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Arts & Culture

And the ‘Beats’ Goes On: Allen Hughes’ Intimate Portrait of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine in HBO’s ‘The Defiant Ones’ [VIDEO]

There is no doubt that Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s cultural contributions as music producers and entrepreneurs have transformed the landscape of both the music and tech industries. The complete breadth of their meteoric rise—both independently as creatives driven by a passion for music, and together as a dynamic entrepreneurial duo—is impeccably captured via filmmaker Allen Hughes’ original, vivacious storytelling for the four-part HBO docuseries The Defiant Ones.

Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre from the official trailer for The Defiant Ones. (Screenshot Source: YouTube, User: HBO)

Jimmy and Dre as Architects of Contemporary Culture

Hughes’ The Defiant Ones provides an empirical look at the professional evolution of Dr. Dre, founder and CEO of Aftermath Entertainment, and Jimmy Iovine, co-founder of Interscope Records, illustrating their ascension to modern-day mogul status. An unconventional “pursuit of the American Dream” narrative, Hughes says he was inspired by Jimmy and Dre’s ability to keenly focus on their own gifts and talents, leveraging all the qualities that made them unique to make their dreams come true. Their success as record producers and entrepreneurs is proof that mastery of this can ultimately create a foundation for high achievement for anyone in any industry.

“They [Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine] taught me that identifying what your gift is or your passion, putting blinders on, and just focusing on that while tuning out everything else is the quickest way from A to B in becoming a success,” Hughes said, in his interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE.

The docuseries highlights both Dre and Jimmy’s fearless approach to identifying fresh, raw talent as well as their relentless work ethic. While seemingly very different men, it’s clear that Jimmy and Dre’s mutual appreciation for pushing creative boundaries to challenge the status quo has paved the way to their success in the music industry. As sound engineers and music producers, each has had their hands in crafting the iconic melodies that define the generational soundtrack for the latter half of the 20th century and the new millennium. Their inherent ability to look past the trends of “the now” in order to cultivate the sound of the future is what enabled Jimmy and Dre to nurture the careers of numerous groundbreaking artists, such as Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and N.W.A; U2, Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, No Doubt, Snoop Dogg, Stevie Nicks, Tupac Shakur, Lady Gaga, and many others.

As entrepreneurs, the successful launch of Beats Electronics and Beats Music modernized platforms for music consumption, raising the bar of expectation for how we hear and process sound by simply enhancing how we listen to music. Not to mention, Apple’s procurement of the Beats empire back in 2014 is still considered the largest business acquisition in history, reportedly costing the tech giant a cool $3 billion; thus validating Jimmy’s initial instinct to “f*** sneakers and do speakers” as right on the money—literally and figuratively.

Like Eminem tells Hughes in the film, “Jimmy Iovine is the levitator; Dre is the innovator.” Independently, Dre and Jimmy have each demonstrated their musical genius and entrepreneurial prowess. However, when they come together and their powers combine, they are an unparalleled force to be reckoned with. From fostering the careers of some of the greatest artists of all time, to their shared entrepreneurial coup with Beats’ acquisition, Jimmy and Dre have done more than just move the needle of culture. In fact, I would venture to say that they’ve taken that needle and scratched it across the turntables of life, tattooing an incredible legacy into cultural consciousness by forging this revolutionary path of their own design.

One-on-One With Allen Hughes About HBO’s ‘The Defiant Ones’

But why take my word for it, when you can hear straight from the mastermind behind the film? Check out BLACK ENTERPRISE‘s exclusive interview with Allen Hughes, director and executive producer of The Defiant Ones.

(Source: YouTube, User: Black Enterprise)

Dr. Dre Amps Up the Soundtrack

Though the soundtrack for The Defiant Ones is rich with nostalgia, after a brief hiatus as a solo artist, the film’s release has given Dr. Dre a great opportunity to debut some new music. Check out his latest single “Gunfiyah,” featured in Part One of the four-part series.

(Source: YouTube, User: Beats 1)

To learn more about The Defiant Ones, click here. For more information about how and where to watch the HBO docuseries, click here.

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Ne-Yo Discusses the Fine Line Between Tech and Entertainment

In the wake of the backlash against Silicon Valley over the lack of diversity in the tech industry, several tech companies have made an effort to open doors to more people of color. For example, at this year’s American Black Film Festival (ABFF), Google hosted a panel discussion titled Decoding Tech: The Next Generation of STEAM Professionals, which addressed the importance of technology as it pertains to entertainment and diversity as a whole.

Google (From the Decoding Tech: The Next Generation of STEAM Professionals panel, presented by Google, during ABFF 2017. Image: Courtesy of ABFF.)

