“Straight Outta Compton,” the hit biopic about the rise of hip-hop group NWA, leaves out a troubling part about the group’s rise to fame, says journalist and rapper Dee Barnes in a recent post on Gawker.
The omission: Dr. Dre’s violence towards women.
In 1991, Barnes was viciously beaten by then-N.W.A. rapper Dr. Dre on the floor of the woman’s bathroom of the Po Na Na Souk nightclub in Los Angeles.
Barnes says Dr. Dre was provoked by a recent segment which aired on her FOX show “Pump It Up!” in which Ice Cube, who had just left the group, trashed his former colleagues. According to Barnes, Dr. Dre slammed her head against a wall, kicked her, stomped on her fingers, and attempted to throw her down a flight of stairs.
Barnes later filed a civil suit against Dre that was eventually settled out of court.
When the timeline of “Straight Outta Compton” skips over her attack without so much as a mention, she says she found herself “a casualty of Straight Outta Compton‘s revisionist history.”
“[My attack] 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. But what should have been addressed is that it occurred.” Barnes writes, adding that “Straight Outta Compton transforms N.W.A. from the world’s most dangerous rap group to the world’s most diluted rap group,” by ignoring their misogyny.
Barnes says Dr. Dre — who produced the film along with Ice Cube — should have owned up to his numerous alleged attacks on women in the film, including a 1990 alleged assault on rapper Tairrie B and numerous alleged assaults on his ex-wife Michel’le. Barnes notes that those assaults, along with hers were considered “side stories” by director F. Gary Grey.
“The original editor’s cut was three hours and 30 minutes long, so we couldn’t get everything in the movie,” Grey said in a recent interview with Ebony. “We had to make sure we served the narrative; the narrative was about N.W.A. It wasn’t about side stories.”
Barnes finds his comments particularly offensive considering he was the cameraman that filmed her interview with Ice Cube in 1990 that supposedly provoked Dr. Dre’s attack on her.
“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 writes.
She adds that many of the women who worked with the N.W.A. rappers were not featured in the film, and that most women were either “naked in a hotel room or dancing in the background at the wild pool parties.”
Overall, Barnes says the movie glorifies N.W.A. by showing how they “articulated the frustrations of young black men being constantly harassed by the cops.” However, the movie fails to acknowledge the flipside of N.W.A.’s guiding philosophy by explaining the 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,” Barnes says, adding that “the biggest problem with Straight Outta Compton is that it ignores several of N.W.A.’s own harsh realities.”