“The Last Dance” continues to be a source of entertainment for fans, and the music featured in the series is an especially high point for people nostalgic for the era that saw a rise of hip-hop simultaneous to the success of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Episodes 4 and 5 air this Sunday at 9 ET on ESPN (TV-MA) and ESPN2 (TV-14-L).
Front Row spoke with music supervisor Rudy Chung about the reception to the music in the series and the specific challenges that come with licensing music founded on sampling.
If you’re looking for more music from and inspired by the series and the era, ESPN and Netflix teamed up with Spotify to create a playlist you can sample (see below).
How did you get involved in the project?
I’ve known Jason [Hehir, the director] for years and have had the good fortune of working with him on some of his past projects, most recently the documentary “Andre The Giant.” We have very similar tastes in music and I love collaborating with him. When Jason first told me about “The Last Dance,” I hounded him for months asking – begging? – to be involved. I guess he eventually broke down.
How do you feel about the reception the series, and especially the music, have received so far? Have you heard from any artists whose music you used?
We have been very happy with the reception. I saw firsthand how hard Jason and his team worked to pull this off, so mostly I’m just proud of him and the rest of the crew. Jason made something pretty special and I’m thrilled it came out at a time where the most amount of people could see it. We wish it was under better circumstances.
I’ve heard the Beastie Boys really liked the use of “The Maestro” for the Dennis Rodman sequence, and that pretty much made my year.
Credit for the music choices goes entirely to Jason and his amazing team of editors. As a music supervisor, every project is very different with respect to the creative process and workflow, and I’ve learned that the best gigs are the ones working with a filmmaker who deeply cares about and understands music. – Music supervisor Rudy Chang regarding “The Last Dance” director Jason Hehir
The music choices in “The Last Dance” have received praise for enhancing the impact of its storylines. How were the songs for the montage highlights (LL Cool J’s “I’m Bad,” Prince’s “Partyman,” and The Beastie Boys’ “The Maestro”) chosen?
Credit for the music choices goes entirely to Jason and his amazing team of editors. As a music supervisor, every project is very different with respect to the creative process and workflow, and I’ve learned that the best gigs are the ones working with a filmmaker who deeply cares about and understands music. Jason not only has an encyclopedic knowledge of music – especially hip-hop – but also strong ideas of how to use them to best serve the story. I know he edited some of these major music moments in “The Last Dance.” My role – as well as that of our amazing coordinator, Justin Feldman – was mainly getting the songs cleared, which was especially challenging because a lot of hip hop from the ’90s contains samples of other songs. We unearthed legal problems in songs that go back decades and received a lot of denials – more than I’ve received on any project in 16 years. But I think we’re all pleased with how it turned out and a good example of collaboration.
What impact did the shortened timeline have on your role in the project?
We’ve been working on this for over two years, so moving up the release a couple of months wasn’t nearly as impactful to me as it was for Jason and his team to finish the edits, but the last few months have involved a lot of “dotting i’s and crossing t’s” to make sure all music was cleared properly and we stayed on budget. Lots of business and legal affairs had to be sorted and finalized in the past few weeks. Major shoutout to ESPN for being such great partners on this front; we couldn’t have done this without their music team as well.
What music moments do we have to look forward to in the coming weeks?
There are some great music moments coming up, perhaps some that are more emotional than people would expect from this series.