Since the release of the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton which has earned nearly $60 million at the U.S. box office, much talk has been focused on the women who were not only lyrically assaulted by the notorious west coast rappers, but also physically attacked at the hands of rapper/producer Dr. Dre.
Dre’s alleged hatred of women is not depicted in the film, and when questioned about this glaring omission of the truth, director F. Gary Gray said the abuse victims were “side stories” that distracted from the narrative.
Gray’s comment seems indefensible until you realize that his relationship and loyalty to Dre goes back to when the director himself was a budding filmmaker in Hollywood. As revealed by one of Dre’s abuse victims, former video host Dee Barnes, Gray was behind the camera to film the moment that launched Dre’s attack on Barnes.
As Gawker reports, on January 27, 1991, at a record-release party for the rap duo Bytches With Problems in Hollywood, Dr. Dre brutally attacked Barnes, the host of a then-popular hip hop music show called Pump It Up! Dre was reportedly angry about a segment she hosted that focused on N.W.A., and concluded with a clip of Ice Cube, who had recently left the group, insulting his former colleagues.
Barnes said Dre attempted to throw her down a flight of stairs, slammed her head against a wall, kicked her, and stomped on her fingers.
Dre later told Rolling Stone, “It ain’t no big thing – I just threw her through a door.” He pleaded no contest to assault charges, and he and Barnes’s settled a civil suit out of court years later, of which she said:
“There’s a myth that I was paid so well by the settlement I received from Dre that I’d never have to work again. People think I was paid millions, when in reality, I didn’t even get a million.”
Barnes says Dre’s attack caused her to be blacklisted in Hollywood, unable to pursue her passion for journalism. She said that since the attack she has maintained a living through various 9-5 jobs.
“Nobody wants to work with me. They don’t want to affect their relationship with Dre. 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.”
Barnes agreed to watch Straight Outta Compton, and reflect on it for Gawker, saying, “It’s easy for them to be dismissive of women, because they don’t respect most women.”
Gary has been reluctant to address N.W.A.’s Misogynoir because, as Barnes states, then he’d have to explain his part in history.
“Gary was the one holding the camera during that fateful interview with Ice Cube, which was filmed on the set of (the film) Boyz N the Hood. I was there to interview the rapper Yo Yo. Cube went into a trailer to talk to Gary and Pump It Up! producer Jeff Shore. I saw as he exited that Cube’s mood had changed. Either they told him something or showed him the N.W.A. footage we had shot a few weeks earlier. What ended up airing was squeaky clean compared to the raw footage. N.W.A. were chewing Cube up and spitting him out.
Right after we shot a now-angry Cube and they shouted, “Cut!” one of the producers said, “We’re going to put that in.” I said, “Hell no.” I wasn’t even thinking about being attacked at the time, I was just afraid that they were going to shoot each other. I didn’t want to be part of that.”
You can read the full Gawker article here. Barnes is currently writing her memoir, “Music, Myth, and Misogyny: Memoirs of a Female MC.”