Why We Can’t Forget About Dre

The potential acquisition of Beats by Apple has captured the public imagination. Though it is not yet official, we’ve spent all weekend making jokes about it on Twitter, shocked at Andre Romelle Young’s uncharacteristic confirmation of the buy, joking that Forbes should change its list because he’s now a billionaire, for some reason.

Quite honestly, part of the appeal of this story is that it’s refreshing: We’re used to all these faux humble acquisition tweets from startup founders and Dr. Dre’s like, “Gimme my money!”

Some (reaching for yet another Dr.Dre post, because they’re more fun than what tech reporters usually cover) have pinned this fascination on racism. I don’t think so. Dr. Dre and his partner Jimmy Iovine are examples of a caste of atypical tech founders, entrepreneurs and leaders that are becoming all the more typical. People from the worlds of fashion and art, designers and marketers and artists — who have never written a line of code. Sophia Amuroso is one. So is Melody McCloskey. So is Jessica Alba. And even Bieber has a startup.

Tech’s future goes beyond engineering. It has to.

Dre may not be the world’s first rapper billionaire, but he is a member of a different, very small group: Dre is one of the first founders who started as an artist — and the first musician — to have a tech company exit for more than a billion. Others include Dreamworks and Pixar, and if you consider Steve Jobs an artist, and going public an exit, Apple itself.

That is the true reason for our captivation. As post-Jobs Apple stacks its ranks with fashion executives like Angela Ahrendts and Paul Deneve, and Ashton Kutcher continues to build one of the best early stage portfolios in the Valley, Dre’s exit means media and fashion’s involvement in tech is more than just marketing, it’s serious money. Billions.

And what’s the difference between me and you Dre? Nothing.

Image via Jason Persse