Eazy-E

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Eazy-E
Eazy E headshot (cropped).jpg
Eazy-E in 1993
Born
Eric Lynn Wright

(1964-09-07)September 7, 1964 [1] [2] [3]
DiedMarch 26, 1995(1995-03-26) (aged 30)
Cause of death AIDS-induced pneumonia [4] [5]
Burial place Rose Hills Memorial Park
OccupationRapper, record producer, entrepreneur
Spouse(s)
Tomica Woods(m. 1995)
Children11; including Lil Eazy-E
Musical career
Genres Hip hop, gangsta rap
Years active1986–1995
Labels Ruthless, Priority, Relativity, Epic
Associated acts N.W.A, Naughty by Nature, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Dresta, The D.O.C., Kokane, Cold 187um

Eric Lynn Wright (September 7, 1964 – March 26, 1995), known professionally as Eazy-E, was an American rapper and rap mogul who propelled West Coast rap and gangsta rap by leading the group N.W.A and its label, Ruthless Records, pushing the boundaries of lyrical content.

Contents

Born and raised in Compton, a small yet violent city near Los Angeles, Wright had several legal troubles before founding Ruthless in 1987. [6] After a short solo career with frequent collaboration with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, they joined, forming N.W.A, later that year.

N.W.A's debut studio album, Straight Outta Compton , released in 1988, highly controversial then, is now ranked among the greatest and most influential albums. The group released its third and final studio album, Niggaz4Life , in 1991, and soon disbanded.

During N.W.A's splintering, largely by disputes over money, Eazy-E became embroiled in bitter rivalries with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, who had departed for solo careers in 1989 and 1991, respectively. Resuming his sole career, Eazy-E released two EPs. [7]

Yet Wright remained more significant behind the scenes, signing and nationally debuting the rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony from 1993 to 1994. But in 1995, suddenly hospitalized and diagnosed with AIDS, Wright died through its complications.

Early life and Ruthless Records investment

Eric Wright was born to Richard and Kathie Wright on September 7, 1964, in Compton, California, a Los Angeles suburb noted for high crime rates and gang culture. [8] [9] His father was a postal worker and his mother was a grade-school administrator. [10] Wright dropped out of high school in the tenth grade, [11] but later received a general equivalency diploma (GED). [12]

No one survived on the streets without a protective mask. No one survived naked. You had to have a role. You had to be "thug," "playa," "athlete," "gangsta," or "dope man." Otherwise, there was only one role left to you: "victim."

Jerry Heller on Eazy-E [13]

Wright supported himself mainly by selling drugs, and introduced his cousin to the illicit occupation. [11] Wright's music manager Jerry Heller recalls seeing Wright selling marijuana, but not cocaine. Heller would claim that Wright's "dope dealer" label was part of his "self-forged armor". [13] Wright was also labeled as a "thug". Heller explains: "The hood where he grew up was a dangerous place. He was a small guy. 'Thug' was a role that was widely understood on the street; it gave you a certain level of protection in the sense that people hesitated to fuck with you. Likewise, 'dope dealer' was a role that accorded you certain privileges and respect." [13]

In 1986, at age 22, Wright had allegedly earned as much as US$250,000 from dealing drugs. However, after his cousin was shot and killed, he decided that he could make a better living in the Los Angeles hip hop scene, which was growing rapidly in popularity. [14] He started recording songs during the mid-1980s in his parents' garage. [12]

The original idea for Ruthless Records came when Wright asked Heller to go into business with him. Wright suggested a half-ownership company, but it was later decided that Wright would get eighty percent of the company's income and Heller would only get twenty percent. According to Heller, he told Wright, "Every dollar comes into Ruthless, I take twenty cents. That's industry standard for a manager of my caliber. I take twenty, you take eighty percent. I am responsible for my expenses and you're responsible for yours. You own the company. I work for you." [13] Along with Heller, Wright invested much of his money into Ruthless Records. [15] Heller claims that he invested the first $250,000 and would eventually put up to $1,000,000 into the company. [13]

Musical career

N.W.A and Eazy-Duz-It (1986–1991)

