Last year, Dr. Dre sold his massively popular Beats By Dre line of headphones to Apple for a whopping $3 billion. Before taxes, Dr. Dre walked away with around $620 million total for the deal — earnings that landed him the number one slot on Forbes‘s 2014 list of the year’s highest paid musicians.
But the wildly successful Beats By Dre aren’t the only boon to emerge from the collective of rap artists that made up Shady Records in the early 2000s. Eminem stole a Grammy for album of the year up against pop crossover Iggy Azalea at the ceremony a few months ago, this for his first album in nearly three years. Fellow Shady Records original 50 Cent could follow up on that success if he releases his long delayed Street King Immortal later this year.
No matter what the future holds for the found of Beats By Dre, Eminem, and 50 Cent, their past at Shady Records has become substantial enough to warrant preservation. A new documentary from Complex interviews key members associated with the early days of the label in order to tell the story of how it was able to rise to prominence in the hip-hop community.
Some of the most fascinating tidbits from the documentary come from its most primitive origins. For instance, the first time Dr. Dre heard Eminem’s “My Name Is.” In a true sign of the times, Eminem didn’t reach the rap icon’s ears through Beats By Dre headphones, but through a tape deck. Even from the first listen, Dr. Dre said he knew there was something special.
“I thought it was incredible. At this time, I had no idea he was a white guy. I didn’t find that out until a few days later. And I was just like ‘What the fuck is this? I really need to meet this guy.’ The first thing that we did was ‘My Name Is.’ I had already prepared a sample that I thought he would sound great on. Immediately after I put it on he just went ‘Hi, my name is’…When I heard he was gonna start his own label, I thought it was an amazing idea. I was excited to see what they were going to be able to do with it.”
It’s fascinating to watch the journey that Dr. Dre took from being a founding member of N.W.A. (one of classic rap’s defining groups), to being the producer behind some of Eminem’s biggest hits and finally to arrive as the founder of Beats By Dre. In some ways, the documentary is more than just a chronicle of Shady Records, but also of hip-hop’s move toward the central place it occupies in mainstream music today.
[Image via Frank Micelotta/Getty Images]