The California Senate will be honoring the 50th anniversary of hip hop Monday, and particularly West coast hip hop. The Legislature regularly honors cultural events as well as myriad leaders each year. But this one has a blemish.
Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Los Angeles) authored Senate Concurrent Resolution 81 honoring hip hop for 50 years of groundbreaking music and style, and names famous hip hop stars Run-DMC, Queen Latifah, and LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, and hip hop artists from California such as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg.
Tupac Shakur was murdered in a driveway shooting in 1996.
The resolution specifies, “N.W.A’s record Straight Outta Compton became the first blockbuster gangsta rap album, established west coast hip hop as a vital genre, and made California rival to hip hop’s long-time capital of New York.”
The SCR identifies “Hip hop artists from California such as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, and others revolutionized the genre and influenced generations of artists who followed.”
Hip hop isn’t easy-listening-in-an-elevator music. Nor have the stars always been such upstanding citizens worthy of say, Legislative honor.
In a February 2023 op ed for the Grio,, wrote, “Dr. Dre has long been accused of violence against women. Why is he still being rewarded?”
“As we gear up to celebrate hip-hop’s past achievements and innovations, we must also keep it real with ourselves about our high tolerance for violence against women and the way we continue to collectively silence the women who tell their truth about surviving that violence. I’d like to call it a dark history, but last year ended with Megan Thee Stallion, another powerful woman in this community, having to fight for her truth.”
“It should no longer be acceptable to honor men who mistreat and then sideline women from sharing in hip-hop’s success story — and who refuse to be held accountable for their actions. Dr. Dre is a musical genius who forced hip-hop to stretch its geographical boundaries across the country. In doing so, he opened up the entire country and globe to contribute its unique sounds, to be more than provincial. He made music that was honest about the violence from his era. But creating an award in his name, with accusations of long-standing patterns of violence, keeps us locked in a perpetual adolescence, where we refuse to heal or grow. It sidelines the women who’ve been a part of this culture in every way from the very beginning, and it attempts to erase decades of harm.”
An article titled “Beatings by Dr. Dre” by Byron Crawford at Medium.com went into great detail about what Dr. Dre did to several women in hip hop, including Dee Barnes, a female rapper, and host of Fox’s hip hop show Pump It Up! On her show, Barnes and Ice Cube, who pursued a solo career after departing N.W.A., Dr. Dre and fellow bandmates over a compensation dispute, spoke about the tension between them, which apparently set Dre off:
Dr. Dre confronted Dee Barnes at a record release party in LA, where he proceeded to beat the living shit out of her. Here’s how Rolling Stone reporter Alan Light described it in an article called “Beating Up the Charts.”
He picked her up by her hair and “began slamming her head and the right side of her body repeatedly against a brick wall near the stairway” as his bodyguard held off the crowd with a gun. 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 rest room. Dre followed her and “grabbed her from behind by the hair again and proceeded to punch her in the back of the head.”
Members of N.W.A. discussed the attack in subsequent interviews. And I quote.
MC Ren: “She deserved it—bitch deserved it.”
Eazy-E: “Yeah, bitch had it coming.”
Dr. Dre himself: “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.”
Crawford even found a YouTube video of Dr. Dre and N.W.A. members saying this:
Rev. Yearwood reminds us that “Dr. Dre was being featured in the Super Bowl halftime show last year came right around the time R. Kelly was being convicted of three counts of producing child pornography and three counts of enticing a minor into criminal sexual activity.”
“Similarly, singer Michel’le, an ex-fiancee of Dr. Dre and the mother of one of his children, has recountedhow he gave her a series of black eyes and cracked her rib, after which she mostly stepped away from a promising music career. Even more recently, Nicole Young, Dr. Dre’s ex-wife, accused him of repeated domestic violence during their 24-year marriage. Yet, the award at the Grammys was both renamed the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award in his honor and presented to him, despite this long history of alleged violence against women.
While these violent attacks took place in the 1990’s, it is worth asking why this is who Sen. Bradford and the California Senate plan to honor. There are plenty of hip hop artists to celebrate.
“As hip-hop celebrates its 50th anniversary, it’s time to do the hard work of true healing and justice for Black women,” Rev. Yearwood said.
A reader sent the Globe this:
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