6 years ago

The Defiant Ones: HBO

The Defiant Ones remains essential viewing for any fan of popular music

Award-winning music documentary series premiered on Netflix on March 23, 2018

I Netflix binge-watched the 4-part music documentary series The Defiant Ones (aired originally July 9th through July 12th 2017 on HBO) last weekend, and I am writing this article with the classic 1992 Chronic album on the background…

It tells you the story of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre — one the son of a Brooklyn longshoreman, the other straight out of Compton.

In the 1990s, Dre and Jimmy Iovine met and developed a friendship that led to the creation of the Beats headphones and streaming service enterprise. We are being introduced to two hard working, american dreaming and money chasing entrepreneurs.

I honestly have to say this must one of the most well-produced, directed and edited documentary series I have seen this year, so far. It’s explosive, compelling, and provides us with a honest (sometimes one sided, too much time praising and mythologizing its subjects) comprehensive portrait of two american entrepreneurs and visionaries that illuminates both their colorful pasts and their historic influence on the US music industry.

You will be mesmerized and surprised a lot of all the albums that Iovine and Dr. Dre produced, and how the Interscope co-founders had to deal with the Death Row situation between the rivalry west, east coast.  Think of seeing the convergence of two worlds: hip-hop and rock music, black and white, generation X and baby boomer. Their remarkably successful partnership as producers, label owners and business executives has resulted in hits that truly shaped our western culture.

It was really great to see american Veteran filmmaker Allen Hughes (Menace II Society & American Pimp) as a Director, Writer and Executive Producer on the credits. Really loved the 1999 American Pimp doc. (Trailer) My personal top 10. It belongs in the all time classics list with almost all of Errol Morris, Michael Epstein, Ken Burns, John Pilger and Werner Herzog films. Both Menace II Society and American Pimp should be taken into the US National Film Registry (NFR).

Hughes artfully maintains a sense of awe and tension that vibrates throughout every chapter. Melanie McFarland – Salon.com

Hughes really went deep with the making of this documentary series. You feel it and see it on the screen; an honest culmination of years of work. Hughes, a true humble human being and passionate craftsman. Had the pleasure to meet him and his brother Albert Hughes personally, a couple of years ago in my hometown Amsterdam.


“Let’s start with Doug Pray, my partner on this and fellow executive producer, co-writer and editor. Our creative brother in this endeavor, who also co-wrote and edited, young gentleman by the name of Lasse Jarvi. These guys are off the charts brilliant, as far as their technique,” Hughes said. “It was like a rock band. We had a great drummer. I was the solo on vocals and Doug was on electric guitar. We’re all three music lovers and we’ve all done docs in that medium before, but never has the technique that was applied here been done before.” – indiewire.com

 “I knew both gentlemen for more than 25 years already and met them before they met each other,” Hughes says by phone from Ojai, California. “It wasn’t a normal documentary circumstance where you shoot your subject and then you go away. I was living with them essentially throughout the three-and-a-half-year process.” – consequenceofsound.net

Director Allen Hughes won a Grammy for the series, which originally aired on HBO.

Hughes also stated in the an interview that they planned to create a feature length version, but they quickly noticed there was too much material. So they turned it into four chapters. But Jimmy and Dre though thought that would be arrogant and self-indulgent. Hughes had to prove to them that not only was it not self-indulgent but also impossible to fit their entire stories into two hours. Initially the project was only supposed to take a year but Hughes ended up asking HBO for more time and they were great. Overall it took a little more than three and a half years to complete. Hughes began shooting in early 2014 and began conducting research and interviews simultaneously.


“One of my favorite documentaries of all time is The Battle Over Citizen Kane. The story of two child prodigies both doted on by their mothers, William Randolph Hearst and Orson Welles, and how the film destroyed them both. I looked at Dre and Jimmy in a similar way but instead of destroying each other they made each other. That documentary was my inspiration for me.” – Jalal Haddad – awardsdaily.com

How did you come up with the title The Defiant Ones?

The Defiant Ones was a 1958 film directed by Stanley Kramer starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis. It was about two escaped convicts who were handcuffed to each other, one black one white, and didn’t even like each other but the only way they were going to survive and win was to stick together.

The cinematography (Shane Daly / Charles Parish / Vincent Wrenn) is simply jaw-dropping. The beautiful original music of the series was composed by Atticus Ross, Claudia Sarne and Leopold Ross.

And it shares the same title theme music as the movie The Untouchables – The Strength of the Righteous by Ennio Morricone. Watch the brilliant opening for episode one, below:

The brilliantly chosen editing with the dual narrative works incredibly well (editors: Lasse Järvi & legend Doug Pray from Art & Copy), and archive footage with talking heads like Lady Gaga, Patti Smith, Trent Reznor, Puff Daddy, Gwen Stefani, Kendrick Lamar, and Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, and everyone in between.

The archive footages takes you through of a sea of changes in the american music industry over the past 40 years, culminating in rap’s emergence as the dominant force in popular music. The film begins at the end – when the two sold Beats to Apple for a reported $3.2 billion in 2014. While Iovine has more or less managed to maintain his privacy throughout his 45-year career, Dre has had to fight for his, avoiding interviews wherever possible and keeping the intricacies of his musical process to himself.

It won Best Music Film at Grammys after its US release, and maintains a 92% record on Rotten Tomatoes ahead of its release on Netflix this week in Europe.

25 Greatest Songs Produced by Dr. Dre and Jimmy lovine – by Mosi Reeves – RollingStone.com 

My favourite part in the series is seeing Dr. Dre investing and building a school complex in compton. Dr. Dre has committed $10 million dollars to the construction of a performing arts center for one of his hometown’s high schools, the Compton Unified School District. The center, which will boast creative resources and a 1,200-seat theater, will be a part of the new Compton High School, and is expected to break ground in 2020.

The Defiant Ones is on Netflix now