N.W.A's original lineup consisted of Arabian Prince, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube. [16] [17] DJ Yella and MC Ren joined later. [18] The compilation album N.W.A. and the Posse was released on November 6, 1987, and would go on to be certified Gold in the United States. [19] [20] The album featured material previously released as singles on the Macola Records label, which was responsible for distributing the releases by N.W.A and other artists like the Fila Fresh Crew, a West Coast rap group originally based in Dallas, Texas. [21] [22]

Eazy-E's debut album, Eazy-Duz-It , was released on September 16, 1988, and featured twelve tracks. It was labeled as West Coast hip hop, gangsta rap and, later, as golden age hip hop. It has sold over 2.5 million copies in the United States and reached number forty-one on the Billboard 200. [12] [23] The album was produced by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella and largely written by MC Ren, Ice Cube and The D.O.C.. [24] Both Glen Boyd from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and MTV's Jon Wiederhorn claimed that Eazy-Duz-It "paved the way" for N.W.A's most controversial album, Straight Outta Compton . [25] [26] Wright's only solo in the album was a remix of the song "8 Ball", which originally appeared on N.W.A. and the Posse. The album featured Wright's writing and performing; he performed on seven songs and helped write four songs. [27]

Ice Cube left N.W.A in 1989 because of internal disputes and the group continued as a four-piece ensemble. [18] N.W.A released 100 Miles and Runnin' in 1990 and Niggaz4Life in 1991. A diss war started between N.W.A and Ice Cube when "100 Miles and Runnin'" and "Real Niggaz" were released. Ice Cube responded with "No Vaseline" on Death Certificate . [28] Wright performed on seven of the eighteen songs on Niggaz4Life. [29] In March 1991 Wright accepted an invitation to a lunch benefiting the Republican Senatorial Inner Circle, hosted by then-U.S. President George H. W. Bush. [30] A spokesman for the rapper said that Eazy-E supported Bush because of his performance in the Persian Gulf War. [31]

End of N.W.A and feud with Dr. Dre (1991–1994)

N.W.A began to split up after Jerry Heller became the band's manager. Dr. Dre recalls: "The split came when Jerry Heller got involved. He played the divide and conquer game. Instead of taking care of everybody, he picked one nigga to take care of and that was Eazy. And Eazy was like, 'I'm taken care of, so fuck it'." Dr. Dre and The D.O.C. sent Suge Knight to look into Eazy-E's financial situation as they began to grow suspicious of Eazy-E and Jerry Heller. Dr. Dre and The D.O.C. asked Eazy-E to release him from Ruthless, but Eazy-E refused. The impasse led to what reportedly transpired between Suge Knight and Eazy-E at the recording studio where Niggaz4life was recorded. After he refused to release Dr. Dre and The D.O.C., Suge Knight told Eazy-E that he had kidnapped Jerry Heller and was holding him prisoner in a van. This did not convince Eazy-E to release Dr. Dre and The D.O.C. from Ruthless, and Suge Knight threatened Eazy-E's family: Suge Knight gave Eazy-E a piece of paper that contained Eazy's mother's address, telling him, "I know where your mama stays." Eazy-E finally signed Dr. Dre and The D.O.C.'s releases, officially ending N.W.A. [32]

The feud with Dr. Dre continued after a track on Dre's debut album The Chronic , "Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin')", contained lyrics that insulted Eazy-E. Eazy responded with the EP, It's On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa , featuring the tracks "Real Muthaphuckkin G's" and "It's On". The album, which was released on October 25, 1993, contains pictures of Dre wearing "lacy outfits and makeup" when he was a member of the Electro-hop World Class Wreckin' Cru. [32]

Personal life

Wright had a son, Eric Darnell Wright (known as Lil Eazy-E), in 1984. He also had a daughter named Erin [33] who has legally changed her name to Ebie [34] In October 2016 she launched a crowd-funding campaign to produce a film called Ruthless Scandal: No More Lies to investigate her father's death. [35] It ended unsuccessfully in December 2016. [36]

Wright met Tomica Woods at a Los Angeles nightclub in 1991 and they married in 1995, twelve days before his death. [37] They had a son named Dominick and a daughter named Daijah (born six months after Wright's death). [38] After Wright's death, Ruthless was taken over by his wife. According to Jerry Heller, Wright had 11 children with eight different women. [5]

Illness and death

Now, I'm in the biggest fight of my life and it ain't easy. But I want to say much love to those who have been down with me and thanks for all your support. Just remember: It's your real time and your real life.

