While there’s all this discussion about the brilliance of Straight Outta Compton and how it dominated in the box office, there is another story, running simultaneously, just below the surface. It’s the discussion of N.W.A.’s history of misogyny, particularly Dr. Dre’s domestic violence issues.
We’ve discussed the Dee Barnes incident and even included the essay she recently wrote for Gawker. In it, Barnes wondered why her assault was omitted completely. For those who have seen the movie, read her essay and know a little bit about N.W.A.’s beef, then you know her interview with Ice Cube was the catalyst for most of it.
DJ Yella explained why in a recent interview with Vlad TV
And while it didn’t make the final cut, at one point or another, there were plans for it to appear in the film.
According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the incident did appear in an earlier screenplay written by Jonathan Herman.
It’s written as follows:
…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 rag-doll, while she screams, cries, begs for him to stop.”
It was one of several scenes that didn’t make the final cut. F. Gary Gray has said on several occasions that the original cut of the film was three hours long and there were several scenes that were nixed.
During his Breakfast Club Interview with Ice Cube, he did seem to allude to the fact that these additional scenes might show up on the DVD.
But before that, when asked by a viewer as a pre-release screening why it was missing, Gray said, “There are so many things that you can add or subtract. Cube always said, ‘You can make five different N.W.A. movies.’ We made the one we wanted to make.”
Ain’t that the truth.
What perhaps is most troubling to me is not only did they leave out a key part of the story to save Dr. Dre’s reputation, they did so with the intent to save director F. Gary Gray’s as well. You may remember in Barnes’ essay, she said Gray was working as the cameraman during her now infamous interview with Ice Cube. And while I’m not sure who served as editor; whoever placed Ice Cube’s derogatory comments right in front of an N.W.A performance knew full well what type of message that might send to the remaining members of the group.
So, it’s a shame that Dee Barnes was beaten and blacklisted from the industry for putting a mic in Cube’s face, while Gray, who might have had a hand in the editing, gets to make millions off of the story. It’s just not easy being a woman…particularly in Hip Hop.
Additionally, the whole ordeal is sad because they didn’t take the opportunity to address many of the group members’ shortcomings. Honestly, the only person who’s given a fully human story is Eazy E. He’s the only character with flaws, highs and loves, triumphs and setbacks. And the audience loves him for it. He’s human. The audience loves Cube and Dre too but you leave the film thinking Dr. Dre and Ice Cube are saints.
I remember watching the domestic violence portion of James Brown’s biopic Get On Up. And though it was painful and disappointing, I still left the theater regarding Brown as a great man. The same could have been true for Dre.
Personally, I loved Straight Outta Compton. (That might speak to me being a “bad feminist,” unprincipled or just not fully woke when it comes to feminist philosophy. I’m not sure.) Still, the movie would have been so much more grounded if Dre and Cube had allowed themselves to be presented as less than perfect. The information was already out there anyway. It was in the lyrics, in the court documents and in the interviews in which Dre brushed off the incident, saying he just threw her through a door.
If they’d put that incident in the movie or acknowledged that it happened, we could have started a dialogue. People would have asked Dre questions about it but then that would have been his opportunity to speak publicly about how he’s matured and changed. Omitting it or pretending it wasn’t central to the N.W.A. story, as well as Dre’s story, seems to not only suggest it never happened but also that the Dr. Dre we know today still doesn’t see a problem with it or doesn’t believe beating women is “that big of a deal.”
Hell, Ice Cube is still stuck in the past.
And when you pretend things didn’t happen, that’s when folks start throwing things back in your face.
It’s clear that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube wanted audiences to walk away regarding them as heroes. And in many respects they are. They developed a brotherhood, they gave a voice to the hood, followed their passions, empowered other artists, and perhaps most importantly, they spoke up about police brutality. In my opinion, for a group that prided themselves on being raw and real, they could have been even more heroic if they’d told the truth as well.