Last week’s apology by rapper and world famous record producer Dr. Dre to the women in his life he has “hurt” has stirred a hot debate in the music world.
Dre issued the expression of remorse publicly when the release of the much-anticipated film Straight Outta Compton, which chronicles the early history of his former rap group NWA, was followed by the publication of a story by Dee Barnes, a journalist who says she was assaulted by the rapper in 1991.
She’s not the only one to blow a whistle on Dre; several women have have alleged that they, too, have experienced violence at the hands of the musician.
It’s a story that doesn’t surprise many of us. We’ve been here before. We watched it unfold in the sixties and seventies with Ike and Tina, Phil Spector, and country music “sweetheart” Glen Campbell. The eighties and nineties provided no shortage of domestic abuse, with repeat offender James Brown, and practically all the members of Guns’n’Roses leading the charge.
And everyone knows about the extremely poor choices made by the likes of 50 Cent and Chris Brown.
But the weird thing is: not every celebrity with a penchant for abuse is treated the same way by a quick-to-appall public. Following his seemingly heartfelt apology, the media has, for the most part, been fairly forgiving toward Dre. This, in stark contrast to the rabid vilification of Chris Brown, whose career has arguably faltered irreparably since photos taken of Rihanna’s badly-battered face leaked online in 2009. Jay-Z called Brown “a walking dead man”.
So the question for music lovers is: how much should our moral compass guide our choices about whether or not to like a certain artist? The answer might not be as easy as you think.
Many of you would avoid spending money in a restaurant or cafe where it was observed or otherwise discovered that staff were badly treated. This makes sense, because not many people wish to reward a business for being abusive or taking unfair advantage of someone. We all know that when we spend, we’re voting for something over an alternative; letting the gods of commerce know what we want, what we value.
But how a musician behaves behind closed doors is very different to our experience of them on an album, or in concert. Alcohol and drug abuse is pardoned when it comes to musicians, as long as it doesn’t affect their output, so why not also systematic aggression toward a partner?
It seems to reason that any behaviors which aren’t directly related to talent and performance ought to be dissociated from whether or not we enjoy someone’s music. After all, bad behavior as an adult doesn’t negate the merits of a lifetime of musical training and the honing of raw talent.
But many people – from the people who protested sales of Chris Brown’s album with warning stickers, to Jay-Z – don’t think so. And Dr. Dre’s former girlfriend Michel’le, who also accuses him of assault, isn’t buying his apology.
“I don’t really think it’s a sincere apology,” she told BBC Radio 5 Live. “He’s selling a movie. I just think it’s good PR at the moment.”
What do you think? Should artists have to pay for assaulting women by losing fans and sales? Or should we keep our feelings out of it? Let us know in the comments below.