How Dee Barnes’ story highlights the toxic side of Hip Hop

Trigger Warning: This article is a part of Rwebel Media’s “Noise” series for survivors of trauma. The following story includes videos and descriptions of sexual harassment and domestic violence. Reader discretion is advised.
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A screenshot from Dee Barnes’ GoFundMe campaign. (GoFundMe)
Hip Hop has a problem it needs to address.

Hip Hop pioneer Dee Barnes paved the way for female Hip Hop journalists, yet she recently started a GoFundMe campaign because she is facing eviction.

And that is unsettling.

Barnes’ rise and fall
symbolizes how misogynoir
is normalized in Hip Hop.

In a 2015 interview with Huff Post, Barnes noted that she was fighting to exist in an industry that inhibits women from thriving.

From 1989 to 1991, Barnes hosted Pump It Up!, where she interviewed Hip Hop notables, and she told Kevin Powell that one of her favorite interviews was with Ice T.

At Ice T’s home, Barnes surveyed his fridge, and Ice T said this was a very personal thing. Eventually, surveying fridges would become a norm for MTV Cribs.

So, Barnes was creating a blueprint not just for Hip Hop but for music in general.

Alas, this success came to an abrupt halt in 1991. This was when she was physically assaulted by NWA alum Dr. Dre. Last week, she told Hip Hop DX that the incident led to subsequent blackballing.

Really, Barnes’ rise and fall symbolizes how misogynoir is normalized in Hip Hop. Just look at what happened to Young M.A. 30 years later.

Two weeks ago, she and Kodak Black trended on Twitter after he shot his shot and bricked.

Hard.

When Black tried to spit game, Young M.A., who is openly gay, told Black he was weird. Afterward, Black harassed her, in typical toxic male fashion. Although Young M.A.’s bag was not affected by Black’s harassment, his behavior should not be overlooked, as it symbolizes a norm in Hip Hop.

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A photo of Kodak Black by David Cabrera. (Commons Wikimedia)
Black has a history of abusive behavior, including his open rape case that goes to court this month.

Yet, when looking at the macrocosm of Hip Hop as a whole, Black’s attitude seems to be nurtured by his environment. Black is surrounded by fans and peers who perpetuate and support abuse.

After his public harassment of Young M.A., his fans defended him on Instagram and Twitter. This sends a message to women that Hip Hop does not care about them. This includes women in the industry and women who are romantically linked to these rappers.

Trigger Warning: The following video depicts rapper NBA Youngboy beating his former girlfriend Janiya.

Another case study is Janiya and NBA Youngboy.

Last summer, a video surfaced of Youngboy dragging and beating Janiya, but she said they were “just playing.” After that, some questioned if she was really being abused. Months later, Janiya went on Instagram Live with bruises and said that she had burned herself with hot water.

Since it did not make sense to some skeptics, they decided they could not help her. Instead of considering if Janiya might be experiencing Stockholm syndrome, they dismissed her story and continued to bump NBA Youngboy’s music.

But therein lies the problem.

When this new generation
of rappers
perpetuates violence
against women,
it is because
they learned
from their forefathers.

A lack of awareness about how abuse works leads to a lack of accountability. However, this lack of accountability is also driven by the tendency of the older Hip Hop generation to justify young rappers’ abusive behaviors.

J. Cole, who consistently sides with problematic artists, said, “You gotta give a boy a chance to grow some” in his hit “1985.” In a verse with 21 Savage, he said, “Pray for Tekashi; they want him to rot,” referring to Tekashi69, who is in jail for child pornography. People “cancelled” Tekashi for this pedophilia, but Cole disagreed with that.

In a recent interview, he denounced cancel culture while explaining why he supported Tekashi69, Kodak Black, and the late XXXTentacion, ​who all faced horrifying accusations of physical and sexual abuse.

Cole’s statements symbolize a sentiment from rappers in the older generations who are reluctant to call out younger rappers, which is the problem. For metaphor’s sake, this new generation of rappers are the “children” of Hip Hop, and children mimic the behaviors of their parents.

So, when freshman rappers perpetuate violence against women, it is because they learned from their forefathers.

Dee Barnes is the first woman Hip Hop journalist to have a TV show, according to Okay Player. Yet, she started a GoFundMe campaign because she is facing eviction, and this raised issues for me.

“How could this pioneering woman be facing eviction when the rap industry is on the rise?” I asked myself. “There must be something else at play; something had to have created this reality.”

The simple reason for Barnes’ situation is misogyny. Alas, there is a troubling nuance to the misogynoir  she has experienced.

28 years after her
horrific experience,
Barnes is forced
to constantly relive it.

When Barnes hosted Pump It Up!, she interviewed prominent artists like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Salt and Peppa. Now, 30 years after the debut, she is crowd sourcing to make sure she can foot her bills.

That may be due to the incident with Dre. In 1991, Barnes brought charges against Dr. Dre for the assault, and her career began to plummet, according to Okay Player editor Ivie Ani.

This was after Barnes was brought into the middle of a beef between Ice Cube and members of NWA. After Ice Cube left the group, the remaining members went onto Barnes’ show to talk about it. When Barnes’ producer cut to a segment of Ice Cube was dissing the group, the group felt disrespected.

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Graffiti of the NWA logo (Commons Wikimedia)
At a later party in L.A., Dr. Dre confronted Barnes and assaulted her.

In an account of the incident by Rolling Stone, Alan Light wrote: “According to a statement issued by Barnes, Dre picked her up and ‘began slamming her face and the right side of her body repeatedly against a wall near the stairway’ as his bodyguard held off the crowd.”

Afterward, members of NWA confirmed the incident, including Dre himself,
who is quoted in the Rolling Stone article as saying, “Ain’t nothing you can do now by talking about it. Besides, it ain’t no big thing.”

For Barnes, it is a big thing.

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Screenshot of YouTube comments under HBO miniseries. (YouTube)
28 years after her horrific experience, Barnes is forced to constantly relive it physically through migraines and socially through tone deaf jokes.

This is because pro-abuse continues to be Hip Hop’s norm. However, if this system can be created, it can be dismantled.

Buzzfeed reporter Sylvia Obell wondered if time will ever be up for abusers in Hip Hop, and I say yes time can be up, if Hip Hop musters the courage to confront its demons. ~ℝ

Editor’s Note: This story gives context on how America’s abuse-supporting culture pervades America’s most popular music genre. However, the preceding stories in the “Noise” series will primarily look at sexual assault and rape culture in America.

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A screenshot of Dee Barnes’ Go Fund Me campaign, which has exceeded its $5,000 goal. (GoFundMe)

javanna plummer, rwebel in chief

Javanna is the editor of “Rwebel Magazine,” the architect behind “Rwebel Radio,” and the pioneering force of “Xscape.” Through her words, Javanna hopes to inspire creativity, passion and forward-thinking.


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