Dee Barnes Shares Her Take on ‘Straight Outta Compton’

By Brian Ives

To a generation of fans, Dee Barnes is the woman who Eminem name dropped in “Guilty Conscience,” his collaboration with Dr. Dre. In it, he said, “You gonna take advice from somebody who slapped Dee Barnes?”

Older fans may remember Dee Barnes, who was a host on hip-hop show called Pump It Up.  In 1991, Dr. Dre brutally attacked Barnes over a segment she shot for Pump It Up with Dre’s former N.W.A. mate Ice Cube. Cube dissed his former group in the clip, and Dre was not happy about it. And just as Straight Outta Compton has topped the box office, Barnes has written her account of the incident, and effect it has had on her life, for Gawker.

She points out that the person who filmed the Pump It Up clip which supposed caused the Dre to come after her, was F. Gary Gray, who would go on to direct Straight Outta Compton. Gray, she notes, has avoided discussing the misogyny of the members of N.W.A. “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,” she writes.

Related: Michel’le Speaks on ‘Straight Outta Compton’ Abuse Oversight: “I Was Just A Girlfriend Who Got Beat Up”

She, as many others, pointed out that Dre’s attack on her is not mentioned in Straight Outta Compton, which she watched before writing the article.  Although Barnes writes, “…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. When I was sitting there in the theater, and the movie’s timeline skipped by my attack without a glance, I was like, ‘Uhhh, what happened?’ Like many of the women that knew and worked with N.W.A., I found myself a casualty of Straight Outta Compton’s revisionist history.” She notes that most women in the story, including hip-hop group J.J. Fad, Dre’s ex-girlfriend Michel’e, Death Row artists Jewell and Lady of Rage, and Ice Cube’s associate Yo-Yo were absent from the film.

And she says that the beating that she suffered at Dre’s hands changed the course of her life. “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.”

Related: ‘Straight Outta Compton’ Almost Didn’t Get Made. Ice Cube Explains Why

The effects of the beating were more than just physical: “I was blacklisted. Nobody wants to work with me. They don’t want to affect their relationship with Dre. I’ve been told directly and indirectly, ‘I can’t work with you.’ I auditioned for the part that eventually went to Kimberly Elise in Set It Off. Gary [Gray] 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.'”

She also says that she tried to get a job at Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs’ Revolt network, as she’s known him for a long time, but to no avail. She’s worked 9-5 jobs over the years to make ends meet, and she says that the settlement she got from Dre wasn’t enough to retire on.

Ultimately, she concludes, “The biggest problem with Straight Outta Compton is that it ignores several of N.W.A.’s own harsh realities.” Read the entire article, which is well worth your time, at Gawker.

 

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