We’ve long known that Dr Dre is a perfectionist. We’ve heard the stories of him obsessing over using multiple MPC’s to get the perfect layered beats, asking rappers to repeat lines several times until they hit it on point and there’s even been controversy with former high profile Aftermath artists (Rakim, Dawn Robinson) who have struggled in working to Dre’s standards. As if that wasn’t enough to show us Dre’s superior commitment to quality, we’ve been waiting 10 years for Detox. 10 damn years. Though we’ve no doubt it’ll be worth it.
Then in 2008 Dr Dre took his perfectionism to new level when he founded Beats By Dr Dre (Beats Electronics LLC), a premium high performance headphones range in collaboration with Monster cable products. The aim was to make the best headphones in the world for producers, artists and fans, enabling them to hear every fine detail within a track. Dr Dre has stated that he wanted not only a pair of headphones that would meet his own demands in the studio when producing, but he wanted those listening to his music to be able to absorb and feel every sound. Like a crazed Hip Hop scientist, Dre went to work with Monster and they released an initial three versions of the headphones; the in ear Tour headphones, the lifestyle Solo headphones and the high end professional Studio headphones. The impressive high-power digital amplifier and powered noise-cancelling technology quickly caught the attention of fans, artists and producers across a variety of genres of music and the Beats By Dr Dre headphones have since spawned a number of new designs. Dr Dre’s involvement, in combination with the high resolution technology and marketing influence from Jimmy Iovine has set the audio world alight and seen the Monster Beats By Dre headphones become one of the most sought after audio items ever.
Not only have the Beats By Dr Dre headphones become a music lovers dream, their impact is so significant that they have become a fashion accessory, with selective product placement and additional celebrity endorsements providing additional feeling of exclusivity. Put simply, these are the headphones to buy in order to show your alliance with music and in particular, Hip Hop. The product placement for Beats By Dr Dre headphones has been so successful that it’s arguably opened up people’s eyes to additional revenue streams that can be made through music videos. With the music industry currently in a stage of financial uncertainty, the financial aspect of product placement is beneficial to both the artists and brand. Best of all though, it could mean that artists will lend more time in creating innovative music videos, which for our YouTube generation, may just be the spark we needed to stop us from falling deep into a low-budget video slumber which has been threatening the downfall of the music video forever.
Earlier this year, Dr Dre sold 51% of his share in Beats Electronics for $309 million (£190 million) HTC in one of the biggest audio equipment deals in recent times. HTC have said they they will aim to take the technology which has made the headphones so successful, develop it further and start introducing it into smart phones.
Other headphones manufacturers such as Skull Candy headphones and Philips headphones have since benefited from the increase in exposure for customised and high quality headphones, though no company had yet managed to attract the same interest or diverse audience managed by Beats By Dre.
With Beats By Dr Dre headphones likely to be one of the most sought after item this Christmas, a temporary Beats By Dr Dre store has been opened in lower Manhattan, highlighting the demand for this product. The store is situated on 67 Greene Street in a district known for high end fashion stores and will be open until January 15th 2011. The store allows music fans to get their hands on a wide range of customised Beats By Dre headphones which will provide even greater exclusivity. The store will also sell additional Beats merchandise and audio equipment in what is seen by many as a trial run for a longer term plan to open stores across the globe. Jimmy Iovine also noted that the store allows music lovers to come into the store and buy directly, rather than risk being ripped off by online bootleggers who are creating low quality replicas. Hip Hop artist T.I, producer Will.I.Am and NFL player Aaron Rodgers were some of the first to receive their customised Beats By Dre headphones. We could be on the verge of a professional, high end Hip Hop version of the Apple store.
TODAY it has been announced that the Beats By Dr Dre executive headphones are to be released in time for Christmas. The sophisticated over ear headphones are tailored towards the street smart businessman, we like that approach. The stunning design is aimed at the high end market and include a brushed metal finish around the caps and B logo. Noise-cancellation technology also features whilst we also get an automatic shut off features which shuts down the the battery when the headphones aren’t in use. The leather headband and collapsible ear buds from the Studio range also features in what is likely to be a sought after pair of headphones for professionals audio enthusiasts alike. There’s no word on price or release date just yet, but you can register your interest in the headphones at beatsexecutive.com.
Hip Hop is all about the desire to be able to create something fresh, innovative, ground breaking and relevant. From being able to stand out in your neighbourhood for your chosen skill and being the best at your selected art. Hip Hop for a long time was, and still is quite misunderstood. Those who live by the morals and values of Hip Hop will know that it’s easy to become absorbed and lose hours of your time with just a set of headphones and a drum machine or iPod. There’s something more personable about Hip Hop than any other genre and that intimacy of bridging of the gap between a Hip Hop artist and the streets he came from. That same intimacy is felt when you wrap on a pair of headphones and head on your morning commute to work. Headphones offer an escapism from that misrepresentation of mainstream media. They allow the Hip Hop fan their very own world which they understand and don’t necessarily feel the need to share or expose to those who don’t. Headphones are the mobile basketball court in which you can just kick back, be yourself and not worry about what else is happening around you.
In terms of music production, hearing a range of frequencies through sampling and being able to feel that moody bass below those crystal clear hi hats is incredibly important.At the launch of the Beats By Dr Dre store, Jimmy Iovine stated the following, “We want the customer to understand the idea behind Beats, the emotion of sound, the feeling of sound, we want them to understand it’s about the emotional art effect, it’s like music, film, a comic book, Beats is cultural, it’s relevant, it’s real. We want people to learn about why it sounds that way, the narrative. It’s really a way to tell our sound story.”
