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Early Draft Of ‘Straight Outta Compton’ Included Dr. Dre’s Abusive Past, Controversy Brews Around Biopic

Early Draft Of 'Straight Outta Compton' Included Dr. Dre's Abusive Past, Controversy Brews Around Biopic

Universal‘s N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton” is a bonafide success. The massive $60 million opening this past weekend earned the picture the distinction of one of the best R-rated openings of all time. Critics and audiences have both been kind on the picture, and in general, praise has been coming from all corners. However, one controversy around the movie has been building over the past week, and it’s soon going to become something that neither the producers or studio can ignore. But first, a brief bit of history is needed.

After Ice Cube left N.W.A. in 1989, a beef brewed between the rapper and his former bandmates. In 1990, Fox hip hop show “Pump It Up” went to the set of “Boyz In The Hood” to interview Ice Cube, but before they rolled cameras, producers showed him what N.W.A. had to say about him in an interview shot for the program a few weeks earlier. Obviously, he wasn’t happy, and when host/rapper Dee Barnes sat down with Cube, he was ready to respond. “I got all you suckers 100 miles and runnin’,” the rapper said to his former group, adding. “I’d like to give a shoutout to the D.O.C. Y’all can’t play me.” 

N.W.A. did not like how their interview had been re-cut, with Ice Cube’s stinging remarks closing off the segment, and they were furious. In January 1991 at a record release party, Dr. Dre encountered Barnes again, and as described by Rolling Stone at the time, what followed is chilling: 

According to a statement issued by Barnes, Dre picked her up and “began slamming her face and the right side of her body repeatedly against a wall near the stairway” as his bodyguard held off the crowd. After Dre tried to throw her down the stairs and failed, he began kicking her in the ribs and hands. She escaped and ran into the women’s restroom. Dre followed her and “grabbed her from behind by the hair and proceeded to punch her in the back of the head.” Finally, Dre and his bodyguard ran from the building.
Far from denying the attack, the members of N.W.A. insist that, as Ren says, “she deserved it – bitch deserved it.” Eazy agrees: “Yeah, bitch had it coming”…

…And Dre himself says: “People talk all this shit, but you know, somebody fucks with me, I’m gonna fuck with them. I just did it, you know. Ain’t nothing you can do now by talking about it. Besides, it ain’t no big thing – I just threw her through a door.”

This incident was not unknown at the time, and while biopics always have a tendency to clean up the past, many are wondering why “Straight Outta Compton” omitted this part of the story. It’s even more curious when you know F. Gary Gray, the director of the film, was also the cameraman during Barnes’ now infamous interview with Ice Cube. And as it turns out, leaving the incident out of the film wasn’t just an oversight, but a conscious choice.

The L.A. Times reports that an early draft of the screenplay by Jonathan Herman included Dr. Dre’s assault on Barnes. Here’s how the scene is described in the screenplay according the paper: 

…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.”

As reported by Vulture, at a recent Q&A, Gray said the material involving Barnes was cut because “we couldn’t fit everything into the movie” and he was forced to focus on elements that better “served the narrative.” It’s a somewhat flimsy excuse given that the Cube/N.W.A. beef takes up a significant portion of the running time. And one also can’t help but wonder if Dr. Dre — who is a producer on the movie — also didn’t have his say about including this particularly ugly moment of his past.

Speaking more recently with Rolling Stone he’s somewhat apologetic about his history, though he doesn’t address the Barnes beating directly. “I made some fucking horrible mistakes in my life,” he said. “I was young, fucking stupid. I would say all the allegations aren’t true — some of them are. Those are some of the things that I would like to take back. It was really fucked up. But I paid for those mistakes, and there’s no way in hell that I will ever make another mistake like that again.”

Indeed, Dre’s incident with Barnes is far from the only time he has been accused of being abusive toward women — last fall, Medium detailed his history of being physically violent with women.

As for how the event should’ve been depicted in the film, Barnes herself has some some thoughts, which she shared in a must read editorial piece written for Gawker

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. 

In the meantime, “Selma” director Ava DuVernay has been a very vocal supporter of the movie, sharing a series of tweets earlier this week with her thoughts on the movie, but this is the most interesting in the context of this issue: “I saw the cavalier way that women were treated in hip hop spaces early on. Window dressing at most. Disposable at worst. Yep, that happened…To be a woman who loves hip hop at times is to be in love with your abuser. Because the music was and is that. And yet the culture is ours. From depictions of the origins of “Bye Felicia” to watching Cube bring his wife Kim to business meetings. That’s hip hop. A curious thing.”

You can check out DuVernay’s full interview with F. Gary Gray below along with her series of tweets. But sure to also read Barnes’ piece linked above. 

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