By Teka Lark
On August 14, the N.W.A. biopic, “Straight Outta of Compton,” will be released in theaters nationwide. It is being distributed by Universal Pictures, one of the largest film distribution companies in the world and which is owned by NBCUniversal which in turn is owned by Comcast/General Electric.
I remember the casting call:
That isn’t the only thing I remember about “Straight Outta Compton.” I also remember one of the producers and characters on which the movie is based: Andre Young, aka Dr. Dre. The brand of terror he helped to unleash upon Black women, first in L.A., then the U.S. quickly around the world, is sure to be unleashed again as the cinemas are filled with fast-talking men — on the screen and in the theaters — whose only perception of women is “bitches” and “hos.”
“Ya’ll know me still the same OG/But I been low key”
Forgot About Dre by Andre Young, Marshall Mathers and Melvin Bradford
Published by 2001 Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
The misogyny of N.W.A. was not just an act. What the new movie may fail to exhibit is Dre’s violent history of abusing women, incidents which have been well-publicized over the last few decades.
In 1991, Dre severely beat and injured music journalist and “Pump It Up” TV show host Dee Barnes.
According to Dre and other band members, Barnes had interviewed Ice Cube (a former member of N.W.A.) incorrectly earlier in the year. By “incorrectly,” Dre meant she allowed footage of former N.W.A. member Ice Cube to say bad things about his former band mates.
Barnes was a tiny woman, which is not to imply that had she been larger would she have deserved the beating; it’s worth noting her diminutive size. Dre, on the other hand, is over six feet tall and weighed approximately 225 lbs. at the time he beat Barnes unmercifully.
According to an August 8, 1991 Rolling Stone story by Alan Light, “Dr. Dre found [Barnes] on the stairs at a record release party in Los Angeles. [He] ‘picked her up’ and ‘began slamming her face and the right side of her body repeatedly against a wall near the stairway’ as [Dre’s] bodyguard held off the crowd.”
He tried and failed to throw her down the stairs but she escaped into the women’s bathroom followed by Dre where he “grabbed her from behind by the hair and proceeded to punch her in the back of the head.”
After the brutal attack, Dre and his bodyguard ran from the building.
He did not and still does not deny the attack, nor has he apologized for it. On the contrary, his admission and pride in beating Barnes is widely documented. In Light’s Rolling Stone article, “Beating Up the Charts,” N.W.A.’s Ren insisted that “she deserved it – bitch deserved it.” Eazy E agreed: “Yeah, bitch had it coming.”
In the 1994 book, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, by Tricia Rose (published by Wesleyan), members of N.W.A. defiantly defended Dre’s actions, again saying “bitch deserved it” and “bitch had it coming.”
The incident was #37 on Spin Magazine’s “100 Sleaziest Moments in Rock.”
Nevertheless, Dre’s act of brutality got him only got 240 hours of community service, according to the Web site Cracked.com,
The beating is common knowledge to anyone who grew up in L.A. and is Generation X or older. It’s certainly common knowledge to most everyone in the music business. Sadly, it may be glossed over by the biopic that is sure to trumpet the band’s other escapades.
Dre went on to release “The Chronic,” which sold 4.5 million copies, and to collaborate with Eminem. In a 1999 duet called “Guilty Conscious,” Eminem and Dre joked about Dre beating Dee Barnes:
“That’s what I did, be smart, don’t be a retard/You gonna take advice from somebody who slapped DEE BARNES!?” Guilty Conscious by Marshall Mathers and Andre Young Sony/ATV Melody, Ain’T Nothing But Funkin’ Music, Eight Mile Style LLC, Colgems-emi Music Inc., Ain’T Nothin’ Goin’ On But F Ng Music, Eight Mile Style Music, WB Music Corp.
It wasn’t the only incident.
In 2013, “R&B Divas of L.A.” featured 1990s R&B singer Michel’le, the mother of one of Dre’s many children. On the show, she revealed that she had been regularly abused by him and that at one point he he broke her nose.
Despite his well-documented history of violence towards women, University of Southern California (USC) President C.L Max Nikias announced in 2013 that record producer Jimmy Iovine and Dre were to create a new undergraduate program called the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation.
If an institution takes money from a person and names a school after that person, it clearly is a sign of endorsement of that person’s behavior. To many people, this may mean that USC supports men beating Black women who they imagine are getting out of line.
