WSJ profile describes Dr. Dre as a perfectionist, compares him to Steve Jobs


The Wall Street Journal has written a profile on Beats co-founder Dr. Dre titled “Apple’s New Beat: What Steve Jobs and Dr. Dre have in Common.” That headline may sound blasphemous to die-hard Apple fans, but the comparisons they draw are interesting.

Though Jimmy Iovine has done most of the talking since Apple acquired his Beats Electronics last month, Dr. Dre played an equally important role in the company’s success. He’s a workaholic and a perfectionist, with a disdain for deadlines and marketing research…

Here’s more from the Journal’s Hannah Karp:

But behind the scenes, Dr. Dre—whose real name is Andre Young —has quietly played an equally powerful role developing and protecting the Beats brand, eschewing market research for gut instinct at every turn. Though his main obsession is perfecting the sound of the company’s signature high-end headphones, the 49-year-old fitness-obsessed music producer weighs in decisively on everything from TV ads and font styles to the wordiness of descriptions on the Beats Music streaming service.

As one colleague says, Dr. Dre serves as Beats’ “cultural barometer” of what is cool.

Karp says that Dre’s colleagues describe his process as ‘mysterious.’ He makes decisions quickly and articulates his opinions sparely, dismissing ideas such as posing for a clichéd photo as “corny” or “cheesy,” or waving them off with a simple “I’m not feeling that.”

cook cue dre iovine

Iovine explains that his partner’s terse style highlights one of his biggest strengths: knowing what’s cool. The executive says that once you try to describe what cool is, you run the risk of being perpetually non-cool. “The whole premise [of cool] is not to talk about it.”

Now back to the Steve Jobs comparisons:

Dr. Dre’s perfectionist impulse, coupled with his disregard for artificial deadlines, have meant that “he doesn’t put out a lot of material,” despite being a workaholic, said Paul Rosenberg, a lawyer and manager of one of Dr. Dre’s protégés, rapper Eminem. 

That could portend friction at his new employer, Apple, which agreed to buy Beats for $3 billion last month. But like Dr. Dre, Apple has also boasted about not doing market research. The company’s late founder, Steve Jobs, made no secret of his belief that consumers don’t really know what they want until someone else shows it to them. Colleagues predict that at Apple Dr. Dre could also cede some decision-making power and become more accommodating. 

The entire article is really worth a read, as it provides some background on Dre and his work ethic. I think that because of his past, both personally and musically, people question his value in the mega-deal with Apple. This may answer a lot of those questions.

Dr. Dre doesn’t have a formal title at Apple, but he’ll report to Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue on future Beats projects. In fact, the company may have already tipped its hand as to what one of those projects could be, introducing a new Lightning headphone spec at WWDC this week.