Held at the Betsy Hotel in Miami, BLACK ENTERPRISE Editor-in-Chief Derek Dingle kicked off the panel with opening remarks. Then, Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, head of black community engagement at Google, introduced the panelists, which included Ne-Yo, a Grammy award-winning musician and tech investor; Mekka Okereke, an engineering manager at Google; Emmie Louis, a core team member from Black Girls Code; and Marcella Araica, an award-winning mixing engineer. The panel was moderated by Daraiha Greene, Google’s multicultural strategy lead on CS education in media.

During the discussion, panelists addressed the integration of technology with arts and media, and how this combination has impacted their careers. They also spoke about what it means to be a person of color who works in the tech industry. Ne-Yo argued that part of the reason why there weren’t more people of color working in the tech was due to a lack of knowledge regarding the prerequisites for hiring within this industry, as well as a general lack of awareness about what the industry has to offer overall. An investor in the Holberton School, Ne-Yo actively helps facilitate the education of underrepresented minority youth on tech fundamentals.

“Little boys from the hood don’t say, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to be a coder,’” he said during the panel, adding that though these children might be playing video games, they are not making them. “But, I’m trying to change that,” he continued.

Google (Ne-Yo and Marcella Araica. Image: Courtesy of ABFF)

Okereke also revealed that he has experienced racial profiling in the tech industry, even while walking around the Google campus where he works. Additionally, Greene stressed the importance of spotlighting people of color in tech, and not just for the sake of modifying the current perception of the tech industry. If these achievements were highlighted on a more consistent basis, then these people could serve as positive role models for minority youth to look up to. This could, in turn, could encourage more children of color to explore tech as a plausible future career path.

In an interview following the discussion, Butterfield-Jones, an organizer of the panel, told BLACK ENTERPRISE why Google decided to sponsor this year’s ABFF, stating that the purpose of the panel was to demonstrate “the range of opportunities for people of color in tech.”

“We wanted to demystify what it means to work in the tech industry. Whether someone aspires to be a music producer, or an engineer in the television and film industry; there is a space for you to do that in the tech world. If you think about the television and film industry, you guys are the gatekeepers to our community. So, if we want to change the face of tech, we have to consider strong media partnerships. ABFF is the destination to go, if you want to engage with talented filmmakers, television producers, executives, and writers,” Butterfield-Jones said.

“I hope every attendee walked away [from this panel] with a better understanding of how they can work in the tech industry—not just as an employee, but also as an entrepreneur,” she added.

Google (From left to right: Derek T. Dingle, Daraiha Greene, Ne-Yo, Marcella Araica, Mekka Okereke, Emmie Louis, and Valeisha Butterfield-Jones. Image: Courtesy of ABFF)Original Link

Alton Glass Debuts New Virtual Reality Film at American Black Film Festival (ABFF)

Alton Glass (Image: File)

Back in 2014, Alton Glass’ groundbreaking drama CRU made history at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) Independent Film Awards when it took home a win in each category it was nominated for, including Best Film and Best Director. Three years later, the award-winning filmmaker returned to the annual festival to break new ground yet again with his virtual reality movie, A Little Love, which premiered Saturday, June 17, 2017.

The story of A Little Love explores the themes of love, family, and adventure, and stars actors Kellita Smith and Dorien Wilson. Watch Glass summarize the plot of the film in the video clip below:

Although the majority of the films screened at ABFF were shot via a standard camera, Glass’ VR film uses a combination of live-action and animation footage to leverage innovative VR technology in a way that completely immerses viewers in a 360° experience. In turn, this enables the audience to feel part of the narrative itself.

“Seeing the audience watch A Little Love for the first time was really awesome,” Glass says, in an interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE.“They were looking all around, laughing, and just fully transported into this experience. I think that this was something very different for them to experience at a film festival [and] at ABFF, and I think that they loved it.”

Along with providing the audience with an exclusive VR experience, the accompanying panel included a Q&A about the convergence of technology, media, and entertainment, which featured Glass as well as VR experts and television executives. During the talkback session, Glass opened up about being one of the few African American pioneers in the VR filmmaking landscape.  He also spoke about his decision to explore VR filmmaking, after directing a number of highly acclaimed movies like The Confidant (2010), starring Boris Kodjoe and David Banner; and The Mannsfield 12 (2007), which was acquired by BET.

“What inspired me to create a narrative in virtual reality like this, was being able to see someone like myself—for people of color or diversity—inside of an experience in virtual reality,” Glass says. “I’ve never seen anything where I felt like I was there—[in the film]— with people that looked like me. So, I felt compelled to make that piece.”

The celebrated director also explained why he chose to premiere his VR movie during the five-day festival. “It was important for me to debut this film at ABFF because one, ABFF has very supportive throughout my career,” Glass says, also adding that secondly, A Little Love is one of the first VR films to feature people of color.

