“Straight Outta Compton,” the hip-hop biopic based on the life and careers of the members of ’90s rap group N.W.A., has experienced box office success, grossing $60.2 million in its first week. The film’s opening numbers exceeded expectation and maintained its number one position for the film’s second week in theaters.
With all of the success of the Dr. Dre- and Ice Cube-produced film, a couple of women from Andre Young’s past have spoken publicly about physical abuse they experienced at the hands of the famed rapper. Journalist Denise “Dee” Barnes penned a lengthy essay about her violent encounter with Dre, which was published on Gawker Aug. 18. In the essay, she states, “Accurately articulating the frustrations of young Black men being constantly harassed by the cops is at [the film’s] activistic core. There is a direct connection between the oppression of Black men and the violence perpetrated by Black men against Black women. It is a cycle of victimization and reenactment of violence that is rooted in racism and perpetuated by patriarchy. If the breadth of N.W.A.’s lyrical subject matter was guided by a certain logic, though, it was clearly a caustic logic.
“It was so caustic that when Dre was trying to choke me on the floor of the women’s room in Po Na Na Souk, a thought flashed through my head: ‘Oh my god. He’s trying to kill me.’ He had me trapped in that bathroom; he held the door closed with his leg. It was surreal. ‘Is this happening?’ I thought.”
A couple of days after Barnes’ essay was published, it was revealed that the original script for “Straight Outta Compton” included her abusive encounter. The Los Angeles Times reported, “Barnes’ run-in with Dre, however, was included in an earlier version of Jonathan Herman’s screenplay for the film: In the scene, the fictional Dre, ‘eyes glazed, drunk, with an edge of nastiness, contempt’ (per noted from the script), spots Barnes at the party and approaches her.
“‘Saw that [expletive] you did with Cube. Really had you under his spell, huh? Ate up everything he said. Let him diss us. Sell us out.’”
“‘I just let him tell his story,’ Barnes’ character retorts, ‘That’s what I do. It’s my job.’”
“‘I thought we were cool, you and me,’ Dre fires back. ‘But you don’t give a [expletive]. You just wanna laugh at N.W.A., make us all look like fools.’”
The conversation escalates, Barnes throws her drink in Dre’s face before he attacks her, “flinging her around like a ragdoll while she screams, cries, begs for him to stop.”
Dre’s former girlfriend and mother of his son, R&B singer Michel’le, also came out in a recent interview, referring to her relationship with Dre as being “the quiet girlfriend who got beat up and was told to sit down and shut up.”
The successful rapper and producer made a statement on his abuse of Barnes, Michel’le and his former label mate Tairrie B to The New York Times, which was published Aug. 21. “Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life,” he wrote. “However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I’ve been married for 19 years and every day I’m working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again. I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.”
FACT magazine reported that Michel’le responded to Dre’s statement. “I don’t really think it’s a sincere apology,” she said. “I didn’t ask for a public apology, and I think if he is going to apologize, he should do it individually. To just group us like we are nothing and nobody—I just don’t think it’s sincere, treat us like we have names. He’s selling a movie. I just think it’s good PR at the moment.”