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Apple-Beats deal is not about software or hardware, it’s a cultural thing

News of a Beats Music acquisition by smartphone and tablet giant Apple, Inc. has been circling the web for a few weeks now, but we’ve still received no official confirmation of the transaction from either Beats Music or Apple. Most deals that involve Cupertino usually go through quickly without a hitch, but there seems to be something holding back what some think could be a unique opportunity for Apple.

A new video may be the answer to the pending question about the pending deal. The video features Beats Co-Founder Dr. Dre (a.k.a Andre Young) alongside of a friend, R&B singer Tyrese Gibson, bragging about “becoming the first hip hop millionaire” at a party where both Gibson and Dr. Dre appear to be drunk. Gibson adds to the hype, saying, “ Billionaire Boys’ Club for real, homey,” and “The Forbes’ list just changed,” while remarking a minute or two earlier that “the homey [Dr. Dre] is drunk off of Heinekens,” to the laughter of friends behind the two. Gibson continued, saying, “It just came out like two weeks ago, they need to update the list, [expletive] just changed.” Dr. Dre continued Gibson’s statement, responding to the Forbes’ list changing with “in a big way,” while proclaiming himself to be “the first billionaire in hip hop right here on the [expletive] West Coast.” Gibson then does a dance, and the camera turns to his feet dancing in jubilation.

It has been said that Apple was outraged when seeing the video, and I imagine that the company would’ve something to say about it. At the same time, however, let’s take a look back at the video. First off, I imagine that a video made with someone as well-known as Dr. Dre in a drunken state probably didn’t sit too well with Apple. I’m sure that, as a company that’s made a fortune from its brilliant products and genius cognizance, Apple officials don’t want a future company head like Dr. Dre in a drunken state. This video is sure to displease some Apple fans who happen to think that drunkenness and drunken stupor aren’t the proper way to present oneself in anything. One reason it seems that Apple is interested in the Beats Music acquisition has to do with image: that is, the company’s looking for better ways to market itself as a company that can hang with the young and fashionable. Beats Music may not be the way to do it, but hip hop music certainly has its slice of the twenty-something population.


While the expletives and drunken stupor aren’t worthy of applause in the video (nor are they things to laugh at), neither Gibson nor Dre actually give away any details. Dr. Dre is proclaimed as “the first billionaire in hip hop,” but this could refer to any company acquisition – not necessarily Apple. Any company or record producer could help Dr. Dre sign a record deal, and Apple isn’t necessarily in mind here. After all, Dr. Dre is in hip hop music – a genre that hasn’t ever been associated with the Cupertino, California company. Gibson’s claim, too, that “the Forbes’ list just changed,” doesn’t refer to a possible Apple deal, either. It simply means that Dr. Dre’s come into something that’s gonna be financially lucrative; this doesn’t implicate Apple or anyone else as the cause of Dr. Dre’s pending success. Even if it indicates an acquisition, it doesn’t place Apple as the #1 reason behind this celebration. Apple would understand the cause for the celebration, but, as an outsider, I didn’t see any reason to assume an Apple deal by looking at the video alone.

Next, one must understand that, even if the video is outrageous (it is), this is the nature of hip hop culture. Apple wants to involve itself with a company that’s outside of its “business-as-usual” stance, but thinking differently sometimes involves embracing others who do things differently from you. This is what Apple doesn’t understand about company acquisitions: Cupertino can’t always have things its way. With many other company acquisitions, Apple’s been able to control the company, mandate silence, and so on. This is how things are done in the professional business world, but this stance is foreign to hip hop.

In the hip hop culture, it’s not uncommon to see celebrities get drunk at parties, proclaim good news in videos (no matter how business-deep), and use all kinds of expletives that would make adults jerk away in pain. Drunkenness, parties, expletives, and celebrations are part of the rich and famous who live in the world of hip hop, rap, and R&B (and the entertainment industry as a whole). Beats Music may be a corporation on paper, but at heart, it’s comprised of a hip hop founder who won’t break away from his hip-hop identity to do “shirt and tie” business with Apple – even if Cupertino signs him to a billion-dollar deal.

In short, Apple expects Beats Music’s co-founder (Dr. Dre) to change who he is in order to do business with California’s finest. Dr. Dre, on the other hand, won’t. Interestingly enough, Beats Music’s direction and approach explain why Apple wants to acquire the company in the first place. The question on the table is, “Can Apple do business with a company whose perspective differs from its own?” As to the answer, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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