Dee Barnes is one of three women (the other two being Michel’le and Tairrie B) that was brutally beaten by Dr. Dre that we know of. In Barnes’ case, she was assaulted at an L.A. night club, and it’s probably the most popular situation of the three. In the incident, Dre tried to throw her down a flight of stairs, he repeatedly slammed her head against the wall, kicked her, and more. His version of events was that he “just threw her through a door,” and some of his groupmates like MC Ren and Eazy E backed Dre, claiming she deserved it. Most recently, he half-addressed it, saying that he regretted some of the “horrible things” he did in his past.
The perceived slight happened during a segment that aired on a show Barnes used to host (Pump It Up!), that N.W.A. felt was disrespectful. Barnes and Dr. Dre settled out of court, for an undisclosed amount, but she says there’s a lot more to the story.
Speaking of stories, there’s a lot left out of Straight Outta Compton, particularly the women who were crucial to the success of Ruthless Records (JJ Fad), the group’s misogyny in general, and Dr. Dre’s history of violence against women.
Barnes, after having seen Straight Outta Compton, penned a piece for Gawker, and told us how she really felt. Here’s a snippet:
That event isn’t depicted in Straight Outta Compton, but I don’t think it should have been, either. The truth is too ugly for a general audience. I didn’t want to see a depiction of me getting beat up, just like I didn’t want to see a depiction of Dre beating up Michel’le, his one-time girlfriend who recently summed up their relationship this way: “I was just a quiet girlfriend who got beat on and told to sit down and shut up.”
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.
Dre, who executive produced the movie along with his former groupmate Ice Cube, should have owned up to the time he punched his labelmate Tairrie B twice at a Grammys party in 1990. He should have owned up to the black eyes and scars he gave to his collaborator Michel’le. And he should have owned up to what he did to me. That’s reality. That’s reality rap. In his lyrics, Dre made hyperbolic claims about all these heinous things he did to women. But then he went out and actually violated women. Straight Outta Compton would have you believe that he didn’t really do that. It doesn’t add up. It’s like Ice Cube saying, “I’m not calling all women bitches,” which is a position he maintains even today at age 46. If you listen to the lyrics of “A Bitch Iz a Bitch,” Cube says, “Now the title bitch don’t apply to all women / But all women have a little bitch in ‘em.” So which is it? You can’t have it both ways. That’s what they’re trying to do with Straight Outta Compton: They’re trying to stay hard, and look like good guys.
Barnes went on to talk about how F. Gary Gray was the cameraman filming her the day she was assaulted by Dr. Dre. It gets worse. Barnes was blacklisted from the industry and had trouble finding work in her field all because people didn’t want to lose their relationships with Dr. Dre.
People ask me, “How come you’re not on TV anymore?” and “How come you’re not back on television?” It’s not like I haven’t tried. I was blacklisted. Nobody wants to work with me. They don’t want to affect their relationship with Dre. I’ve been told directly and indirectly, “I can’t work with you.” I auditioned for the part that eventually went to Kimberly Elise in Set It Off. Gary was the director. This was long after Pump it Up!, and I nailed the audition. Gary came out and said, “I can’t give you the part.” I asked him why, and he said, “‘Cause I’m casting Dre as Black Sam.” My heart didn’t sink, I didn’t get emotional; I was just numb.
Most recently, I tried to get a job at Revolt. I’ve known Sean (Combs) for years and have the utmost respect for him. Still nothing. Instead of doing journalism, I’ve had a series of 9-5 jobs over the years to make ends meet.
She also mentioned how the assault left her with recurring migraines. You can read the full interview over at Gawker, but what happened to her was a tragedy. It’s even sadder that people (the many unfortunate children who were left behind) are accusing Barnes of doing this for attention and still defending Dre’s actions, or the fact that the misogyny was skated over. Then again, people are still defending that other alleged rapist, and that other admitted child molester.
What Dr. Dre did doesn’t take away from the impact that N.W.A. had on hip-hop and pop culture, or the many contributions, but to pretend that they were straight up good good guys isn’t cool either.