Dr. Dre filed a $25 million lawsuit against the city of Detroit on Friday (July 14), alleging that city officials violated the First Amendment rights of performers on the Up in Smoke tour when it stopped there July 6.
The suit, filed in federal court, alleges city officials ordered the tour not to play two video segments usually shown at each stop. One of the videos contains footage of a robbery, in which Snoop Dogg asks the audience, "Should I do this ni--a?" The second video shows a partially nude woman and depicts oral sex.
Greg Bowens, a spokesperson for Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, has maintained this week that the rapper voluntarily pulled the videos after police told tour staff that they would be ticketed if the tapes were shown. The rapper agreed to pull the videos in exchange for an extra hour of performance time, according to Bowens, who is named in the lawsuit.
"That's a flat-out lie," said Dr. Dre's Los Angeles lawyer, Howard King, who described the segments as R-rated. "They told Dr. Dre that they would turn off the power and arrest someone" if the videos were aired, King said.
According to the suit, Bowens and a contingent of police officers approached tour staff members hours before the concert and told them they'd be arrested if the video was played. Police also threatened to arrest the projectionist and anyone who accompanied minors into the show on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, the suit alleges.
Assistant Police Chief Marvin Winkler made repeated threats to "pull the power" and stop the performance if the video was played, according to the suit, which also says Bowens told tour staff: " 'You don't get it, this is my motherf---ing city, and you're going to do it my motherf---ing way.' "
Dr. Dre Cites Fan Safety
Dr. Dre (born Andre Young) agreed to omit the videos because he feared that police officers' actions could jeopardize fans' safety, the suit says. King stressed that the tour did not pull the videos to get more stage time.
The performance ran past its allotted time because the wrangling with police delayed the concert for more than an hour, King said. The city did not charge the tour for the overtime required to keep the venue open, but that was not part of a pre-arranged deal, he said.
On Friday, Bowens called the suit a ploy to score more media coverage for the tour, noting that King passed out copies of the lawsuit to the press before giving a copy to the city. Dr. Dre may need the publicity to beef up tour attendance, Bowens suggested, saying the concert filled just 10,000 of 40,000 seats in the Joe Louis Arena on July 6 and failed to sell out a suburban Detroit arena the next day.
"You can make all the allegations that you want in a lawsuit," he said.
Earlier this week, he downplayed claims that police threatened to cut power. "I'm sure the venue said some things they regret, and the tour said some things they regret," Bowens said.
Videos Air At Next Stop
The suit also claims that Detroit city officials further harassed the tour by tipping off the Auburn Hills, Mich., police about the videos. Auburn Hills police asked the tour to pull the segments hours before a July 7 performance there. Tour organizers took the city to federal court and won the right to air the videos.
Although the city could not prevent the tour from showing the tapes, it did ticket Dr. Dre after the performance on charges of breaking a local law prohibiting promotion of pornography. The rapper/producer is still weighing whether to pursue legal action against Auburn Hills, King said.
In addition to the city of Detroit, Bowens and Winkler, Dr. Dre's suit also names Detroit Police Commander Gary Brown.
The Up in Smoke rap tour features an all-star lineup
filled largely with West Coast rap stars. Dr. Dre, Eminem, Ice Cube,
Snoop Dogg and Warren G, among others, perform as part of the tour. The show, which reunites the remaining members of pioneering gangsta-rap group N.W.A, is scheduled to travel to more than 40 venues this summer.
Last year, N.W.A alum Dr. Dre released Dr. Dre 2001, his first album in seven years. The disc includes the Snoop Dogg collaboration "Still D.R.E." (RealAudio excerpt).