Did Apple Execs Know What They Were Getting into When They Hired Dr. Dre?

When Apple first bought Dr. Dre's Beats brand last year, I wrote a lot about the merger. Not because I'm a fan of Dre per se, but because it was a radical move. Radical because I remember Dre back in his infamous N.W.A. days; and for Apple to bring on board such a controversial figure seemed to be either absolutely crazy or sheer genius, or perhaps a little bit of both.

Apple's decision to hire a man with a history of assault on women, drug use, and homophobia, and place him on the executive panel seemed to me an interesting choice, to say the least, for a company that is so image conscious. If Apple was interested in embracing and promoting diversity there were certainly other successful headphone companies with a prominent name brand and a person of ethnic diversity at the helm that they could have courted. Rohan Marley (son of the late superstar Bob Marley) and the House of Marley is one example that comes to mind.

Obviously the Beats deal was about more than just bringing diversity, as Jimmy Iovine and a hugely recognizable if not critically acclaimed headphone brand and streaming music service were also huge parts of the deal. Nonetheless, when rumors of the deal started circulating I had to ask, hasn't anybody vetted this guy? Doesn't anyone know who Dre is and what he represents? Did Apple execs really know what they were getting into by hiring Dr. Dre?

On one hand, I consider hiring Dre an incredibly shrewd and insightful business move, one that could change the face of Apple overnight, while increasing the company's appeal to an African-American demographic that statistics show tends to prefer Android devices. On the other hand, the company brought on board someone who, to this day, brings along significant controversy.

Dre has been in the media a good deal lately thanks to the success of the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton. And as a result, a lot of things from Dre's past are being dredged up. Sure, he was a social activist of sorts and a vocal and lyrically gifted ambassador for the inner city, but he also beat up his girlfriends, and in 1991 he was sued by journalist Dee Barnes after pounding on her as if he were a UFC fighter.

None of this is news if you've followed Dre's career or been a part of the hip-hop community for any length of time. In fact, I suspect it's hard to become one of the most wealthy and most controversial rap artists without the general populace being at least somewhat familiar with the media's portrayal of your life. Which is why I'm always a little surprised when the general public acts astounded and mortified by Dr. Dre's past actions.

Of course, everyone can redeem themselves, and certainly everyone can change; it's just interesting that this is the spokesman from the black community that Apple picked. In fact, Apple recently went to bat for Dre's character (something I've never seen Apple do before).

In a statement to the New York Times, Apple had this to say: 

"Dre has apologized for the mistakes he’s made in the past and he’s said that he’s not the same person that he was 25 years ago. We believe his sincerity and after working with him for a year and a half, we have every reason to believe that he has changed."

While this statement may or may not be reassuring, depending on who you are, I believe the top people at Apple knew exactly what they were getting into when they brought Dre on board. He gives them "street cred" and he puts Apple on the radar of a large population that might otherwise be more inclined toward an Android or Windows device. I think they weighed the pros and cons and decided it was worth the trade off and risk. If the success of Beats radio and the continued success of Beats headphones are any indication, I don't think Apple is overly worried about the level of controversy and media attention Dre brings.

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Dig Om's picture

Author Details

Dig Om

As Senior Gear Editor at iPhone Life, Dig reports on the latest and greatest accessories built for the iOS ecosystem. From rugged gear and Bluetooth speakers, to headphones, unique iDevice cases, and iOS remote controlled vehicles, Dig's articles cover a wide range of great gear for the iPhone and iPad. A core gamer for over three decades, Dig also writes iPhone Life's Game Centered column, which focuses on the best iOS games and game related news. Additionally, Dig's company, iDoc Tech Support, offers web design and administration services as well as iPhone and iPad repairs. When not at his work desk, Dig loves spending time with family and enjoying the wonders of nature. You can follow him on Twitter @idoctech