HBO's The Defiant Ones is a four-part documentary series about an extremely prolific music partnership. Specifically, it talks about the working relationship between legendary rapper and producer Dr. Dre and Interscope Records founder Jimmy Iovine. And some of their stories are quite fascinating.
On one episode, they discuss one of their greatest success stories, Eminem. By keeping an eye out for new talent and being willing to take chances, Dre helped guide Marshall Mathers from unknown Detroit rapper to superstar. Here's the story, straight from The Defiant Ones.
It was 1998, and Jimmy Iovine first became aware of Eminem simply from an intern. "Great can come from anywhere," Iovine said. "When the intern in my office says to me, 'I saw this guy at the rap battle last night,' I said, you get me a CD, I will get it to Dre.”
The intern found Eminem and did his job. "I was just really down that I had got all the way to the end at Rap Olympics and lost," Eminem said. But after that, "This kid came up to me and was like, hey man, can I get one of your tapes? And I think I was like, I probably just, 'Here.' You know, whatever.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Dre said, “Back in those days, I didn't have an artist to work with. I would go to Jimmy's house and have listening sessions. He was trying to help me figure out where I was gonna go with my music."
Iovine took Dre to his garage. "There was cassette tapes everywhere," Dre said. "I remember him picking up this cassette tape. He pops this in, and I was like...who the f*** is that?' Rewind that, play that again.”
So Dre brought Eminem in for a meeting. "Fast forward to, holy s***, I'm in the Interscope office," Eminem said. "Holy s***, this is Jimmy Iovine. Holy s***, Dr. Dre just walked in. Holy s***, I just s*** myself."
“I'm like, 'Man, listen. I think this shit is f***ing incredible and I would love to work with you,'" Dre said. "And I had a studio in my house at the time. And I went and put some samples together, did a couple of things in the drum machine, and I invited him over.”
Upon hearing Dre's music, Eminem immediate connected with it. Dre said,"Maybe two or three seconds went by, and he just went, 'Hi, my name is, my name is...' Like, yo, stop. S***'s hot. That's what happened the first day in the first few minutes of us being in the studio.”
Eminem was amazed that this was even happening. He said, “This is the greatest producer. I'm in his f***ing house recording, I don't know s*** about nothing. I just wanted to make sure that every beat that he played for me, I had a rhyme ready to go.”
Dre was excited about Eminem, but not everyone else was. Dre said, "Everybody around me, the so-called execs and what have you, were all against it...I come up with Eminem, this white boy. My general manager had this 8x10 picture and was like, 'Dre, this boy's got blue eyes, what are we doing?'"
However, Jimmy Iovine thought it would probably be wise to listen to Dre. He said, “I thought he was really clever, I thought he was saying some crazy stuff. You know the stuff he was saying was just so out there, you know? But I trusted Dre.”