It's been nearly 25 years since Dr. Dre assaulted journalist Dee Barnes at a Hollywood nightclub -- and just as long since the attack has been largely buried in hip-hop and pop culture history.
Barnes revisited that dark night in an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post to ensure her story -- and her voice -- aren’t ignored again. The interview, led by author and HuffPost blogger Kevin Powell, marks her first public discussion about the assault since it occurred in January 1991. Watch it here:
The August 14th release of “Straight Outta Compton” -- a biopic that documented the rise and fame of N.W.A., the pioneering rap group of which Dr. Dre was a member -- prompted widespread concerns about the the rapper's attack and called for his accountability. The assault was omitted from the film.
At the time of the attack, Barnes was a host on “Pump It Up!”, a hip-hop music show on Fox. In Powell's interview, she recalled how she met Dr. Dre, as well as other members of the group, and how their relationship evolved.
She also discussed some of the events that led to the assault by explaining how Dr. Dre was upset at her for a previous interview she conducted with fellow group member Ice Cube.
“Dre approached… [and] he just grabbed me,” Barnes told Powell. “I thought he was going to walk past me but he just grabbed me.” She then explained:
“I mean it’s no secret… he grabbed me by my hair and started slamming me up against the wall,” she said. “It’s a painful and traumatic experience.”
As a result of the attack, Barnes said she still suffers from major migraines, but that the physical pain is only one challenge.
“I got emails from young girls saying ‘You were my first experience with domestic violence.’”
Barnes also said she experiences emotional grief every time she hears many of the songs she said mention her name and reference the attack. Perhaps the most notable are the lyrics from Eminem and Dr. Dre’s collaboration on the 1999 song, “Guilty Conscious," which says: “You gonna take advice from somebody who slapped Dee Barnes?”
“Somehow [the assault] was reduced to a joke, I ain’t no joke. I’m not. And domestic violence is no joke," Barnes told Powell. "It’s a serious issue.”
Just before the assault, Barnes’ career began to boom as hip hop was transforming into a full-blown cultural movement. She quickly attracted fans, many of whom were young women who looked up to her as only one of few leading women in the male-dominated rap world. She then fell victim to an even more tragic reality that sent a painful message to countless others.
“I had young girls watching, [ages] 13 and 14 so I got emails from young girls saying ‘You were my first experience with domestic violence,’” Barnes recalled. “I was too busy trying to survive. It was vicious.”
“I was not the first but I wanted to make sure I would be the last."”
“I literally had to go back to work in 3 days. Black eye and all,” Barnes added, recalling how she wore extra makeup, took sedatives and wore sunglasses during segments in the following weeks at work to mask her black eye and facial bruises.
Barnes later filed charges and reached a settlement against Dr. Dre who plead no contest. "I was not the first but I wanted to make sure I would be the last," she said in the interview.
Powell noted that Barnes' life and reputation shouldn’t be reduced to one infamous incident, though. Barnes has had an expansive journey in entertainment and is considered an influential black female pioneer with contributions to hip hop, media and black culture. She now describes herself on Twitter as an "Emcee-Photog-Blogger-Rasta-Queen."
Barnes recently watched the biopic and wrote about her thoughts on Gawker:
Accurately articulating the frustrations of young black men being constantly harassed by the cops is at Straight Outta Compton’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.
Barnes is also documenting her full journey in a new memoir that is in the works.
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