Dr. Dre on His USC Academy: "This Is the Biggest Thing I've Ever Been a Part Of"
As our sister blog The Informer reported yesterday, Interscope Records boss Jimmy Iovine and boss of all bosses Dr. Dre pooled together $70 million they had lying around to establish the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation. It will offer students the most badass major imaginable, starting with the incoming class of 2018.
Steve Cohn/University of Southern California L to R: Jimmy Iovine, USC Dean Erica Muhl, Dr. Dre, USC President C.L. Max Nikias
Their press conference at Interscope Studios in Santa Monica yesterday brought out Dre for a rare public appearance; he wore a black suit (no tie) and black patent leather shoes, and was visibly nervous. This despite having his wife Nicole Threatt by his side -- in platinum blonde curls and a small black dress, she posed for pictures and briefly turned the small press gathering into a red carpet affair. In any case, the founding of this college feels monumental; not just for the kids, who will probably invent some amazing gadget that lets you design your garage while streaming music videos on your video games, but for hip-hop itself. For a young genre that can sometimes feel faddy, this is some permanent shit right here: The man who taught us to smoke trees will now have his name on the side of the building. Dre and Iovine spoke with West Coast Sound in an extremely rare interview.
See also: The Making of The Chronic
Dr. Dre: [Sitting down with a flaky pastry with a circle of custard in the middle.] I'm way off my diet right now.
Steve Cohn/University of Southern California L to R: Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre, USC President C.L. Max Nikias
So is USC your adopted school of choice?
Dr. Dre: I'm an official Trojan now, man. That's it.
Have you been rooting for them in football?
Dr. Dre: Absolutely.
Where did the idea for this program originate?
Jimmy Iovine: Everything we do together comes out of my and Dre's many conversations we have multiple times a week, probably every day, like, "Jimmy don't you hate the way kids are listening to music on the radio?" [In this case] we decided we wanted to give back and do something because we've been very fortunate over the last 20 years and Dre has always wanted to give back. So I said to Dre, "Ok why don't we do it together?" And we go to Beats and see that all these kids are so...so good at understanding technology and have a feel for the art, or the other way around. Then we look at Beats and say "Geez we need kids like that here!"
Like a farm system?
Jimmy Iovine: Well, we aren't doing this for us. [But there is] the need. There's all these kids out there that can really speak both languages and we need more people like that to work for us! Then you look at a company like Apple which is built on technology married with liberal arts, they got it really right, it's an incredible company.
This is not about music, but the record industry needs people that understand more about platforms, and more about distribution, and more about telephony. We need people to understand that we don't need guys that just like music. It's just not enough. So we approached [Dean] Erica [Muhl] and you know we said, "So we are thinking about doing something." She just said "Yes! We haven't invented anything here and I think this is a need that every school would like to fulfill." Erica from USC is so great!
Dre, how do you feel about ushering in a whole new phase of your career, and how does it compare to earlier phases?
Dr. Dre: This is absolutely the biggest thing I've been a part of in my entire career. I am just excited to be a part of something that is going to be there forever. How many people can say that? This is huge.
Your name will be on a building, after all.
Dr. Dre: Yes.
Then again, you did help usher in gangster rap, and that was pretty big culturally too, as it affected the whole world.
Dr. Dre: Yeah, that was great but I felt like this is, this is much more important. It's because of the potential it has: A kid can come through here, and go on to potentially change the world.
So as to the $70 million dollars, was that split, like 50/50?