--Statement from Eazy-E's camp on his behalf, March 16. [39]

On February 24, 1995, Wright was admitted to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles with a violent cough. [40] He was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. [41] He announced his illness in a public statement on March 16, 1995. It is believed Wright contracted the infection from a sexual partner. [14] [42] [43] During the week of March 20, having already made amends with Ice Cube, he drafted a final message to his fans. [44] On March 26, 1995, Eazy-E died from complications of AIDS, one month after his diagnosis. He was 30 years old (most reports at the time said he was 31 due to the falsification of his date of birth by one year). [12] [45] He was buried on April 7, 1995, at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California. Over 3,000 people attended his funeral, [46] including Jerry Heller and DJ Yella. [47] He was buried in a gold casket, and was dressed in a flannel shirt, jeans, and his Compton hat. On January 30, 1996, ten months after Eazy-E's death, his final album, Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton was released.

According to his son Lil Eazy-E, Eazy-E was worth an estimated US$50 million at the time of his death. [48]

Musical influences and style

Logo used by Eazy-E Eazy-E logo.svg
Logo used by Eazy-E

Allmusic cites Eazy-E's influences as Ice-T, Redd Foxx, King Tee, Bootsy Collins, Run–D.M.C., Richard Pryor, Egyptian Lover, Schoolly D, Too $hort, Prince, the Sugarhill Gang and George Clinton. [49] In the documentary The Life and Timez of Eric Wright, Eazy-E mentions collaborating with many of his influences. [50]

When reviewing Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton , Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted "... Eazy-E sounds revitalized, but the music simply isn't imaginative. Instead of pushing forward and creating a distinctive style, it treads over familiar gangsta territory, complete with bottomless bass, whining synthesizers, and meaningless boasts." [51] When reviewing Eazy-Duz-It, Jason Birchmeier of Allmusic said, "In terms of production, Dr. Dre and Yella meld together P-Funk, Def Jam-style hip-hop and the leftover electro sounds of mid-'80s Los Angeles, creating a dense, funky, and thoroughly unique style of their own." Birchmeier described Eazy-E's style as "dense, unique and funky", and said that it sounded "absolutely revolutionary in 1988". [49]

Several members of N.W.A wrote lyrics for Eazy-Duz-It: Ice Cube, The D.O.C. and MC Ren. [52] The EP 5150: Home 4 tha Sick features a song written by Naughty By Nature. The track "Merry Muthaphuckkin' Xmas" features Menajahtwa, Buckwheat, and Atban Klann as guest vocalists, and "Neighborhood Sniper" features Kokane as a guest vocalist. [53] It's On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa features several guest vocalists, including Gangsta Dresta, B.G. Knocc Out. Kokane, Cold 187um, Rhythum D, and Dirty Red. [54] Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton featured several guest vocalists, including B.G. Knocc Out, Gangsta Dresta, Sylk-E. Fyne, Dirty Red, Menajahtwa, Roger Troutman and ex-N.W.A members MC Ren and DJ Yella. [55]

Legacy

Graffiti of Eazy-E in the Netherlands Memorial Eazy-E made by streetartist LJvanT @ Leeuwarden the Netherlands.jpg
Graffiti of Eazy-E in the Netherlands

Eazy-E has been called the godfather of gangsta rap. [56] [57] [58] [59] MTV's Reid Shaheem said that Eazy was a "rap-pioneer", [59] and he is sometimes cited by critics as a legend. [60] [61] Steve Huey of AllMusic said that he was "one of the most controversial figures in gangsta rap". [7] Since his 1995 death, many book and video biographies have been produced, including 2002's The Day Eazy-E Died and Dead and Gone. [62] [63] [64]