In this day and age of public outcry over Bill Cosby’s admittance of secretly plying women with Quaaludes and allegedly raping them and the burgeoning call for no fewer than 23 universities (and other revered institutions) to rescind the honors they bestowed him owing to his decades of well-manicured fatherly image, one wonders why the the University of Southern California has chosen to give a habitual unapologetic woman beater such an honor as naming a school after him.
According to a July 31 article in Daily Beast Spelman, UMass, Berklee School of Music and Temple has cut ties with Cosby after the New Times and AP reported on a decade-old deposition detailing how Cosby coerced women into sex acts with drugs.
Is USC going to wait 50 years to cut their ties to Dr. Dre?
As a society we often accept oppression for the greater good.
Some examples of that “greater good” is Wall Street ( which is gutting the American middle class), the nonprofit NFL (which is almost wholly subsidized by taxpayers) and the hallowed university (with its Greek system’s rape culture).
Many lecturers on Civil Rights and the African-American experience in Los Angeles work as well as get grants, fellowships and many other resources from USC. They use those resources to critique LAPD and to compliment nonprofits doing “good” work — but they won’t critique the heinous misogyny looming over the young minds in the arts. USC, it should be noted, has a significant film school.
The people who tell LAPD what to do are USC alumni. The people who make the plans to gentrify the community are alumni of USC, the racist and sexist film industry is trained out of USC’s very popular film school, but you’re going to to fight for the community using USC’s money…yeah OK….
As the above casting call for Straight Outta Compton clearly indicates, dark skinned Black women without college degrees don’t matter. Apparently they are the “D girls” of society. That may be why so many people with degrees can ignore the ugliness and slurs that hiphop and rap has specifically for Black women: because it’s created by Black men, and as such, Black women have to support Black culture — which actually means we have to support Black men — no matter what.
That is why even though Bill Cosby’s raping ways were known within the Black community, folks shrugged if off with, “Well you know….stuff happens….how do we know…”
“‘[If ya’ll don’t like me blow me/Ya’ll are gonna keep fucking around with me/ And turn me back to the old me” Forgot About Dre by Andre Young, Marshall Mathers and Melvin Bradford Published by 2001 Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
When one possesses a plethora of PhDs and authors a number of best-selling books, it’s easy to mock the hypocrisy of the NAACP or discuss the violence of the police as if they exist in a vacuum, but what about the institutions that fund one’s books? What about the institutions that pay for people to ramble on about about the things that people with PhDs ramble on about? Why not stand up to USC’s open endorsement of a violent misogynist?
“Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say/But nothing comes out when they move their lips/Just a bunch of gibberish/And motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre” Forgot About Dre by Andre Young, Marshall Mathers and Melvin Bradford Published by 2001 Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
USC does not have respect for Black women. USC does not have respect for the Black community of South Central. And USC believes it can get away with endorsing a perspective that has claimed the lives of many thousands of women who once lived in the same city and county where USC has allowed a woman-beater to be glorified.
Why won’t USC disown Dr. Dre for his serial violence against women?
This isn’t an isolated incident and it’s not one part of rap. This hate is the backbone of rap and hip hop.
If Barnes had been a white woman, would USC still have taken Dre’s money and named a school in his honor?
Maybe the ivory tower dropped a grant pill in the drink of civil rights activists and they forgot that the endorsement of Dre was a violent kick in the face to Black women everywhere.
When one “forgets” to point at the ivory institutions because they’re scared of losing their grants and other support compensation, because they’re scared of not gaining status in forms of grants, books and TV shows, because they’re scared of being the very victims that they wish to forget even as it happens around them, one also forgets that the greater good isn’t a just a book, a grant and/or tenure. One suddenly forgets that the abuse of women isn’t just about an individual guy.
What needs to be remembered is that a system that supports those who violently abuse women and rewards the abuser with plaques and honor means that it is the system that maintains the abuse, even if it is individuals who carry it out backstage and on stage.
“Tryna get this damn label off/I ain’t having that/ This is the millennium of Aftermath/It ain’t gonna be nothing after that/ So give me one more platinum plaque and fuck rap/You can have it back” Forgot About Dre by Andre Young, Marshall Mathers and Melvin Bradford Published by 2001 Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
I’m not going to forget about you, Dre, nor am I going to forget about USC President Nikias. I won’t forget about the systemic racism and sexism that allows a monster like Andre Young to reap great financial rewards and public accolades and is allowed to imagine himself a member of the elite while misshaping young minds with institutional-supported misogyny.