The Defiant Ones is a HBO show currently available on Netflix. The show revolves around Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre and tells the story of both of them coming up from completely different backgrounds and successes and failures they enjoyed along the way.
I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of what is contained in the show, but the story is compelling and its weaved together in such a way as to pull the viewer in and it just keeps bouncing along. As happens with anything good on Netflix, you binge watch it over a day or two and it’s done. You know its good when it’s one am in the morning and you’re on your couch and you can’t stop yourself from putting on the next episode.
It’s a documentary in several parts which a huge number of music stars have contributed to in the form of long interviews. One of the things that is revealed, which would not be apparent to armchair music fans like me, who like music but aren’t regular readers of Rolling Stone, is the incredible web of talent that Jimmy Iovine has been involved with, everything from Bruce Springsteen, U2, to Gwen Stefani, Nine-Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. Each of them make a meaningful contribution to the show although some make a more involved contribution than others, Bono, I’m looking at you.
The other thing it shed some light on for me that I was not particularly aware of is the whole East Coast / West Coast Rap rivalry thing that took place in the late 90’s and early 00’s. I was aware of it vaguely but the show gets into some detail that again, unless you were reading Rolling Stone or were massively into hip-hop, you won’t be aware of.
Backed by an amazing soundtrack of hits from the RnB and Rock and Pop world, the show is as much a feast for the ears as it is for the eyes. You’ll find yourself humming along over and over again to songs by artists you weren’t aware were even vaguely connected.
If I was to make a minor criticism, it is certainly a bit hagiographic, especially in relation to Dr. Dre. and Snoop Dogg. Both men have a chequered past, violence against women, shootings, and jail time, which while covered and talked about, are moved on from fairly quickly and sort of brushed away a little bit under the guise of that was back then, or that was a crazy time. It’s also worth noting that the death of 2-Pac is covered but the death of Biggy Small is completely ignored, I’m not sure why. It certainly fits with the narrative of violence and gangster lifestyle that the show largely revolves around. It strikes me that it was a decision made by a lawyer somewhere and there is tape related to it on a cutting room floor somewhere.
One of the interesting narratives that comes through is the repeated end of humanity that seems to come around with each new generation of musicians that become popular. Gangster Rap was corrupting the youth, then Nine Inch Nails, then Marilyn Manson, then Eminem. It goes back further than that of course, right back to the 50’s when Rock & Roll was being described as Satan’s music by the church, but it is interesting to see it laid out in sequence as it is in this show. It’s one of the criticisms of modern music is that it’s not offensive to middle aged white guys as I have become. My teenager listens to nothing that I find vaguely offensive, because that music just doesn’t get made anymore. Why? Because Spotify and Apple Music and the likes don’t want the controversy and are happy making billions selling Justin Timberlake and Ed Sheeran records. Anyway, I digress.
Ed Rating: 9/10
Fabulously entertaining, it sucks you in and as with all good shows on Netflix, you can’t help yourself but to watch several episodes in a row late into the early hours of the morning. Is it perfect, no it’s not. But it is a ripping good watch and you won’t regret putting a few hours into it.