When Eazy was diagnosed with AIDS, many magazines like Jet , [65] Vibe , [66] Billboard, [67] The Crisis , [68] and Newsweek covered the story and released information on the topic. [69] All of his studio albums and EPs charted on the Billboard 200, [70] [71] [72] and many of his singles—"Eazy-Duz-It", "We Want Eazy", "Real Muthaphuckkin G's, and "Just tah Let U Know"—also charted in the U.S. [72] [73]

In 2012 an Eazy-E documentary was released by Ruthless Propaganda, called Ruthless Memories. The documentary featured interviews from Jerry Heller, MC Ren and B.G. Knocc Out. [74]

In the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton , Eazy-E is played by Jason Mitchell and the film is dedicated in his memory. [75]

Discography

Studio albums

Extended Plays

with N.W.A

Related Research Articles

N.W.A was an American hip hop group from Compton, California. They were among the earliest and most significant popularizers and controversial figures of the gangsta rap subgenre, and are widely considered one of the greatest and most influential groups in the history of hip hop music.

MC Ren American rapper

{{multiple issues|

West Coast hip hop is a regional genre of Hip hop music that encompasses any artists or music that originated in the West Coast region of the United States. West Coast Hip-Hop began to dominate from a radio play and sales standpoint during the early to-mid 1990s with the birth of G-Funk and the emergence of record labels such as Suge Knight and Dr Dre's Death Row Records, Ice Cube's Lench Mob Records and the continued success of Eazy-E's Ruthless Records and others.

<i>Straight Outta Compton</i> 1988 studio album by N.W.A

Straight Outta Compton is the debut studio album by American hip hop group N.W.A, released August 8, 1988, on group member Eazy-E's record label Ruthless Records. Production for the album was handled by Dr. Dre with DJ Yella. The album has been viewed as the pioneering record of gangsta rap with its pervasive graphic profanity and true lyrics. This was the group's only release with rapper Ice Cube prior to his 1989 departure.

DJ Yella American DJ

Antoine Carraby, better known by his stage name DJ Yella, is an American rapper, DJ, record producer and film director from Compton, California. He was a member of the World Class Wreckin' Cru along with Dr. Dre. He later joined the pioneering gangsta rap group N.W.A.

<i>100 Miles and Runnin</i> 1990 EP by N.W.A

100 Miles and Runnin' is the only extended play by American hip hop group N.W.A. It was released on August 14, 1990 by Ruthless Records and Priority Records. Though released to mixed reviews, the album reached platinum status in the United States by September 1992 and ultimately sold over 1,500,000 copies worldwide.

The D.O.C. American rapper from Texas

Tracy Lynn Curry, better known by his stage name The D.O.C., is an American rapper, songwriter, and record producer. In addition to a solo career, he was a member of the hip hop group Fila Fresh Crew and later collaborated with gangsta rap group N.W.A–where he co-wrote many of their releases–as well as Eazy-E's solo debut album Eazy-Duz-It. He has also worked with Dr. Dre, co-writing his solo debut album, while Dre produced Curry's solo debut album, released by Ruthless Records. He was one of the founders of Death Row Records along with Dr. Dre and Suge Knight.

<i>Eazy-Duz-It</i> 1988 studio album by Eazy-E

Eazy-Duz-It is the debut studio album by American hip hop artist Eazy-E, released on September 13, 1988, by Ruthless Records and Priority Records. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest gangsta rap albums.

"Fuck tha Police" is a protest song by American hip hop group N.W.A that appears on the 1988 album Straight Outta Compton as well as on the N.W.A's Greatest Hits compilation. Written shortly after the group was harassed by the Torrance Police Department, the lyrics protest police brutality and racial profiling and the song was ranked number 425 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

<i>Its On (<s>Dr. Dre</s>) 187<sup><u>um</u></sup> Killa</i> 1993 extended play by Eazy-E

It's On 187um Killa is the second EP by rapper Eazy-E released in 1993, as a response to Dr. Dre's The Chronic. The EP was certified 2x Multi-Platinum in 1994 by the RIAA. It is Eazy-E's most successful release, peaking at #5 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, while selling 110,600 copies in its first week. This is the last completed work Eazy made before his death in 1995.

