“This Is Bigger Than Me, and Bigger Than Hip-Hop”: Dee Barnes Responds to Dre’s Apology

Dee Barnes has shared her thoughts on Dr. Dre’s apology addressed to “the women I’ve hurt,” which appeared in last week’s New York Times. Dre, aka Andre Young, wrote, “I deeply regret what I did” and said that he’s “doing everything [he] can so [he] never resemble[s] that  man again.”

“Bravo, Andre. Humility is true self-knowledge,” began Barnes in her open-letter response, published on Gawker. Referring to the number of times her assault at the hands of Dre has been mentioned in subsequent rap songs, including a song he produced (Eminem’s Guilty Conscious), Barnes wrote:

I have been routinely accused of “living in the past” and of not letting this go, but it was Dr. Dre himself who was living in the past and couldn’t let it go so he created a permanent reminder of the ‘Dee Barnes incident.’

Barnes highlights the injurious nature of making light of serious assaults, writing that these songs are “products of clear and obvious misogyny on a cultural level and for what? Jokes?”

Of the women who have spoken about being victims of Dr. Dre’s assaults, Barnes is the only one to press charges. Michel’le, a former partner of Dr. Dre’s in the late ’80s and early ’90s, alleges that Dre was often violent towards her. She told the New York Times how she didn’t press charges saying, “We don’t get that kind of education in my culture.”

Barnes seems well aware of the nuances and complications that fame could’ve played in both her case and other similar cases. “This is bigger than me, and bigger than hip-hop… As a result of speaking on my personal experience with violence, I have been vilified. Women survivors of violence are expected neither to be seen nor heard,” she wrote, “and the pressure increases when it involves celebrities. No one wants to see their heroes criticized.”

Barnes signs off her letter eloquently, writing:

In the past, great art was enough to exalt men of their bad behavior, but in 2015 it’s no longer the case.

Barnes’ willingness to speak about this traumatic experience can’t have been easy. All mentions of the assault were omitted from the new film Straight Outta Compton, maybe by Barnes speaking out, and Dre’s subsequent apology, a new precedent can be set; instead of brushing it under the carpet, such assaults can be met with legal and social justice.