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Dee Barnes on What’s Missing From Straight Outta Compton

Dee Barnes on What’s Missing From Straight Outta Compton

Music journalist speaks on Dr. Dre assault, misogyny in hip hop, and being "blacklisted."

Published August 18, 2015

Denise "Dee" Barnes reflects on her experience watching Straight Outta Compton and details what's missing from the biopic, in a Gawker.com essay.

In 1991 Barnes, a host of the Fox hip hop show, Pump It Up!, was assaulted by Dr. Dre at an album release party, out of retaliation for an infamous Ice Cube interview. Dre pleaded no contest to assault, and Barnes received a settlement, which she says was less than $1 million. 

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Barnes recounts thinking Dre would kill her that night, and though he recently admitted to making some “f***king horrible mistakes” to Rolling Stone, he didn't get specific.  

The lack of acknowledgment carries over to Straight Outta Compton, says Barnes. Furthermore, she sees the film as "revisionist history," that makes N.W.A look like heroes without addressing misogyny and violence against women. She writes, “Straight Outta Compton transforms N.W.A from the world’s most dangerous rap group to the world’s most diluted rap group.” 

On The Dr. Dre Assault:

"My life changed that night. I suffer from horrific migraines that started only after the attack. I love Dre’s song 'Keep Their Heads Ringing' —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."

On Being Blacklisted:

"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 wen 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."

On Straight Outta Compton Director F. Gary Gray:

"That’s right. F. Gary Gray, the man whose film made $60 million last weekend as it erased my attack from history, was also behind the camera to film the moment that launched that very attack. He was my cameraman for Pump It Up!

"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."

Read the entire piece here 

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(Photos from Left: Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic/Getty Images, Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

Written by Latifah Muhammad

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