Eric Lynn Wright (September 7, 1963 – March 26, 1995),
better known by his stage name Eazy-E, was an American rapper who performed
solo and in the hip hop group N.W.A. Wright was born to Richard and
Kathie Wright in Compton, California. After dropping out of high school
in the tenth grade, he supported himself primarily by selling drugs.
He invested in the record company Ruthless Records, which he would
co-found with Jerry Heller in 1983. When Ruthless artists Dr. Dre and
Ice Cube wrote "Boyz-n-the-Hood", Dre, Cube, and Eazy formed
N.W.A. After DJ Yella, MC Ren, and Arabian Prince joined the group,
N.W.A released N.W.A. and the Posse. In 1988, they released their most
controversial album, Straight Outta Compton. The group released two
more albums, then Dr. Dre asked Eazy to release him from his contract.
At first Eazy refused, but after Suge Knight threatened him, Eazy signed
Eazy's main influences include Ice-T, Redd Foxx, King Tee, Bootsy
Collins, Run-D.M.C., Richard Pryor, The Egyptian Lover, Schoolly D,
Too $hort, Prince, The Sugarhill Gang, and George Clinton. When reviewing
Eazy's albums, many critics noted his unique overall style, with Steve
Huey of the All Music Guide summing up: "While his technical skills
as a rapper were never the greatest, his distinctive delivery (invariably
described as a high-pitched whine), over-the-top lyrics, and undeniable
charisma made him a star." On February 24, 1995, Eazy was admitted
into Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles with what he believed
to be asthma, but was instead diagnosed with AIDS. On March 16, he
acknowledged his condition publicly, and died due to complications
ten days later.
Eric Wright was born to Richard and Kathie Wright on September 7,
1963 in Compton, California, a suburb of Los Angeles notorious for
crime and gang activity. His father was a postal worker and his
mother was a grade school administrator. Wright dropped out of high
school in the tenth grade and supported himself by selling drugs.
His profit went to invest in Ruthless Records. He was also a member
of the Kelly Park Compton Crip during his teen years, and he openly
associated himself with other Crips. He later received a high school
equivalency diploma. In 1986, at the age of 23, Wright had allegedly
earned as much as $250,000 (USD) from dealing drugs. However, he decided
that he could make a better living by becoming involved with the Los
Angeles hip-hop scene, which was growing rapidly in popularity.
He then began recording songs during the mid-1980s in the garage of
his parents' home.
Ruthless Records, N.W.A. and Eazy-Duz-It (1987–1991)
In 1987, Eazy used the profits from his drug sales to co-found Ruthless
Records with Jerry Heller. When Ruthless signees Dr. Dre and Ice
Cube wrote "Boyz-n-the-Hood", Eazy-E formed the group N.W.A.
with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. (DJ Yella, MC Ren, and Arabian Prince were
later added). 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. The album featured N.W.A collaborating with the Fila
Fresh Crew, a West Coast rap group originally based in Dallas, Texas.
N.W.A's debut album, Straight Outta Compton was released in 1988. Eazy-E's
only solo recording was a remix of the song "8 Ball", which
originally appeared on N.W.A and the Posse. The album featured Eazy-E's
writing and performing, where he performed on eight of the songs, and
helped write four songs. N.W.A released the EP 100 Miles and Runnin',
and released Niggaz4Life in 1991. Niggaz4Life featured seven out of
eighteen songs where Eazy-E performed.
Eazy-E's debut album, Eazy-Duz-It, was released on September 16, 1988,
and featured twelve tracks. It featured the musical genres West Coast
hip hop, Gangsta rap, and 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. The album was produced by Dr. Dre and DJ
Yella and largely written by Ice Cube, with contributions from MC Ren
and The D.O.C.. After the release of Straight Outta Compton, Ice
Cube left due to internal disputes, and the group had since continued
as a four-piece. In March 1991, Eazy-E accepted an invitation to
a lunch benefiting the Republican Senatorial Inner Circle, hosted by
then-President George H. W. Bush. A spokesman for the rapper claimed
that Eazy-E supported Bush for overseeing Operation Desert Storm.
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. He picked one nigga to take
care of instead of taking care of everybody, and that was Eazy. And
Eazy was like, 'I'm taken care of, so fuck it'." Dre sent Suge
Knight to look into Eazy's financial situation because he was beginning
to grow suspicious of Eazy and Heller. Dre asked Eazy to release him
from the Ruthless Records contract, but Eazy refused. The impasse led
to what reportedly transpired between Knight and Eazy at the recording
studio where Niggaz4life was recorded. After he refused to release
Dre, Knight declared that Eazy had kidnapped Heller and was holding
him prisoner in a van. However, the rumor did not convince Eazy to
release Dre, and Knight threatened Eazy's family. Knight gave Eazy
a piece of paper that read Eazy's mother's address, with Knight telling
him "I know where your mama stays." Eazy finally signed Dre's
release, officially ending N.W.A.
