovine began his career in New York as a sound engineer, working his way up through mixing and producing the legends of the 1970’s and 80’s.

Ex-girlfriend Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Bono, Trent Reznor and David Geffen show up to tell us how Jimmy’s single-mindedness, determination and knack for match-making collaborations turned him into America’s most sought-after rekkid label owners.

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A decade later on the West Coast, Andre Young (Dr Dre) was inventing gangsta rap with the help of Ice Cube, Easy E, Yella and Ren. Through the eyes of the people that were there, Allen Hughes beatifully unravels Dre’s story from early hip-hop, Niggaz With Attitude, Suge Knight and Death Row Records right up to Tupac’s death, Interscopes signing Marilyn Manson, Snoop Dogg’s reign and Iovine discovering Eminen.


A good documentary maker allows people to open themselves up to the camera then coaxes secrets from interviewees but with Iovine and Dre, there are no secrets because ego is a foreign concept.

Most interestingly, Hughes manages to weave the theme of following bliss as a subtext. Time and again, Jimmy, Dre and many of these collaborators mention luck, magic happening and the universe’s doors opening… IF you put in the effort.

Despite the gansta themes, the untimely deaths, this is a hugely optimistic and uplifting film which reduced me to tears when I learnt that Dre and Jimmy are knocking down Compton’s dilapadated High School to build a state-of-the-art education centre, including performing arts department. (The tears were because growing up with this music, I genuinely sometimes think I must be from The CPT. That’s the double truth, Ruth.)


Joseph Campbell talks of how later in life, one can literally look back and see how all the threads, the chance meetings, the introductions and opportunies arose to deliver you to one point in time. This point, right here, right now.

Never has that notion been better exemplified than in the story of how Beats by Dr Dre speakers and headphones came into being after Jimmy happened to be strolling passed Dre’s beachhouse.

At four-and-a-half hours long there’s not an ounce of fat here, in fact you’re left salivating for more. Watch and learn how to expertly incorporate binge-indusing cliffhangers into documenatry series.

Beautifully written and edited, Allen Hughes’ perfectly realised vision means The Defiant Ones is incredible documentary making and a must see for all musicians, producers, engineers and rap fans. If there’s one line I’m going to try to remember, it’s Jimmy’s quote of “turning fear from a headwind into a tailwind.”

The Defiant Ones is streamable on HBO Go. Or torrents, but don’t tell Jimmy.