Despite the melodramatic title it's a revealing look at the west coast gangsta rap story, centering around Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Iovine formed Interscope Records, which ended up partnering with Suge Knight and Death Row to produce some groundbreaking music in the midst of some serious carnage. While it focuses on the key players it's really a story about a company and an industry. It's a compelling story, and they manage to make business deals and the evolution of the music industry come to life.
One surprising reveal is how obsessively detail-oriented the producers are about music that tries to look spontaneous and improvised. Hundreds of takes, thousands of hours in the studio, very similar to the big label approach to pop music where Iovine got his start. It features a lot of interviews with the musicians that he worked with as a recording engineer and producer early in his career and that's fascinating. Bruce Springsteen comes across as quite the prima donna, Stevie Nicks, Patty Smith, and Tom Petty come across a lot better. None of them talk about the influence this style of recording has on the music business, but that's something most people don't care about so it's understandable why they don't go there. They give Iovine credit for propping up the career of Gwen Stefani but don't discuss what it means to all the artists who don't sell millions of records but still have something to say.
But even on the stories they cover it's not a complete picture. This is history told by the winners. The filmmakers seek out some reactions from the opposite sides of conflicts.but they don't get much time on screen and this isn't about their side of the story. While Dre comes across as hard on himself he isn't coming clean about everything. Some of this may be because that would put him in prison, but he has an image to maintain and his career depends on that image.
Iovine seems a bit more self-serving, at least when it comes to Death Row Records. Millions of dollars changed hands. Real people died. It got seriously ugly and Iovine spends only a few seconds pondering his part in that. His management style is being up to his neck in the details of his projects, constantly on the phone and in touch with the players. How could he stay ignorant of the goings-on in Suge's office?
They document the death of Tupac Shakur during the east coast/west coast feud, but not the death of Biggie Smalls. They don't go into the details of Suge's arrest or trial, he just disappears from the narrative, an inconvenient detail.
Otherwise it's worth watching, especially as a companion to the fictionalized Straight Outa Compton, which has similar blind spots and focuses almost exclusively on the members of NWA. I hope to hear a lot more of this story, but I suspect a lot of it went to the grave with some innocent bystanders and minor players.
the original "Blade Runner" is one of my favorite sci-fi movies, I have the Directors Cut on dvd somewhere around here, so Oct 6 is duly noted along with May 19, another "Alien", that original is a big time fravorite also, I'm not a fan of sci-fi for sci-fi sakes, "Blade Runner" and "Alien" both had very good stories and they all of a sudden are relevant today. .