Dee Barnes Talks Straight Outta Compton, Dr. Dre Attack


In a new piece for Gawker, former music journalist and TV host Dee Barnes recounts her now infamous 1991 assault by Dr. Dre and offers her opinion of the new film Straight Outta Compton. Barnes writes that while she would not have wanted to see the brutal attack reenacted in the movie, she was troubled that the entire incident was erased from the story.

Says Barnes:

But what should have been addressed is that it occurred. When I was sitting there in the theater, and the movie’s timeline skipped by my attack without a glance, I was like, “Uhhh, what happened?” Like many of the women that knew and worked with N.W.A., I found myself a casualty of Straight Outta Compton’s revisionist history.

She notes that Dre’s attack on her, and his other “alleged” attacks on his former girlfriend and protege Michel’le and female rapper Tairrie B, are an incredibly important aspect of the story of N.W.A and provide some uncomfortable context to the battle they were simultaneously fighting with each other and white America at the time:

Accurately articulating the frustrations of young black men being constantly harassed by the cops is at Straight Outta Compton’s activistic core. There is a direct connection between the oppression of black men and the violence perpetrated by black men against black women. It is a cycle of victimization and reenactment of violence that is rooted in racism and perpetuated by patriarchy. If the breadth of N.W.A.’s lyrical subject matter was guided by a certain logic, though, it was clearly a caustic logic.

Barnes goes on to detail the circumstances surrounding the Ice Cube interview that ultimately prompted Dre’s attack and how she knew from the moment the cameras stopped rolling that it was going to escalate the already simmering beef between Cube and his former partners. One interesting fact that she pointed out, was that Straight Outta Compton director F.Gary Gray was the cameraman for Pump It Up! that day.

She also points out the discrepancies between the often cartoonishly misogynistic lyrics on some of N.W.A’s more raunchy tracks and the actual behavior of the men she knew. She speaks of the exclusion of the stories of several influential women who contributed to the rise of N.W.A from the film, and she explains how she believes she’s been blackballed from the music industry since the early 90s for daring to hold Dre responsible for his actions.

It’s an ugly and complicated story about a group that influneced me greatly as a young Hip-Hop fan. None of the members of N.W.A handled the situation well and it’s a huge stain on the legacy of a group that literally changed the course of Rap history. But it’s a story that speaks to a problem that Hip-Hop, and American society in general, has tried to sweep under the rug for generations. It’s a story we have to talk about if we’re also going to ordain these guys as our heroes.

Straight Outta Compton was the #1 film in the country this past weekend. Read Barnes full piece here.

Read what Dr. Dre had to say about the incident in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine here.

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