You wouldn’t know it from the role he plays as kindly “mentor” to the promising young musical talent vying to be the next “American Idol,” but Jimmy Iovine has done as much to coarsen our popular culture as anyone on the planet.
His biography boasts that the 59-year-old music producer has worked with such acclaimed acts as John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and U2.
What it doesn’t say is that Iovine almost singlehandedly brought so-called “gangsta rap” from the outer fringes of the music industry – where it belonged – to right smack dab in the mainstream.
It started back in 1990 when Iovine co-founded Interscope Records. He made a deal with the devil when he partnered with Death Row Records, putting up several million dollars to distribute its hard core rap, which celebrated misogyny, guns, drugs and “thug” life.
Iovine was “doggs” with Death Row CEO Marion “Suge” Knight, who made no secret of his close ties to Los Angeles street gangs. Some of those true-to-life gangstas actually worked for Death Row, routinely bringing guns and drugs into the offices Iovine provided to Suge and his posse.
Why did Iovine do business with Knight? Because Death Row delivered a succession of multi-platinum gangsta hits, which generated some $325 million in sales for Interscope by 1997.
He didn’t part ways with Death Row until Knight went to jail (after violating probation on an attempted murder charge) and the label stopped delivering multi-platinum hits; stopped generating annual sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Had the hits kept coming, had the money kept rolling in, Iovine might still be trafficking today in gangsta rap rather than mentoring “American Idol” hopefuls.
Of course, all of us make mistakes. The Scripture tells us, “There is none righteous, no, not one.”
But Iovine has never, ever repented his role in bring profanity-laced, hard-core gangsta rap to mainstream America. He doesn’t think he made a mistake in doing so. He doesn’t think it was unrighteous.
It was just business to him.
Well, I hope Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips – the two “American Idol” finalists – keep their distance from Jimmy Iovine.
For what will it profit them to gain the whole world if they lose their souls to someone so morally reprehensible?