When RadiumOne founder Gurbaksh Chahal admitted to one count of domestic violence battery and one count of battery against his girlfriend, the response from the tech community was swift, and effective. Within days, Chahal had been fired from RadiumOne's board, and his chances of ever securing another role at another startup reduced to dust.
Quite. Right. Too.
Fast forward a few weeks to today and that same tech community is similarly united, but this time it is in excitement over whether Apple will or won't buy tech company Beats and its Dr. Dre-inspired headphones. The current hype indicates that an acquisition is imminent, with a price around $3.2bn, and that Dr. Dre — aka. Andre Young — will be Apple's newest executive, deployed by the company as its hippest, brightest brand ambassador.
What no one seems to care about is the fact that, assuming the deal goes ahead, Apple is about to make a billionaire (and perhaps, if the wildest rumors are true, a board member) out of a man who is not just guilty of grotesque violence against women but has been quoted on the record as being positively proud of it.
The reaction from the tech press?
On the acquisition: Unanimous enthusiasm, maybe even glee…
On Young's past crimes: Silence…
Beaten by Dre
Young's and Chalal's cases are separated by years, but the details are no less horrifying.
In November 1990, Fox TV's Pump it Up ran a segment on Young's former rap group N.W.A., crosscutting between current members criticising Ice Cube, who'd left the group, and footage of Ice Cube hitting back at them. N.W.A.'s remaining members reportedly felt like that clip made them look bad.
According to a 1991 Rolling Stone feature, Young ran into Pump it Up host Dee Barnes at a nightclub on January 27, 1991. According to a statement she later issued, Young slammed Barnes' face and the right side of her body into a wall while his bodyguard held onlookers back. He tried to throw her down a set of stairs but failed, before kicking her in the ribs and hands. She ran into the women's restroom, but he followed her, grabbed her from behind by her hair and started to punch her in the back of the head. Eventually, he fled with his bodyguard.
In June, Barnes filed a $22 million lawsuit against Young. That August Young pled "no contest"to misdemeanor battery, a plea that accepts the facts of the indictment without having to admit guilt. According to the Los Angeles Times, he was fined $2,513, sentenced to 240 hours of community service and 24 months probation. According to a 2005 Vibe magazine article, Young and Barnes settled their lawsuit out of court in 1995.
The case was dealt with by the legal system and, like all who have served their sentence, Young should be allowed to move on. But in the years that followed, Young has expressed no remorse for his crime:
"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," he told Rolling Stone.
In the years between the incident and when it was settled, Barnes allegedly feared for her life and hired security. Meanwhile, Young's attack on Barnes has become a running joke for rappers:
"Are you gonna take advice from somebody who slapped Dee Barnes?" Eminem jibes on 'Guilty Conscience,' his 1999 duet with Young.
"I'll choke yo ass out like Dre did that bitch," T.I. says in his song 'Never Scared'.
And Barnes wasn't the only person to find themselves on the wrong side of Young's fists. On May 5, 1992 Young was arrested on four misdemeanor charges for assaulting record producer Damon Thomas, supposedly breaking his jaw. (Thomas' later claim to fame was being married to a still teenage Kim Kardashian for a brief period.) Young was released on $8,000 bail.
A little over two weeks later, on May 22, Young was involved in a brawl in the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans that got so severe that according to the Los Angeles Times it had to be broken up by 80 police officers, some of them riding horses. According to reports, Young tried to enter the lobby with his entourage after being denied entry to a nearby movie premiere. They didn't have passes to be in the hotel and some were asked to leave. A fight broke out among the 300 people in the lobby and two New Orleans men were stabbed, both who identified Young as their attacker.
Young was sought by authorities for assaulting a policeman and turned himself in at the start of June, eventually pleading guilty to aggravated battery on a police officer.
The trouble kept coming. In November 1992, another warrant was issued for Young's arrest when he failed to show up for a court date relating to charges against him for the incident involving Thomas. He again pled no contest to these charges in June 1993. He served 180 days in a Pasadena jail in 1995.
Outside of his documented legal battles, in the early 90s rumors and insinuations of heavy handedness followed Young. He was named in a lawsuit by rapper and Ruthless Records President Eric "Eazy-E" Wright, alleging that Young's Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight hired thugs with baseball bats to force Wright to let Young out of his record deal there. The lawsuit was dismissed, but was still on appeal when Wright died in the mid-90s. A 2006 biography of Young elevated these allegations, claiming that Knight told Wright that he'd kidnapped his manager, and later passed him a slip of paper with his mother's address on it, all in an attempt to intimidate him into releasing Young from his contract.
Young married Nicole Threatt in 1996, was hyped as having straightened out and the couple are still together 18 years later.
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Forgot about Dre?
We all know there exists a double standard for celebrity crimes. Behavior that would be career-ending for a "regular" person is somehow accepted as part and parcel of the celebrity lifestyle, particularly in the music industry. Also, there will be some who argue that Young's transgressions took place over a decade ago, as if there is a statute of limitations on taking pride on beating a woman while your bodyguard holds back a crowd.
It is hard to imagine a man like Gurbaksh Chahal being welcomed back into the top tiers of the tech industry at any point in his lifetime. And certainly if he does score a new gig, the stench of his past behavior will stay with him to the point that serious questions will be asked of anyone hiring him.
Given the continuing focus on the experiences of women in the technology industry, and the outrage at other bad actors accused of abusing women, the question is what makes Andre Young different from Gurbaksh Chahal? And what makes Apple different from RadiumOne?
Apple had not responded to a request for comment at publication time. We will update this article with any subsequent comment we receive.
[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]