updated 06:30 pm EDT, Fri June 6, 2014
Music mogul relies heavily on gut instinct, highly opinionated, shuns publicity
The Wall Street Journal on Friday published a profile of hip-hop artist and producer Andre Young, better known as Dr. Dre -- whose company, Beats Electronics, has been sold to Apple for $3 billion, pending regulatory approval. The article paints Young as an obsessive, thoughtful talent who relies heavily on taste and instinct rather than market research, with one colleague describing the 49-year-old as a "cultural barometer" of what is in vogue, with great development skills and strong intuition.
Young, who has tended to favor more behind-the-scenes roles in music production than a spotlight role as a performer over the last decade, has also taken a secondary role behind partner Jimmy Iovine in the promotion of his Beats brand. It is mostly Iovine who speaks on behalf of the brand, and Iovine's long relationship with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and later with Eddy Cue is said to have been key to the recent acquisition.
However, it is clear that Apple is also relying on Young to help guide Apple's efforts in retaining the youth demographic, staying trendy and "cool" with both existing and new customers. He is shown in the profile to be highly opinionated on a wide variety of topics, and has an intuitive sense of what will work well or look good alongside an understated personal image.
"But Dr. Dre's process is mysterious, colleagues say: His assessments are usually immediate, personal and articulated sparely," the newspaper reports. "He often dismisses ideas such as posing for clichéd photos in a recording studio as too 'corny' or 'cheesy.' Or he'll wave them off with a terse 'I'm not feeling that.'" The profile draws comparisons between Young and the instincts of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who was also notorious for eschewing consumer research or focus groups, confident in the belief that the public didn't really know what it wanted until a visionary presented a well-thought-out option that trumped existing solutions.
How well Young will mesh with Apple culture -- or even what his specific title and role within the company will be -- remains to be seen. Though he is seen as personally decisive, Young has also spent nearly the entirety of his career working in collaboration with other artists, from the ghostwriters that have helped with his own songs to the up-and-coming artists he has mentored and produced, including Eminem and 50 Cent. His penchant for development and polishing both his musical productions and his Beats brand may serve him well in his work with Apple, surrounded by other executives at the top of their game.
Interestingly, a long-forgotten video of a decade-younger Dr. Dre video-chatting with Jobs on the success of iTunes - several years prior to Young co-founding Beats with Iovine - shows that the relationship with the rap mogul and Apple stretches back at least as far as Jobs' relationship with Iovine. At the time, Young told Apple executives that the iTunes store had "gotten it right" in its integration of hardware with a digital online storefront, a tidbit that was included in Jobs' biography. He once again appeared in an Apple video call with SVP of Software Craig Federighi on Monday, the only real onstage mention of the Beats deal.