Born September 7, 1963, Eric “Eazy-E” Wright’s early reputation on the streets of Compton, California, was a hustler eager to apply his street knowledge to his legitimate game. He dropped out of high school in the tenth grade, but refused that to interrupt his success.
In the late `80’s he turned to rap music. Along with Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, and M.C. Ren established the most successful and controversial rap group in history. As N.W.A, they blasted police cruelty and challenged the establishment. They eventually took their message of inner-city struggle to millions of fans worldwide.
As a soloist, Eazy’s career was even more incredible. He launched Compton/Ruthless Records in 1987 and by 1988 had two hit acts-JJ. Fad and Michel’le.
During the summer of the same year, N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton LP frightened the media into labeling the group “gangsters”. This was a label the group wore and exploited with such force that by the time Eazy released his solo project Eazy-Duz-It that fall, the stage of musical funk and lyrical fight had long been set.
“Boyz-N-The-Hood” , “We Want Eazy”, “Eazy-Duz-It”. His voice fueled a legion of hits. In the early `90’s, he joined other West Coast rappers, including M.C. Hammer, Ice T, Tone-Loc, and Young MC, in a stop the violence campaign led by the single “We’re All In The Same Gang”. With N.W.A, Eazy broke down all the doors of mass exposure previously closed to rap music.
Attempts to rock the young musician’s foundation were generally useless. Arrests for performing N.W.A’s biggest hit “F*** The Police”, and other attempts at censorship only helped pave the way for his success. By the time the group had released its last album, Efil4zaggin, in 1991, they had sold more than six million records.
As a businessman, Eazy had built a solid commodity with his Ruthless Records label. Some of his more famous signings were: Above The Law, Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony, and D.O.C. His ability to promote and market these acts was on the strength of his radio show, “Ruthless Radio Show”. As an on-air personality, Eazy gave his audience tickets to his performances, talked to fans, and also became more famous with the young black Americans.
Few really knew the man behind the scenes. His charitable nature benefited such organizations as Athletes and Entertainers For Kids, United Colors, and the Make A Wish Foundation.
By the time he was thirty, Eazy had survived a swirl of controversy. His “We Want Eazy” lyrics had come to life with everything from his age to his political devotion. However, he continued to sell records to his million-plus fan base. Even a conspiracy to assassinate him, left Eazy with only an even stronger urge to reunite the original members of N.W.A. Unfortunately, part of that goal wasn’t realized.
Eric Wright died Sunday, March 26, in Los Angeles from complications with AIDS. With only his family at his bedside, he released a statement saying that he had full-blown AIDS and warned others of the dangers of multiple sex partners. Yet another message to his always loyal fans.
Months later, on the weekend that would have been his thirty-second birthday, KKBT/The Beat canceled its regular Saturday and Sunday night programming in order to broadcast a two-hour special on the life and times of one of hip-hop’s most influential figures.