The Business of Violence
Over the last few years, we have borne witness to a national reckoning on racism and violence against women. We’ve pierced the light in both areas but still have so much further to go.
Many watched the Grammy Awards last weekend, and rapper and record producer Dr. Dre receive the inaugural Dr. Dre Global Impact Award. Yes, an award named after him honoring his achievements through his multi-decade career. He offered his thanks to the Recording Academy and Black Music Collective for the honor, in light of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.
There wasn’t a breathing soul in 1992 that didn’t have Dre’s debut album The Chronic. It exceeded our expectations. It was, to say the least, everything we didn’t know we needed. With his signature Parliament beats, soulful vocals, and those basslines, The Chronic redefined hip-hop music on all coasts, and was the benchmark for upcoming artists.
Most people believe he deserved that honor on Grammy night. A pioneer and a hip-hop legend, he was a natural choice. But Dre has a violent history of abusing Black women. So, to name an impact award after someone with that type of history is foul.
The hip-hop community has long reckoned with Dre’s abuse. They have ignored it and swept it under the rug for safekeeping. Yet, there are those of us who remember what he did to Dee Barnes. At just 19-years-old, Dee hosted a Fox show at the time called Pump It Up! Dre threw her down a flight of stairs, kicked her, and slammed her head against a wall. He attacked her because his interview aired together in the same segment with Ice Cube and N.W.A. They were all beefing at the time, and he was mad at her for allowing this to happen. It wasn’t her fault, as it was the producer’s decision to do so.
We can’t forget about singer Michel’le and her biopic Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le. She finally gave us her side of the story which involved abuse she endured at the hands of Dre in which he broke her nose, cracked her ribs and blackened her eyes.
And while his now ex-wife Nicole Young was initiating a divorce from Dre in 2021, she stated that he held a gun to her head on two separate occasions and that she suffered years of abuse. He cowardly denied everything.
Believe it or not, Dre was charged and pleaded no contest to assault and battery for what he did to Dee Barnes. However, he went on to earn millions and achieve an insurmountable level of success, including performing on the world’s stage at the Super Bowl LVI halftime show. However, Dee Barnes’ was immediately blacklisted. Her voice was silenced, in order to protect Dre.
The question still remains why Jay Z - whose partnership with the NFL puts him in charge of the Super Bowl halftime show and who has frequently collaborated with Dre well after his abusive ways were established - would choose him for the show knowing that the abuse of Black women was fresh on the minds of Black people following R. Kelly’s conviction.
In 2015, nearly a quarter of a century after first being publicly accused of beating Dee Barnes, Dre issued a statement acknowledging his abuse to “the women I hurt.”
Sir, you are a violent abuser of Black women. You repeatedly broke bones and was the perpetrator of on-going brutal attacks against Black women.
There are men out here who drink too much every single day - can’t walk and chew gum at the same time - who desperately need therapy - but they are not out here throwing women down stairs and giving them black eyes. And now, there is an award in his name that will be bestowed upon Black women hip-hop artists in the future? And they are supposed to be honored by this? To be honest, it will be a slap in the face.
The business of glorifying and uplifting abusers of women is nothing new. As a matter of fact, it’s been a money-maker in the hip-hip community for more than 30 years. Have any of the conversations, roundtables, campaigns, or formed coalitions made a difference? On the surface, as a reasonably-minded Black woman who's been around long enough to know what's what - I would say barely. The industry believes that if they don't talk about it and give it enough years, we will forget or it won't matter anymore. What I know for sure is that violence, degradation, and misogyny against Black women in rap and hip-hop hasn’t gone anywhere. It continues to be rewarded by the men who serve it up.