The 1980s featured a wide array of punchlines and grand historical events. Ronald Reagan, beepers, the Cold War, Michael Jackson and E.T were just a few of pop culture’s influential events and people. There was also the advent of the cell phone – at the time, a giant brick you placed against your ear. And just as there were advances and creations in every avenue of life, in rap music we had the emergence of what became known as Gangster Rap.
One of the most notorious rap groups in all of history is N.W.A., Niggaz Wit Attitudes. The group was started by Eazy-E, otherwise known as Eric Lynn Wright. The tumultuous group made major waves on music and political scenes. Despite the group’s short run, they have had a lasting impact on both music and society as a whole. Their uncharacteristic and blunt form of criticism over the police nearly got them arrested. N.W.A. featured a line-up of young all-stars: Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella and MC Ren. Eazy started it all.
Eazy-E was one of the most controversial figures ever in the world of rap. Called the “Godfather of Gangsta Rap,” he erupted almost out of nowhere along with N.W.A. and shortly after their epic run of success, was gone. He always spoke his mind and never was dull. Like many successful young artists, he was volatile and passed away far too early. These are the top 10 most interesting facts about Eazy-E you may not know.
10. The Start-Up – Drug Money
Eazy-E had a thug-like persona. He dressed and acted the part to perfection. But it wasn’t all an act. Eazy grew up in Compton, California and started Ruthless Records along with manager Jerry Heller. He invested as much as $250,000 into the company primarily from money he made selling drugs in Compton. It was this drug money that was used as the start-up funds for Ruthless Records and N.W.A.. I wonder if this is how Silicon Valley raised all its money?
9. Home Life – Parental Support
Some kids who turn to gangs and violence lack parental support at home. However, Eazy had a solid family nucleus at home with his father, Richard Wright, who worked as a postal worker and his mother, Kathie Wright, who worked as a grade school administrator. In fact, in the mid-1980s, while Eazy was selling drugs and living at home, he was also recording records in his parent’s garage.
8. Hail to the Chief – Political Donor
In 1991, during the height of gang warfare and hate spilling over between rap artists and politicians, Eazy-E was invited to the White House by President George Bush (the older one we like a bit more). It was an extraordinary turn of events for a rapper who released the hit Fuck the Police. Eazy-E was a surprise guest and stood amongst the Republican powers. The media was giddy over the coverage (I mean there wasn’t any Big Brother or Survivor to cling to). The real life drama played out due to the invite which was the result of Eazy-E donating $2,500 to Bush’s campaign. Why would Eazy do such a thing? It was due to Bush’s stance against censorship during a time when politicians were doing their collective best to shut fringe artists up.
7. Beef – Eazy vs Cube
In December 1989, three years after N.W.A was formed, Ice Cube left the group at the height of their popularity. The biggest issue was between Cube and Eazy-E. Ice Cube felt the financials of the group weren’t fair. Eazy-E and his business partner, Heller, were raking in the money while the rest of the group wasn’t getting their share. Upon Cube’s departure, N.W.A. relentlessly attacked their ex-mate on their proceeding album. In response, Ice Cube shot back his barrage of angry lyrics with his next album. Cube even had director John Singleton include a common street thug trying to steal a gold chain while wearing a We Want Eazy sweatshirt in the hit film, Boyz in the Hood. The common criminal is beaten in the movie. It was Cube’s way of digging Eazy on the big screen. Clearly, these two had some issues.
6. Beef, Part 2 – Eazy vs Dre
Eazy-E and Ice Cube had their problems and, at first, Dr. Dre remained with Eazy-E and N.W.A.. Then came Eazy’s issues with Dre. Much like Ice Cube, Dr. Dre began to be suspicious of the finances of N.W.A. which were greatly benefiting Eazy and Heller. As a result, Dre turned to infamous Suge Knight to help get him out of the contract. Knight floated a false press release that Eazy-E had kidnapped Heller. And when that didn’t work, he threatened Eazy’s family. The end result was Dre being released from his contract and Ruthless Records getting a small piece of Dre’s future action. Why do break-ups have to be messy? Can’t we all just get along?
5. Father of the Year
Traveling around the world as a superstar can be fun: the money, the women, the action. It seems like the good times are never going to end. And this is where partying with your pants down can really get you in trouble. Eazy-E has fathered 7 children by 6 different women. To his credit, Eazy-E used to pay $50,000 every month for each of his children. Who knew Eazy was such a giver?
4. High School Dropout
High school can be a tough place for anyone. But high school in Compton back in the 1980s was downright brutal. Despite his solid family nucleus, Eazy-E dropped out of school when he was just in the 10th grade. He opted to follow in his cousin’s footsteps and sell drugs and work on his music. In part, it is his cousin’s death that helped inspire Eazy to focus completely on music and steer clear of the dealing. He also would later regroup scholastically to receive his GED.
3. Eazy-E Day
Eazy-E was tragically taken early in life by some of his own follies. He contracted the HIV virus and eventually succumb to its effects in 1995 at the age of 31. Compton Mayor Omar Bradley had been highly critical of Eazy-E and N.W.A. for their representation of violence in the city of Compton. They spatted in the media over a music video Eazy-E wanted to shoot in Compton. The mayor lashed out at Eazy-E for nearly 90 minutes during a city council session. But upon Eazy-E’s death, Omar Bradley had a change of heart and he named April 7th as Eazy-E Day. I keep looking for it on my calendars but it never seems to appear.
2. The Ultimate Thug
Eazy-E was a Captain Kelly Park Crip. At just 13 years of age, he was living hard on the streets. Jerry Heller would say about Eazy, “No one survived the streets without a protective mask. No one survived naked. You had to have had a role. You had to be a ‘thug,’ ‘playa,’ ‘athlete,’ ‘gangsta’ or ‘dope man.’ Otherwise there was only one role left to you. ‘Victim.’”
1. Buried in Style
Eazy-E died on March 26, 1995. At his funeral, more than 3,000 people attempted to get a glimpse of the “Godfather of Gangsta Rap.” Eazy-E was buried in a gold casket. Instead of a suit and tie, he was dressed in a flannel shirt, jeans and had a Compton hat on. His wardrobe reflected how he lived. Of the five original members of N.W.A., only Eazy-E’s close friend, DJ Yella (Antoine Carraby), was known to attend. He was a pallbearer at the funeral. Mayor Omar Bradley was also in attendance and despite his previous tongue lashing of Eazy, he called Wright, “Compton’s favorite son.” He also said “Eric made Compton famous not just in California, but all over the world. I recognize Eazy as a young man who grew up in the streets of Compton, and brother and sisters, we know it’s not ‘easy’ growing up in Compton.” True that, Mayor.