The feud with Dr. Dre continued after a track on Dre's The Chronic
contained lyrics that dissed 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 when he was a member of
the Electro-hop World Class Wreckin' Cru, where the pictures show Dre
wearing "lacy outfits and makeup."
At the start of Dr. Dre's defection from Ruthless Records, executives
Mike Klein and Jerry Heller sought assistance from the Jewish Defense
League (JDL). Klein, former Ruthless Records director of business
affairs said this provided Ruthless Records with muscle to enter into
negotiations with Death Row Records over Dr. Dre's departure. While
Suge Knight violently sought an outright release from Ruthless Records
for Dr. Dre, the JDL and Ruthless Records management were able to sit
down with Death Row and negotiate a release in which the record label
would continue to receive money and publishing rights from future Dr.
Dre projects. It was under these terms that Dr. Dre left Ruthless
Records and formed Death Row with Suge Knight. The FBI launched
a money laundering investigation, assuming that the JDL was extorting
money from Ruthless Records to fight their extremist causes. This led
to JDL spokesperson Irv Rubin issuing a press release stating "There
was nothing but a close, tight relationship" between Eazy-E and
On February 24, 1995, Eazy-E was admitted into Cedars Sinai Medical
Center in Los Angeles with what he believed to be asthma. Instead he
was diagnosed with AIDS, and announced his illness in a public statement
on March 16. The disease came about in Eazy because of his sexual activity,
which started when he was twelve and resulted in not only a fatal disease,
but seven children to six different women. He died due
to "complications from AIDS" one month after his diagnosis,
on March 26, 1995, at approximately 6:35 PM (Pacific time). He was
31 years old. During the week of March 20, having already made amends
with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Eazy-E drafted his last message to fans.
One week after making that announcement, Eazy succumbed to the disease.
Eazy was buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.
In November 1995, shortly after Eazy-E's death, Str8 off tha Streetz
of Muthaphukkin Compton was released.
Musical influences and style
Allmusic cites that Eazy-E's influences include Ice-T, Redd Foxx,
King Tee, Bootsy Collins, Run-D.M.C., Richard Pryor, The Egyptian Lover,
Schoolly D, Too $hort, Prince, The Sugarhill Gang, and George Clinton.
In the documentary The Life and Timez of Eric Wright, Eazy-E mentions
on collaborating with many of his influences.
When reviewing for 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."
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
also described Eazy's style as "dense, unique, and funky," and
claimed that it sounded "absolutely revolutionary in 1988."
Steve Huey of Allmusic said "while his technical skills as a rapper
were never the greatest, his distinctive delivery (invariably described
as a high-pitched whine), over-the-top lyrics, and undeniable charisma
made him a star."
Eazy-Duz-It featured many members of N.W.A writing lyrics for the
album: Ice Cube, The D.O.C., and MC Ren. In 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. 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. Str8 off tha Streetz
of Muthaphukkin Compton also 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.
Graffiti of Eazy-E in the Netherlands.
Eazy-E has been credited as the godfather of gangsta rap.
MTV's Reid Shaheem said that Eazy was a "rap-pioneer,"
and is sometimes cited by critics as a legend. Since his
1995 death, many book and video biographies were produced, including
2002's The Day Eazy-E Died and Dead and Gone . Jerry Heller
and Gil Reavill wrote the book Ruthless: A Memoir, which was released
August 28, 2007. It included information on his death, his signing
off of Dr. Dre, his debut Eazy-Duz-It, and many of Heller's experiences
with Eazy. When Eazy was diagnosed with AIDS, many magazines like
Jet, Vibe, Billboard, The Crisis, and Newsweek covered
and released information on the topic. Although Eazy-E was never
certified any awards and was never featured in a film cast,
all of his studio albums and extended plays charted on the Billboard
200, 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 US. On March
30, 1995, four days after Eazy-E's death, Tom Elerwine, a Daily Arts
editor for The Michigan Daily covered Eazy's career in The Michigan
For a more comprehensive list, see Eazy-E discography
Year Name Ref
1988 Eazy-Duz-It 
1992 5150: Home 4 tha Sick 
1993 It's On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa 
1995 Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton 
2002 Impact of a Legend 
Year Name Ref
1987 N.W.A. and the Posse 
1988 Straight Outta Compton 
1990 100 Miles and Runnin'