As the Recording Academy and Grammy Awards prepare to honor Dr. Dre, difficult questions over domestic violence and women’s advocacy are emerging.
Just last week, the Recording Academy made a surprising announcement. As part of its splashy Grammy Week in 2020, the organization is preparing a high-profile award for Dr. Dre, aka Andre Young. On January 22nd, Dre will be fêted at Village Studios in West Los Angeles for the Recording Academy’s 13th annual ‘Producers & Engineers Wing’ of the broader pre-Grammy celebration week.
“Dre breaks boundaries and inspires music creators across every genre,” said Deborah Dugan, the incoming President and CEO of the Recording Academy. “His evolution as a producer solidifies him as a leader of the pack within our industry, and we watch in amazement as he continues to shape the future of music.”
Unfortunately, Dre has also broken a few other things — which aren’t so inspirational. Back in the early-90s, Dre brutally beat up then-MTV veejay Dee Barnes at a nightclub in Los Angeles, then bragged about the incident. The ugly attack was further confirmed in court papers, with Dre eventually settling charges brought by Barnes.
“When Dre was trying to choke me on the floor of the women’s room in Po Na Na Souk, a thought flashed through my head: ‘Oh my god. He’s trying to kill me,'” Barnes would later write. “He had me trapped in that bathroom; he held the door closed with his leg. It was surreal. ‘Is this happening?’ I thought.”
Barnes, who still suffers injuries from that attack — “My life changed that night. I suffer from horrific migraines that started only after the attack”— also pointed to other alleged incidents of violence by Dre. But most stingingly, Barnes questioned why the attack against her wasn’t documented in the film Straight Outta Compton.
“Dre, who executive produced the movie along with his former group mate Ice Cube, should have owned up to the time he punched his labelmate Tairrie B twice at a Grammys party in 1990. He should have owned up to the black eyes and scars he gave to his collaborator Michel’le. And he should have owned up to what he did to me. That’s reality. That’s reality rap.”
The omissions were certainly glaring, though Dre eventually apologized for the incidents.
Still, the selection of Dre by the Recording Academy, a group reeling from serious accusations of discrimination against women, seems ill-advised. Multiple executives — both male and female — have expressed some reservations about the decision to Digital Music News, especially now. None were willing to speak out against it publicly, however.
Dugan herself is taking over a broken Recording Academy, with former president Neil Portnow ushered out for telling women to ‘Step Up’ if they wanted to win more Grammy Awards. Strangely, the Recording Academy is remaining completely quiet on this one.
Nathan Rillo of Finn Partners, which handles PR for the Recording Academy, declined to even comment on the selection. Rillo is routinely offering statements to DMN on everything from the CASE Act to the Portnow himself, who Rillo adamantly insists wasn’t fired. On this one, it’s crickets, however.
More as this develops.