Did Kanye West Turn Down the Beats Headphones Deal Before Dr. Dre?

There's a rumor that Kanye turned down the Beats deal, forcing Jimmy Iovine to turn to Dr. Dre. Could it be true?

Late last night I got a message from Yoh: "Hey Nathan did you hear this rumor about how Beats By Dre originally was a deal for Kanye but he turned it down?"

Um....no, no I had not heard that rumor, because I'm pretty sure that if I had heard that Kanye West had passed on the same deal that made Dr. Dre hip-hop's first billionaire, that would be the kind of thing I would remember. WHAT?!?!

Those rumors stem from a DJ Vlad interview where TJ Kirkland, a comedian who's been running in Dr. Dre and Ice Cube's circle for years, casually threw out this nugget: 

"A lot of people don't know with Dre Beats, was really for Kanye West. Kanye West turned it down because he couldn't see people going back to the '80s wearing headphones." 

Could that be true? If Kanye was offered the Beats deal and turned it down, we're talking about Yeezy missing out on literally hundreds of millions of dollars (Beats was valued at $3.2 billion when it was purchased) and a chance to reshape hip-hop history. Kanye's spoken time and time again about how Steve Jobs was his idol, Beats would have been the thing that actually brought him into the Apple family. 

But that's assuming the headphones would have taken off with 'Ye at the helm, and that's also assuming this story's true. If it is, it goes against essentially every other public story out there about how Beats came together. Kanye's never spoken about it, and in Jimmy Iovine's telling of the company's origins Kanye's name never comes up either. 

"I was walking down the beach one day and I ran into Andre Young, Dr. Dre," Iovine said. "I was exercising, and I said, 'How’re you doing?' And Dre is very soft-spoken, doesn’t talk much, he just said to me, 'Yo, my lawyer, he wants me to sell sneakers — what do you think?'

"I said, 'Dre, nobody in the world cares about how you dress or will care about your sneakers. What you should sell is speakers.' At that moment, he said to me, 'We can do that?' And I said, 'F--- yeah.'" - Business Insider, "The Story of How Beats By Dr. Dre Started"

Iovine's statement doesn't neccesarily prove anything either. He's a marketing man, and "I bumped into Dr. Dre on the beach and had an epiphany to start this company" is good marketing. "I offered it to Kanye and he turned me down so I went to my number two option" just doesn't have quite the same triumphant ring to it.

If Kirkland is right, Kanye looks bad for not seeing the vision, Iovine looks bad for being turned down, and Dre looks diminished for being the second choice - it's easy to imagine that none of them are eager to tell that portion of Beats' tale. 

Still, until we hear confirmation from one of the major players involved, that's all we can treat this as - imagination. So now it joins the ranks of the thousands of rap history "What If?"s right along side "What if Kanye had signed to Cash Money?" and "What if someone had stopped Kanye from ever tweeting?" 

[By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter. Image via.]



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