<i>Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton</i> 1996 studio album by Eazy-E

Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton is the second and final studio album by American hip hop recording artist Eazy-E. It was released posthumously by Ruthless Records and Relativity Records on January 30, 1996, ten months after Eazy-E's death from AIDS in March 1995. The album spawned the single, "Just tah Let U Know".

Jerry Heller American music manager

Gerald Elliot "Jerry" Heller was an American music manager and businessman. He was best known for his controversial management of West Coast rap and gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A and Eazy-E. He rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, importing Elton John and Pink Floyd for their first major American tours, and representing Journey, Marvin Gaye, Van Morrison, War, Eric Burdon, Crosby Stills & Nash, Ike & Tina Turner, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Otis Redding, the Who, REO Speedwagon, Black Sabbath, Humble Pie, Styx, the Grass Roots, and the Standells, among many others.

Ruthless Records is an American record label founded by Eric "Eazy-E" Wright and Jerry Heller in Compton, California in 1987. Since its inception the company has been a subsidiary of parent company Comptown Records, Inc. and all of the Ruthless trademarks are owned by Comptown. Several artists on the label such as N.W.A, Eazy-E, MC Ren, The D.O.C., Michel'le, and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony have released RIAA certified albums.

Boyz-n-the-Hood single by Eazy-E

"Boyz-n-the-Hood" is the debut single by Eazy-E as a part of N.W.A. The song is the lead single from N.W.A. and the Posse. The song samples "I'm a Ho" by Whodini and vocal samples from, "Hold It, Now Hit It" by Beastie Boys as well as "Mr. Big Stuff" by Jean Knight and, near the end, the opening of "I'll Take You There" by The Staple Singers. It was remixed and featured on Eazy's debut album Eazy-Duz-It, which was released in 1988. It was remixed again and was featured on Eazy-E's third album, It's On 187um Killa (1993) under the name "Boyz N Tha Hood (G-Mix)".

Eazy-E discography

The discography of Eazy-E, an American rapper from Compton, California, consists of two studio albums, three extended plays, two compilation albums, and ten singles. Eazy was also featured on the single "Game Wreck-Oniz-Iz Game" by Above the Law and "Foe tha Love of $" by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. His music has been released through record labels Ruthless Records, Priority Records, Relativity Records, and Epic Records. Five of his albums have been awarded a certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). This discography includes music videos and collaborations as well as albums.

Just tah Let U Know 1995 song performed by Eazy-E

Just tah Let U Know is a song by Eazy-E. It was one of Eazy-E's last recorded tracks before his death. It was released posthumously as the only single on the album Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton and as a single on December 5, 1995. It was Eazy-E's final single to chart, and peaked at #45 on the Billboard Hot 100, #30 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, and at #4 on Hot Rap Singles. It sold more than 200,000 copies.

"No Vaseline" is a diss track by Ice Cube from his second album, Death Certificate. The song was produced by Ice Cube and Sir Jinx. The UK release of Death Certificate omitted this song, along with the 46-second long "Black Korea".

<i>Straight Outta Compton</i> (film) 2015 film directed by F. Gary Gray

Straight Outta Compton is a 2015 American biographical drama film directed by F. Gary Gray, depicting the rise and fall of the gangsta rap group N.W.A and its members Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre. The members were involved in the production, including Ice Cube and Dr. Dre as producers, as was Eazy-E's widow, Tomica Woods-Wright, while MC Ren and DJ Yella served as creative consultants. Ice Cube is played by his real-life son, O'Shea Jackson Jr., with Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre and Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E. Paul Giamatti also stars as N.W.A's manager Jerry Heller.

Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel'le is a 2016 American biographical television drama film directed by Jackie Cooke, starring Rhyon Nicole Brown as Michel'le, Curtis Hamilton as Dre, and Jamie Kennedy as N.W.A.'s manager Jerry Heller. The film is based on the true story of R&B singer, Michel'le. The omission of Michel'le's involvement in the lives of Dre in N.W.A.'s 2015 biopic, Straight Outta Compton gave her an opportunity for her to tell her story as a former artist on Eazy-E's Ruthless Records.

References

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Literature