Straight Outta Compton over the past weekend, to positive critical reception and a top box office slot. The film, which scored $60.2 million in the U.S. and Canada is expected to rake in another $30 million this weekend.
From the viral social media marketing of the film, to the release of new music by Dr. Dre, NWA’s cultural impact is a force to be reckoned with. But, turning an even more critical eye to the film, it’s pretty apparent that something is missing. Where are the women? Specifically, the women who Dr. Dre beat and abused over the years.
The most famous Dr. Dre’s victims is Dee Barnes, a music journalist and radio host who gained famed back in the early 90’s as the host of the popular FOX hip-hop television show “Pump It Up.” If you followed hip-hop oriented media back in the day, chances are you are already pretty familiar with the fate of Dee Barnes.
On January 27, 1991, Dr. Dre savagely beat Dee Barnes at a record-release party for the rap duo Bytches With Problems. Dre was reportedly angry about about a segment on Barnes’ show which featured a clip of Ice Cube, who had recently left the group, trashing his former collaborators.
A 1991 article published in Rolling Stone describes the incident,
According to a statement issued by Barnes, Dre 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 to throw her down the stairs and failed, he began kicking her in the ribs and hands. She escaped and ran into the women’s restroom. Dre followed her and “grabbed her from behind by the hair and proceeded to punch her in the back of the head.” Finally, Dre and his bodyguard ran from the building.
According to several reports, Barnes tried to sue Dr. Dre over the incident and ended up settling out of court. Barnes recently broke her silence with a scathing essay for Gawker, in which she recalls the incident and its aftermath. She also touched on Straight Outta Compton’s complete omission of any of the female artists that also helped contribute early 90’s West Coast era of hip-hop.
It was that interview that was the supposed cause of Dre’s attack on me, as many of his groupmates attested. My life changed that night. I suffer from horrific migraines that started only after the attack. 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.
People ask me, “How come you’re not on TV anymore?” and “How come you’re not back on television?” It’s not like I haven’t tried. 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 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.
Most recently, I tried to get a job at Revolt. I’ve known Sean (Combs) for years and have the utmost respect for him. Still nothing. Instead of doing journalism, I’ve had a series of 9-5 jobs over the years to make ends meet.
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, and it wasn’t until September of 1993. He and his lawyers dragged their feet the whole way. He stopped coming to court, they kept postponing it. I was tired, and, toward the end, pregnant, but I still tried to show up for everything. And I never thought I was going to have to stop doing what I loved for my job. That was the furthest thing from my mind.
In 1999, Eminem referenced the incident on “Guilty Conscience” a collaborate track featuring Dr. Dre. He rapped “You gonna take advice from somebody who slapped Dee Barnes?”
Michel’le Toussaint aka Michel’le, a former longtime partner of Dr. Dre who has a 24-year-old son by the rapper, has spoken out many times over the years about the abuse she endured during her relationship with him.
Toussaint, who is currently a cast member on the hit TV One reality show “R&B Divas: Los Angeles,” opened up about being abused by Dr. Dre during a cast reunion special, hosted by Wendy Williams.
Michel’le: “One of my boyfriends hit me and [made it] crooked it until I had to straighten it and change it and it cost a lot of money.”
Wendy Williams: “One of your babies’ fathers? You’re speaking of, that broke your nose?”
Michel’le: “Absolutely…and I stayed.”
Michel’le: “Getting beat was love to me. When I got with Suge — believe it or not — he didn’t really beat me. I asked him ‘why aren’t you beating me? Don’t you love me?”
Wendy Williams: By saying Suge didn’t beat you, the finger is pointing at you Dr. Dre.
Michel’le then confirmed that he was the person who had beat her. She also stated that she had to put extra make-up on to cover up her black eyes and bruises when performing on stage.
Earlier this year, Michel’le also recounted the time that Dr. Dre shot at her, in an interview with VladTV.
“I was getting dragged on the floor, shot at,” Michel’le said. “One night we was [sic] arguing. He went and got the gun. And I just made it through the bathroom door and the shot — and he shot at me and he missed me by that much. He almost hit [me]. He shot at me … I left the bullet in the hole and it went out — it was in the door and then it went through the side of the wall in the bathroom. And I left it there for a while, just so he could see it. But he never tried to shoot me anymore. Thank God. But the beatings were — [there were] a lot …”
VladTV recently posted a new clip with Michel’le. She expressed relief that she was left out of the film. When the interviewer asked her about it, she had this to say:
“Why would Dre put me in it? I was just a quiet girlfriend who got beat on and told to sit down and shut up. My part has no value to, probably, what they really want to talk about — unless they want to talk.”