Author Topic: OG Hip-Hop Director Allen Hughes on Cracking Dre in “The Defiant Ones”  (Read 1192 times)

Offline imchills

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In the 1993 film Menace II Society, when protagonist Caine car jacks a stranger for his rims in line at a drive-thru, he slips in the passenger seat and, gun in hand, demands the driver order him a cheeseburger. The terror of this broad-daylight robbery is undercut by the inanity of the request, the irrationality of the entire stickup exposed. The scene is coolly smart, unpacking hood ethics, community decay, and the absurdity of insufficiency in a single snapshot—as rap often does. Compton rapper MC Eiht’s “Streiht Up Menace” plays faintly from the stereo, foreshadowing the ruin in store for Caine. Down to the speech and the jewelry, the moment was quintessentially hip-hop—and the movie unprecedented in its ability to not only transmit on gangsta rap’s frequency, but speak its language.

Menace turned out the way it did largely because of Allen and Albert Hughes. The brothers started making music videos for Tupac and N.W.A out of high school, which soon led to directing movies. They received widespread recognition in their twenties for Menace (their debut) and went on to direct feature films like Dead Presidents and Book of Eli, as well as the 1999 documentary American Pimp, a close-up view of the pimp game.

With his newest project, Allen Hughes found a certain symmetry with his early work. “The Defiant Ones,” airing this week on HBO, is a four-part docuseries detailing the seemingly unlikely partnership between Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Dre and Iovine founded Beats Electronics together in 2006 (and sold it to Apple in 2014), but their alliance dates back to Dre’s days on Death Row Records, where Iovine, then an Interscope executive, provided distribution and oversight. When Dre left Death Row, he launched Aftermath Records with Interscope. And it was Iovine who brought Eminem to Dre’s attention, leading to a joint deal on both labels. Hughes used finely cut, conversational interviews and rare archival footage to chronicle this decades-old team-up. He recently spoke with Pitchfork about corralling a story this vast, containing the charisma of his old friend Tupac, and learning not to be embarrassed by Menace’s hip-hop legacy.

Pitchfork: Describe the path that led you to make “The Defiant Ones.”

Allen Hughes: I’m a child of rap music. When I was 15 or 16, N.W.A came out with Straight Outta Compton, right in time for us. We needed that energy. I remember ‘88 when “Yo! MTV Raps” came out, I was in high school. So, out of high school we started making music video for these guys: Tupac, some stuff with N.W.A, and Digital Underground. And then obviously came Menace II Society; we were fortunate enough to get that going less than a year after making videos. We were probably some of the first filmmakers directly born out of hip-hop culture. We were 20 years old making a movie about, essentially, 18 and 20 year olds. So the urgency of that film, the angst and the visceral nature of it, came out of our experience.

I think I can draw a straight line—me and my brother had a career together and we’ve worked separately—but I can jump over everything and go right to American Pimp in ’99, which was our first documentary. When I started sitting down with pimps, the reason why they opened up so easily was because it was like talking to a cousin or a brother. The lexicon was the same. It was street. It was hip-hop. It was uniquely black. So they talked to me like they talk to their homie.

I’m biracial. I’m half-Armenian, half-black, and you have to ride that fence that Barack Obama talked about eight years ago. You’re never really welcomed into one side completely and that makes you have a special view of both sides, I think. So, [taking on] this project, I just put in all of my insights about culture and color—and when I say color, I mean that in many different ways. From those music videos to Menace to American Pimp to now, [the commonality is that] I want to talk to people the way they talk to their best friend. But I also developed a rule: When we’re cutting any story, if grandma wouldn’t understand it, it's not going to be in the movie. I didn’t take for granted that people would know who Tupac or Tom Petty is—the stories have got to be great no matter what.


Offline Mastrmynd

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The Defiant Ones is the truth! I'm loving every episode. Brilliant and well done.

Listen to my entertaining radio show, "The Takeover: Top 20 Countdown" at

Right on to the real and death to the fakers!  Peace out!