Dee Barnes On Dr. Dre Beating: “My Life Changed That Night”

My life changed that night. I suffer from horrific migraines that started only after the attack. I love Dre’s song “Keep Their Heads Ringin”—it has a particularly deep meaning to me. When I get migraines, my head does ring and it hurts, exactly in the same spot every time where he smashed my head against the wall. People have accused me of holding onto the past; I’m not holding onto the past. I have a souvenir that I never wanted. The past holds onto me.

In a post on Gawker today, hip-hop journalist Dee Barnes writes about her perspective on the film “Straight Outta Compton,” specifically its omission of a particularly well known incident from NWA’s hey day — the time Andre Young, aka Dr. Dre, beat the shit out of her at a nightclub in 1991.

Incase you’re not familiar with this incident, here’s a brief explainer: The “reason” Dre beat up Barnes, then a friend of the group, was because he and the rest of the guys in NWA felt that she had set them up to look stupid in an interview she conducted with ex member Ice Cube for her show, “Pump It Up!” During the interview, Ice Cube was angry, and made it clear by insulting the rest of NWA, which appeared in the final interview package that aired on TV.

Barnes writes she was instantly worried about the fallout — not for her own safety, however. “I was just afraid that they were going to shoot each other.” Instead, not too long after, Dre saw Barnes at a club, tried to throw her down a flight of stairs, slammed her head against a wall, kicked her, and stomped on her fingers. Barnes was outspoken about what happened to her, but Dre’s response was utterly unapologetic. “It ain’t no big thing – I just threw her through a door,” he told Rolling Stone. Dre pleaded no contest to assault charges and Barnes filed a civil suit that was settled out of court. Whatever she was awarded did not come close to making up for the damage done to her physically, personally and professionally. Barnes writes that her journalism career came to a screeching halt, that she was “blacklisted” and that people assumed she was awarded millions. “Instead of doing journalism, I’ve had a series of 9-5 jobs over the years to make ends meet.”

This incident, as well as other incidents of NWA committing violence against women, is not included or even addressed in “Straight Outta Compton.” Director F. Gary Gray has said that they were left out of the film because they were “side stories” that didn’t serve the narrative. But in her essay, Barnes points out that Gray’s own involvement in what happened to her back in 1991 shouldn’t be ignored. The day of the Ice Cube interview, it was Gray who was behind the cameraman — he worked on “Pump It Up!” Prior to filming — on the set of Cube’s movie “Boyz in the Hood” —  Gray was present for a conversation with the rapper that left him in a bad mood (Barnes suspects he may have been shown footage of the remaining members of NWA trash-talking him). That bad mood led to the insult-laden interview and the rest is history — just not “Straight Outta Compton”‘s version of history.

F. Gary Gray, the man whose film made $60 million last weekend as it erased my attack from history, was also behind the camera to film the moment that launched that very attack. He was my cameraman for Pump It Up! You may have noticed that Gary has been reluctant to address N.W.A.’s misogyny and Dre’s attack on me in interviews. I think a huge reason that Gary doesn’t want to address it is because then he’d have to explain his part in history. He’s obviously uncomfortable for a reason.

Barnes is a brave, badass, talented woman and I can only pray that her essay for Gawker signals a rebirth in her journalism and writing career, especially as those who abused and harmed her, not to mention destroyed her career, rake in the profits from pretending she doesn’t exist. [Gawker]