The N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton has come under fire for its glaring omission of one of the group’s darkest chapters: Dr. Dre‘s January 27th, 1991 nightclub assault on hip-hop journalist Denise “Dee” Barnes. However, the original 150-page draft of the Compton script did include a graphic scene capturing the assault. But the scene was later cut as director F. Gary Gray opted to present a biopic that focused more on N.W.A itself.
The January 1991 assault on Barnes stemmed from an interview she gave with Ice Cube, who was feuding with N.W.A after he departed the group. Dre allegedly grabbed her hair, slammed her face and body into a wall and kicked her in the ribs at the nightclub. Dre’s ex-girlfriend, R&B singer Michel’l’e, levied similar assault claims against Dre.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in the scene from Jonathan Herman’s original script, a “drunk, with an edge of nastiness” Dre spots Barnes at a party following her Ice Cube interview and says to her, “Saw that shit you did with Cube. Really had you under his spell, huh? Ate up everything he said. Let him diss us. Sell us out.”
The conversation between the rapper and the hip-hop journalist escalates to the point where Barnes throws her drink in Dre’s face, at which point he attacks her by “flinging her around like a rag-doll, while she screams, cries, begs for him to stop,” the script read.
“The truth is too ugly for a general audience,” Barnes wrote on Gawker. “I didn’t want to see a depiction of me getting beat 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.”
“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,” Gray said of the missing assault scene during a pre-release screening Q&A, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Gray added that the first cut of Straight Outta Compton ran nearly three-and-a-half hours. (The theatrical version now clocks in at two hours and 27 minutes.) It’s unclear whether the assault scene was ever filmed or if it was excised before the final shooting script was completed.
The rapper owned up to the assault in a 1991 interview with Rolling Stone. “People talk all this shit, but you know, somebody fucks with me, I’m gonna fuck with them. I just did it, you know,” Dre said at the time. “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.” Eazy E added, “Yeah, bitch had it coming.”
Dre would eventually plead no contest to the 1991 assault and receive probation, and Barnes’ $10 million civil lawsuit against the rapper resulted in her receiving less than $1 million.
“I made some fucking horrible mistakes in my life,” Dre told Rolling Stone in his and Ice Cube’s recent cover story. “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.”