The Beats By Dr Dre headphones are arguably suited best to the Hip Hop ear, and we thank Dr Dre, Monster and Jimmy Iovine for allowing the world to really hear Hip Hop for the first time.
Last week, 28 years after its original release, Scarface hit a new high by announcing itself in Blu Ray format. Hip-Hop artists and fans rejoiced as Brian De Palma’s spectacular personification of one man’s rise and fall was given a new platform from which it could once again take on the world. So why has a film that was initially shot down upon its release, risen to become one of the most acclaimed movies of all time? More to the point, why is it that Scarface has unintentionally been taken under the wing of Hip-Hop and championed specifically, almost defensively, within Hip Hop culture? The association and bond between the movie and culture is so knowing, that it even defers the interest of curious film lovers who don’t like Hip Hop. Now that’s a crime.
For the information of those non Hip-Hop fans I just referred to, Tony Montana is the soul bought to you by Al Pacino. It’s both the character’s background and Pacino’s ability to bring life through his own vision and experience which make Montana such a relatable character. I’m of the opinion that a lot is owed to Pacino, for there is a little of Tony Montana in him, meaning that only he could deliver this performance. Only Pacino could speak those lines with conviction, he didn’t need a script, the words were already feelings he had been through and this was his outlet. See by 1983, Pacino had been through that rags to riches journey himself. He grew up in the South Bronx and experienced a difficult early life, with his Father leaving home and Mother dying at a young age. Pacino also left school at 17 and worked a number of low paid jobs in order to fund his time as an aspiring and ever learning stage actor. He experienced rejection, after not being accepted into the Actors Studio and often found himself in the position of not knowing where his next meal or shelter would come from. Yet, he continued to strive and his hunger for acting combined withPacino meeting teacher Charlie Houghton through the Herbert Berghof Studio gave him all the fuel he needed. Over the next 15 years, Pacino’s performances in films such as The Godfather 1 & 2, Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico would propel him onto a level incomprehendable to him. From the streets, to stardom. The world was his. Sound familiar?
Now for those that don’t know the story of Tony Montana, he was a Cuban refugee who arrived in Miami as part of the Mariel Boatlift movement. He wanted to make money and with his street sense he quickly associated himself with one of the most profitable industries during the 1980’s – cocaine shifting. He ruthlessly hustles his way to the top in search of “…the world, and everything in it”. His rapid rise to the top overshadowed only by his gloriously dramatic demise. I won’t talk too much further about the actual movie here because, the movie says it better than I can, so go watch it!
Now Hip-Hop started out as the movement of the underdog. The media, journaists and music snobs, said it wouldn’t last, that it was just a passing phase that it had no substance. Not the right look or sound to to maintain any longevity. Hip-Hop laughed. The synchronised 5 elements intertwined creating a whirlwind of music that smashed through social, political, racial and human barriers from the late 80’s through the present day. It became a multi billion dollar industry. Though it too has become a victim of its own success, with all of its ambition giving birth to controversy. Some argue that it became too commercial, that it sold itself out, that quite simply, it got high on its own supply. It lost its focus and the very drive behind the movment could have been used to better effect. The beauty of that is, it’s up for debate. However what is clear is that there is a direct, transparent reflection between the real life of Al Pacino, the climatic accession of Montana and the life to date of the Hip Hop community.
Any Hip Hop fan reading this, will at this point be able to reference at least a handful of artists whose very lives have reflected this cinematic structure. Jay-Z, Biggie, Tupac, Eminem and Russell Simmons are just a few examples of those whose lives within Hip-Hop have too taken them from street corners and trailor parks to becoming icons, moguls and all out superstars. Not without controvery, of course.
There’s a common misconception that one of the main reasons the Hip-Hop community loves Scarface is because of the parallels in violence and drugs. Sure, to some there is that association and for good reason. However, hopefully this piece goes some way to identifying and highlighting the deeper intricacies. This film does not glorify drug use. Anyone with an ounce of sense will understand that. Pun intended. In fact, as time goes on it could be argued that Hip-Hop is starting to become less drug orientated, taking lesson from the fact that certain heights can’t be reached when high.
The Hip-Hop mentality of being able to produce something from nothing, about writing rhymes to kill time and surviving on nothing but your word and drive echoes that of Scarface. But there are also similarities in the obstacles that Hip Hop artists and professionals face when trying to reach their goals. Montana viciously killed off his competition. He made his way through a world of corruption based solely on his own instinct. Though ultimately his self involvement and egocentricity, combined with his ongoing reliance upon cocaine for escapsim affected his closest relationships with best friend Manny and wife Elvira. The same happens when an artist starts to receive exposure and recognition. Their relationships with mentors and friends change or they themselves struggle in adapting with the acceleration of their lifestyle. Paranoia sets in and something has to give.
Then there’s the dramatic ending. Going out with a bang. For those reading this who haven’t seen the movie, I won’t give anything away, but Hip-Hop too is all too familiar with ugly finales. A Hip-Hop fan will follow an artist almost religiously until their untimely demise, incarceration or unrivalled success. They watch Tony Montana in the same way, inspired by his determination and journey and then intrigued and mystified by his downfall.
So there we have it, hopefully this has gone some way to explaining that there is more to Hip-Hop’s love affair with Scarface than purely coke and guns.