Is Dr. Dre really looking out for the hood or is he just blowing smoke?
When I first heard the legendary Hip-Hop producer Dr. Dre was donating $35 million in a co-venture with his business partner Jimmy Iovine for a combined $70 million towards opening a college, the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation at the University of Southern California, I was thoroughly impressed. Upon further examination of the prospect of a notable Hip-Hop figure having an accredited college in his name, at an internationally renowned university to boot, I was able to see just how troubling that reality is. The University of California is held in high regard, but there is just one problem. What good does the bold move to create a collegiate institute do for the young Black and Latino’s who are from his Compton neighborhood?
Andre Young popularly known to the world, as the incomparable Dr. Dre was a pioneering force behind the G-Funk sound the West Coast is known for in Hip-Hop. Dr. Dre rose to prominence as a founding member of one of Hip-Hop’s most influential and controversial Hip-Hop groups in history N.W.A. Since the late 80s Dr. Dre has been pushing the envelope forward in terms of his musical prowess and has remained on the pulse of artistic innovation. I give Dr. Dre much credit for an illustrious career in music and all the accolades he has garnered. Given that Dre’s roots in Hip-Hip start in a neighborhood friend and future group mate and future Hip-Hop legend, Eazy-E’s parents garage in Compton. The notorious Los Angeles suburb is now synonymous with Dr. Dre and is a community steeped in violence and gang culture. It is truly remarkable that through all the gang warfare and the crack epidemic that hit Los Angeles and its surrounding areas that Dr. Dre and his group for the most part were able to use their divine talent and the little resources they had in order to rise above and make it out of Compton!
Now that Dr. Dre has had over 25 years of success in the music industry, he has solidified his spot as a hit maker and has now ventured off into making “high-end” headphones. The Beats by Dre line of headphones has somewhat of an iconic prominence and is touted as a luxury brand and status symbol. At $300 a pop, the headphones have transcended from a mere audio device to a full-fledged fashion accessory with a majority of the headphone owners wearing them slung over their necks more often then on their ears. Due to branding and product placement Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine have turned Beats by Dre headphones into an extremely lucrative business with profits in the billions of dollars. The dynamic duo have been so successful in fact that the company was acquired by Apple making the acquisition the biggest in Apples history while simultaneously making Dr. Dre the richest entertainer on planet earth! A Black man!
Here in lies the problem. After making all that money from music and now headphones and deciding to fund the opening of a school at USC, why choose that school? As a Black man who grew up in Compton with a substandard schooling system, wouldn’t it behoove you to allocate monies to creating entrepreneurial and musical enrichment programs in these schools where kids who grew up similar to the way you did attend? With a little bit of musical equipment and a garage you were able to beat the odds and use your musical talents to make it out the hood. This was/is no easy feat and you were able to do it with minimal resources, so wouldn’t it be worthwhile to give back to the community that made you the success you are today and make it easier for those who you inspire within Compton to make it out as well? The University of Southern California in 2013 had an enrollment of 1,082 African American students who comprised of 3.8%. Also in 2013, USC had an enrollment of 5,156 Hispanic students who comprised of 18.0% of the student body. The total of students for both African American and Hispanics combined still doesn’t equal out to the number of White students enrolled at USC in 2013, which is at 7,964 students or 27.8% of the student body. When you look at the raw numbers it is clear to see who the new collegiate institution will help and it is those who historically don’t need a leg up.
Entertainers and people in general should be able to spend their hard earned money how and where they see fit. But, I believe it is our responsibility to affect change in our communities especially if you are a success and can easily afford to due so. Just imagine what the Compton school district would look like with new state-of-the-art computers and programs courtesy of a $70 million dollar endowment from anyone, but especially from the prodigal son himself Dr. Dre? I feel if you are fortunate enough to make it out the hood it is your duty to give back however you can when you can. While the kids at USC who already have a leg up in life get more perks, all the kids in the hoods of Compton get nothing but a chance to buy overpriced headphones and maybe concert tickets. All this and to think Dr. Dre thought Eazy-E and Jerry Heller were bad! We have to do better.