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Despite Demise of ‘Underground’ and ‘The Get Down,’ Demand for Multicultural Content Grows

I was recently invited to speak on a panel at the Horowitz Research Cultural Insights Forum. At first, I felt I might just be a fish out of water; I’m a marketer and not necessarily a media type (yet). However, I soon realized that I had found my tribe—my #squad.

Throughout the afternoon, the conversation centered on terms that made my heart race, like “multicultural content,” “intersectional storytelling,” polycultural networks. There was also talk of the need for more diversity within the ranks. Some of the takeaways from this discussion included ways to best determine where content belongs, who will consume it, how to deliver it, and what it takes to make consumers want to tune in whenever, wherever, and, in many cases, on-demand.

The Demand for Multicultural Content

The conversation that took place at this forum reminded me of the WGN series Underground. The network announced that it will cancel the original, scripted show after only two seasons, according to Variety.

Some volunteered Oprah to take over the show, however, Winfrey said that even she could not afford to air this content on OWN. With a $5 million price tag, Underground required a larger budget for even OWN’s Queen Sugar. BET declined as well.

(Image: WGN America)

These niche and highly targeted programs seem to cost a bundle to make. Take, for instance, one of my favorites—which I remain in mourning over—The Get Down on Netflix. This show was also recently canceled after only one season, according to a report from realitytvworld.com.

(Image: Netflix)

The Challenges of Creating Multicultural Content

These shows seem to be biting the dust for the same reason: a lofty production price tag. With elaborate, choreographed musical scenes that basically functioned as mini-musicals smacked right in the middle of the show, and animated vignettes that operated as nostalgic throwbacks to Fat Albert, how sustainable could one expect a show to really be?

Yet, the demand for such multicultural content remains high. Those actors on The Get Down, for instance, portrayed characters who were Puerto Rican; they were black; they were white; some were even homosexual or queer. They represented everything and everyone. And because the show took place at the moment in America’s history when disco gave way to hip hop, the show spoke to a wide audience, developing a steady cult following.

However,  production for The Get Down cost a steep $120 million. It was split into two parts, to make us feel like we got a little more than we actually did. That is a staggering cost, especially for a platform like Netflix, which does not rely on the traditional advertising models that other networks enjoy.

So, how do you make up the cost for subscription-based, commercial-free content? There’s no doubt that services like Netflix and Hulu will eventually crack this code, and when they do—watch out.

How do I know?

We Are Starving for Diverse Content

Horowitz’s SVP of Insights & Strategy Adriana Waterston moderated the panel Alternative Voices, Alternative Narratives, with Jeffrey Bowman, Jennifer Randolph, and myself.

Adriana Waterston moderates the panel “Alternative Voices, Alternative Narratives,” with Jeffrey Bowman, Jennifer Randolph, and Michelle L. Smith, during the Cultural Insights Forum in New York City. (Image: John Fuentes, Horowitz Research)

According to Waterston:

  • Multicultural households are the hungriest for content. They are multicultural and intersectional, meaning they check more than one box in the diversity spectrum. They are looking for content they can relate to.
  • These new mass market viewers are “content omnivores”: they use a combination of cable and streaming services, thus are corded while also being cord cutters. As such, most have to pay cable television services for the content that can’t be found on streaming services, like network and local news, in addition to also having services like Sling, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Netflix. They use these streaming services to consume the niche content that is tough to find on broadcast networks, such as highly curated storytelling that speaks to a narrowly targeted audience.
  • As the most multicultural adult generation, 18% of millennials are cord cutters, and stream most of their content.
  • The audience of content omnivore consumers want it all. Therefore, when it comes to successful storytelling, it is all about the narrative itself.

This hungry audience isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it will continue to grow and crave content. I myself fit squarely into this content profile—currently, I’m binge watching Dear White People and Master of None on Netflix.

Vying for Multicultural Eyeballs

There is a bit of a race to see who can fail fast, course correct, and win for these multicultural eyeballs. Some networks and streaming services are betting millions and millions per show on the prospect of reaching this overlooked viewer. Other networks and services honestly don’t know what they are missing out on, but they will need to figure it out—and fast. Those 2012 babies in Gen Z that are no longer in the minority are here—mine is hooked on the American Girl movies on Amazon and Netflix.

Diversity drives pop culture. I say that “black is the new black”—and so is brown. It explains the mass market appeal of shows like Empire and Blackish, and why Zee Mundo has been able to share Spanish-language Bollywood movies to great success. That’s intersectionality at its best.

My Prediction Going Forward

I think that Underground will eventually get picked back up. If so, based on research, it will most likely be by an over-the-top service like Hulu—if they are smart, and have the cash and model to support and sustain it. If and when that happens, I will look forward to adding Underground to my binge-watching list.

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