When people with pasts as colorful as the members of N.W.A venture into autobiographical territory, they should be fully prepared for skeletons from their pasts to be exposed and in some instances, rehashed.
In an essay published on Gawker, former “Pump It Up” host Dee Barnes shared her reaction to the Straight Outta Compton biopic, recalled the incident when she was savagely beaten by Dr. Dre, and alleged that the assault led to her being blacklisted by the industry.
On the assault:
When I saw the footage of California Highway Patrol officer Daniel Andrew straddling and viciously punching Marlene Pinnock in broad daylight on the side of a busy freeway last year, I cringed. That must have been how it looked as Dr. Dre straddled me and beat me mercilessly on the floor of the women’s restroom at the Po Na Na Souk nightclub in 1991.
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.
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.
On Straight Outta Compton:
That event isn’t depicted in Straight Outta Compton, but I don’t think it should have been, either. The truth is too ugly for a general audience. I didn’t want to see a depiction of me getting beat up, just like I didn’t want to see a depiction of Dre beating up Michel’le, his one-time girlfriend who recently summed up their relationship this way: “I was just a quiet girlfriend who got beat on and told to sit down and shut up.”
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.
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 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.
In addition to detailing the brutal attack, Barnes revealed that Straight Outta Compton producer F. Gary Gray was actually the cameraman who filmed the Ice Cube interview that would eventually trigger the Dre assault, the small settlement she received years after the assault, and her relationship with the men of N.W.A. before they rose to stardom.
You can read her full essay here.