The year was 1991, producer/rapper and then N.W.A member Andre “Dr. Dre” Young felt he had the right to attack hip-hop journalist Denise “Dee” Barnes in a nightclub. If you didn’t know about the incident, you probably would have never known, because the new movie Straight Outta Compton, omits important information about N.W.A. It’s no doubt that the movie is going to be a big hit, and why wouldn’t it with all the action and learning about a group of guys who were being criticized by the mainstream. However, for the little time they were together they were a notorious rap act.
Ice Cube and Dre. Dre the surviving group members had a big hand in helping to produce the movie. The movie will describe an N.W.A that is more gentle and soft than any other existing conceptions about the group. So, big parts such as N.W.A’s hatred toward women is left out. There were women, mothers, wives and girlfriends in their lives, who in the movie are given small roles. There are a few female rappers in the movie such as Michel’le who is mentioned twice, however, big time YoYo from back in the day is not mentioned at all.
Everyone who watch the film will most likely come away with a clear understanding about why the young #black men during that time in South Central Los Angeles would express themselves with lyrics such as “Fuck tha Police,” it might be a little difficult to gain a clear understanding as to what Ice Cube was thinking when he wrote “A Bitch Iz a Bitch,” or how the pornographically demeaning 2nd half of N.W.A’s 1991 album, Niggaz4Life, fit into the group.
Of course, a lot of N.W.A’s anti-woman style, has been criticize over the years, and with no doubt has been suppressed in the movies to keep men looking like men. So, let’s get down to the ugly truth. Straight Outta Compton polishes over a defining moment in N.W.A.’s legacy. It might be something that Hollywood wants to forget, maybe even Dr. Dre, but it happened nonetheless.
On January 27, 1991, during what many reports say was a record-release party for the feminist-bent rap duo “Bytches with Problems” (BWP) at Hollywood’s Po Na Na Souk club, Dr. Dre brutally beat up Dee Barnes, the host of a well-known Fox show about hip-hop called Pump It Up!
The Los Angeles Times ran the first major-outlet story on the incident on June 28, 1991. The paper ran a follow-up a few weeks later, on July 23 that included Barnes’s description of the attack. So, here is how the attack went down: When Dre found Dee Barnes at a record release party shortly after the interview, he “picked her up” and “began slamming her face and the right side of her body repeatedly against a wall near the stairway” as his bodyguard held off the crowd. After Dre tried and failed to throw her down the stairs, he began kicking her in the ribs before chasing her into the women’s bathroom and donkey punching her a few times for good measure. Now, according to the Los Angeles Times that is how Barnes described the incident.
The whole incident occurred because Barnes interviewed Ice Cube, who had left the group in December 1989 because of a dispute over royalties. There was bad blood then between Cube and his former group members. The group members traded insults. The group called Cube a “Benedict Arnold” grew on N.W.A.’s first Cube-less release, the 100 Miles and Runnin’ EP. Ice Cube struck back on his Kill at Will EP, and then more thoroughly on “No Vaseline,” from his 1991 album, Death Certificate.
After the incident Barnes sued the group members. She settled out of court with Dre’ for an undisclosed amount. Dre always made it very clear that Barnes tried to play the group, so she got everything that she deserved. So, just what was Dre referring to when he said Barnes tried to play N.W.A.
Dee Barnes made an excellent point to the Los Angeles Times about why she took the actions she did against the group by saying “My lawsuit is not just about one five-foot three-inch woman getting slapped around by a six-foot two-inch guy…It’s about how N.W.A rages violence against women in general. Millions of little boys listen to this crap—and they’re going to grow up thinking it’s all right to abuse women.”
So, when you sit down to view the movie, you have to realize that only parts of the story is being told. People do change, and who they were in their 20’s, one can only hope they are not the same in their 40’s. However, it is hard to forget the things that led N.W.A stood for back in the day. It would have been good to see the O.G’s tell the whole story, put the cards on the table, because at the end of the movie it will be about who they are today, not yesterday.