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The Defiant Ones: great for music trivia enthusiasts

July 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Love me some music trivia. One of my most favorite hobbies is watching music documentaries of all types. I like learning little tidbits of gossip about my favorite artists and the stories behind the songs.

The Defiant Ones is a new documentary on HBO, telling the stories behind Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine, their record labels (Interscope, Death Row, Aftermath, etc.) and their eventual partnership with Apple (Beats by Dre). Not to get into too much detail, but here are some of my favorite tidbits so far (just finished episode 3 last night):

  • Jimmy Iovine dated Stevie Nicks during the recording of her first solo album.
  • No one would sign Dr. Dre as a solo artist because of the lawsuits he was dealing with in regards to N.W.A/ Jerry Heller after he made The Chronic. Iovine jumped at the chance to sign him, telling him to give him three weeks to sort out the lawsuits.
  • Primus signed onto Interscope because they were impressed that Iovine was able to get Gerardo signed (Mr. Rico Suave himself).
  • Interscope Records advanced a significant amount of money to Death Row specifically to bail Tupac Shakur out of jail because Time Warner wouldn’t give the money outright.
  • Iovine was really tight with Suge Knight in the beginning. Knight would go play football at Iovine’s house on the weekends. Eventually Knight got caught up too much in the street life and well, here we are.
  • Iovine wanted Trent Reznor to get out of his contract with TVT Records so badly that he promised to give him a record label (Nothing Records), the ability to sign artists (how the world got Marilyn Manson), and complete independence in the studio. The result: The Downward Spiral, still one of my most favorite albums of all time.

The rest you’ll have to see for yourself 🙂

 

Straight Outta Compton: A review (spoilers possible)

August 24, 2015 Leave a comment

So I’m going to start this with a little personal history.

I was in junior high when I first heard N.W.A. It was a hard, angry subset of what I used to listen to in Hip Hop land, nowhere near the Beasties in their ill flow, and even darker and more political than Public Enemy. This was full on gangsta rap at its inception, and the more I heard everyone from my Mom to politicians to teachers talk about how bad it was for me, it made this tweenager want to listen to it more.

MTV would play their stuff late at night once in a while on Yo! MTV Raps, but that was pretty much the only outlet I had to find out what the fuss was about. Until I heard the album Straight Outta Compton, that is. Blew my mind with the beats, and the message about life in the ‘hood. The real life gang-banging get your head smacked in by the po-pos kind of life, not what you saw on House Party (although I still love that movie). It was a lot to process, but it was the most real statement of life I’d heard by that point.

There were drawbacks. Even then, I was cognizant of the fact that the genre was very alpha-male oriented. Women were seen as playthings, so as much as I wanted to embrace the message, I couldn’t get right with that even at that young age.

So saying all that, let’s get into the movie review. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E’s widow Tamika Wright were involved in producing this film, so the accuracy is pretty real. I’m sure some things were changed for dramatic effect, but as Ed Lover said during his show (I like to listen to him on Sirius XM’s Backspin during afternoon drivetime), lots of people can confirm the accuracy of what went down because they were there when it did. Eazy was a drug dealer, Cube was a high school student writing lyrics all the time, Dre and Yella were part of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, wearing marching band tops and spinning late 80s R&B the club manager wanted. Then one day Dre convinces Eazy to put up some money and get on the mic, and N.W.A. was born.

There wasn’t much they had to think about for inspiration, as life getting hassled by the cops and just trying to survive gave them loads of material. Art as a reflection of reality.

Eazy brought in Jerry Heller to manage the group forming Ruthless Records, and while Heller and E lived up the high life, Cube, Dre, Yella and MC Ren were kickin’ it Fatburger style on the road. The movie portrays Heller as a shyster, never wanting to come up with contracts and when he finally did, they were very lacking. Cube never signed and left the group to do his own thing, and Dre (with the help of Suge Knight, a straight up thug to this day) finally got out of his contract with Ruthless Records to release “The Chronic”. All of the members pretty much went their seperate ways (Dre producing Snoop and Tupac on Death Row Records which he founded with Suge Knight) and Cube writing Friday and working on his own material.

Eazy stayed with Jerry Heller until his girlfriend shows him proof that Heller played him dirty. Eazy finally got in touch with Dre and Cube to let them know he was no longer with Heller so they could cut an album together and bring the old group back. Unfortunately by then Eazy’s hard partying ways came back to haunt him, as he fell ill to HIV and eventually dying of AIDS at the age of 31.

The actors who portrayed the group members did a great job. Jason Mitchell played Eazy-E, and his mannerisms and way of speaking were on point. And of course, O’Shea Jackson, Jr. had his pops down cold.

Unfortunately in this movie, women are portrayed in a very negative light or barely seen at all. Obviously there is no mention of the physical abuse Dre inflicted on his ex-girlfriend and lablemate Michel’le as well as television host Dee Barnes. And, in the many scenes of the party life women are just sex objects, to be played with and then tossed aside as the tour rolled on.

Dre has addressed the controversy recently, and I’ll give him credit for doing that. But to mention something about those situations as negative as they were would have given more realism to the film than only showing the positive. That’s life after all, it ain’t all positive all the time.

Anyway, I thought the movie was well acted and well written. One scene in particular really got me nostalgic for a pretty weird reason. Their first show is at a local Skateland. Young bloods may not know the significance of the place, but to this author it played a big role in my childhood. I spent many a Saturday and birthday parties for classmates at Skateland, and was so sad when they closed in favor of bingo parlors. That was messed up.

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