Jimmy Iovine has five decades in the music industry and is one of the most successful businessmen working today. He was a game changer, and in HBO’s “The Defiant Ones,” produced by filmmaker/storyteller Allen Hughes, he lays it all out for the world to see.
What struck me—and I mean hard—is the strong message that Iovine has for the dreamers in this world, especially the lazy ones who are allowing fear to bind them up. In my opinion, Iovine cares and I have never, personally, associated a wealthy person—particularly a wealthy white male—with wanting anyone of color to find the very best of themselves.
So when “the Jimmy Iovine” walked into the New York HBO conference room, I was taken by surprise by his open and friendly nature.
There is something alluring about Iovine. Let me rewind to highlight this point. When I arrived at the HBO lobby reception area, two attractive women of color grinned like Cheshire cats and informed me that “he” had just arrived. Jimmy Iovine—the rock star!
High above the rushing city, inside an HBO conference room, the legendary man walked in, on time, with his personal publicist trailing, just a few feet behind him.
Iovine was dressed in a chic, tight-fitting black jacket that was so dope that a compliment slid out of my mouth before I could catch it.
“Oh, my goodness, Jimmy, you are wearing that jacket,” I purred.
He smiled and looking down, he ran his finger over the shimmering fabric, “I just came back from Howard Stern and he didn’t compliment,” Iovine replied.
“Clearly Howard can’t see quality,” I said. Iovine smiled and we were off.
Here is an excerpt from the interview with Iovine.
AmNews: Why did you finally agree to make “The Defiant Ones” with Allen Hughes at the helm?
Iovine: I want to be of service. For me if it wasn’t (“The Defiant Ones”) going to be productive and help young people understand how to get off your ass after you’ve been knocked down, you know what I mean…how to get over fear…how to make mistakes, then why make it. We had no interest unless it could be of service.
AmNews: Episode 1 opens with a bang, using the infamous Facebook “leak” by Dr. Dre and Tyrese where they spilled the beans about the Apple Deal for Dre By Beats Headphones. That was 2014.
Iovine: (smiling) Exactly. We start off with one of the most embarrassing moments we had in a long time, because young people must understand—you must get up when you get knocked down. Understand?
AmNews: Understood. You got fired, a lot, in the beginning. Yet your resume is packed with legends. You eventually became a recording engineer working with John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen.
Iovine: I did three albums with John.
AmNews: And then came the boss, Bruce Springsteen.
Iovine: Bruce taught me my work ethic. What a time! His record label [Sony] wanted to drop him and everyone knew it. Bruce was so driven! It was his vision. It had to be the album he wanted to put out.
AmNews: Success started to stick. Eventually, you started Interscope Records and in walks an up-and-coming rapper Dr. Dre. Gangsta rap was like wild-wild west. Were you scared?
Iovine: Sure, in a lot of ways, it was terrifying but I was not going back. That was not an option.
AmNews: How did a walk on the beach turn an idea into a billion-dollar deal with Apple for Beats?
Iovine: Dre was being asked to back some sneaker deal. I said, “Dre, fuck sneakers…let’s make speakers,” and that’s what we did. And Dre said, “let’s call it Beats.”
AmNews: The Beats brand was purchased by Apple (2014) for a reported $3 billion. You and Dre are part of the executives shaping their future of the brand. So what’s next?
Iovine: Great question. The Apple streaming is important to us. We are at 30 million people right now. We are going to take it all the way. We want to make it unique. Right now, it’s not unique enough. It’s not of service—enough!
AmNews: What does “of service” mean?
Iovine: Great question. It means that that you spend $10, I have got to be more than a utility for you. I have to learn your taste, I have to give you recommendations of what to listen to and I have to be right. I have to let you know what’s coming down the pike, that’s new, to what you like. I have to be a part of your life. We are getting there and we are going to get there first.
The HBO docuseries “The Defiant Ones,” Episode 1 of 4, premieres July 9.