Apple Rejects Dr. Dre’s Television Show Due To Excessive Violence
Two and a half years ago, Dr. Dre announced plans to tell his life story through a series in partnership with Apple. The show, titled Vital Signs, began pre-production less than three years after Apple’s 2014 acquisition of Beats By Dre for a reported $1 billion. In addition to producing, Vital Signs was also touted to be a return to acting for the man who was in The Wash, Murder Was The Case, Set It Off, and Training Day. The Wall Street Journal now reports that the series has been pulled due to its violent and sexual nature, as well as scenes involving drug use. Additionally, reports indicate that Apple CEO Tim Cook may have been personally responsible for this decision.
In a message to Apple Music executive and longtime Dr. Dre ally Jimmy Iovine, Cook is said to have referenced “characters doing lines of cocaine, an extended orgy in a mansion, and drawn guns,” as part of an explanation as to why Vital Signs is not a brand fit for Apple. Upon its February 2016 announcement, the series on Andre Young’s life was touted to be the first of its kind for Apple’s television platform. In The Hollywood Reporter exclusive, an orgy scene was confirmed. At that time, veteran music video director Paul Hunter was also reported to be behind the camera.
Vital Signs becomes a casualty in a series of image-conscious decisions for Apple. The platform already stepped away from a #MeToo-themed series from 2 Broke Girls creator Whitney Cummings. Additionally, Oscar-nominated director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) was reportedly asked to remove a scene involving the abuse of a child from his upcoming Apple series.
Tech and censorship is an ongoing intersection and discussion. Earlier this year, Spotify briefly removed R. Kelly and XXXTentacion from its official playlists, citing conduct. “When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator,” stated the streaming giant in May. Kelly, who has been accused of sexual abuse and statutory rape for decades, has never been convicted of those allegations. Meanwhile, assault charges for the since-murdered XXXTentacion were pending trial. Less than a month later, protestors including Dre business partners, Kendrick Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment, reacted to Spotify’s judgment and actions, threatening to pull their music from the catalog. This led to a change in Spotify’s policies.
Both personally and artistically, Dr. Dre has a long, detailed history involving sex, violence, and drug use. In the early 1990s, Dre was fined and put on two years of probation after assaulting Pump It Up host Dee Barnes. A civil suit settled out of court. Other women, including singer and ex-fiancee Michel’le, have publicly accused Dre of abuse ahead of the Vital Signs announcement. Meanwhile, music by N.W.A. and Dre presently available on Apple Music contain references to violence against women, drug use, and strong sexual themes.
Apple has previously partnered with other Rap artists, including Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and Bryan “Birdman” Williams, to release exclusive documentary content. Dre currently has The Pharmacy on Beats Radio on Apple Music. That station involves Gangsta Rap peers such as DJ Pooh and Xzibit.
Last year, HBO premiered The Defiant Ones, a documentary series on the parallel lives and passions of Dre and Iovine. Directed by Allen Hughes, the work explored Dre’s past with women, drugs, and making art that some viewed as profanity.
Previously, Dre digitally released his 2015 Compton album exclusively through Apple’s music platform. Dr. Dre has not spoken publicly about the cancellation of Vital Signs.