If you've caught any of the four-part Apple commercial streaming on HBO GO right now titled The Defiant Ones, you know artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor are all a part of an elite group of people that turned the entire music industry completely on its head at one point in time. You also understand they're all getting old, which isn't something Reznor has ever really ran away from.
In a recent interview with Vulture, the dude that once wanted to fuck everyone like an animal admits that he's out of the loop. By his own admission, he regularly asked his team at Apple what the appeal is to Drake and his type of quote artistry un-quote.
He's been an employee at the tech behemoth as a chief creative officer since 2013.
"Are there any artists that you think are using social media smartly?" the interviewer asks. "I know they exist in a different online world than you, but people like Drake and Taylor Swift sure seem canny about how and when they engage with fans."
"I don’t pay much attention, but I see what Drake’s been able to pull off in terms of being omnipresent and constantly engaging an audience that seems to enjoy the way he’s engaging them," says Reznor. "I’m just not part of that audience. I’m not as well-rounded as I used to be about pop culture. I’m not saying pop music isn’t well-crafted or the people who make it aren’t wonderful, but it’s not for me. I’ve asked people, 'What is it that’s good about Drake?' I’ve said to my friends at Apple: 'Explain to me why.' As the old guy, I don’t see it."
The question is then raised if he ever received any good answers to his inquiry.
"I wasn’t even asking cynically" he adds. "I was curious what it is that he’s touching on. The answers I got made me go, 'That’s it?' But knowing the right way to interact with your crowd in a way that feels cool is a good thing. I’m just doing it for a different sized audience. The stakes aren’t the same for me, and that’s fine."
It's a strange shift of pace for a man who once told an audience in Australia to, "steal and steal and steal some more and give it to all your friends and keep on stealin'," in reference to major labels at the time taking artists for all they were worth (hint: they still are). Yet as a man on the inside with Apple, Reznor claims he can affect more positive results as someone manning the controls of the future in streaming.
"Without going into detail, I’ll say it’s been an education," says Reznor. "I’ve been on the other side of artists bitching about payments and free music, and I agree with those arguments, but you can sit and bitch about the way things are, or you can try to affect some change. Working under the Apple umbrella, I have a unique opportunity to work on a streaming service from the inside. I thought I could help set a precedent where artists could actually be paid and the fans could feel like they were dealing with a service run by people who actually care about music."
So as previous soldiers of rebellion quietly shift into a corporate model, finally laying down their arms and admitting defeat (Dre holds a prominent position at Apple, too), will the entire industry now follow suit? The guys who once turned a middle-finger to the system — at least how The Defiant Ones explains it — are now in charge of pointing entire cultures toward one of the largest companies in the world.
Is it age, or is it exhaustion? Either way, it's comforting to see people at the top questioning Drake's appeal, regardless.