Eric "Eazy-E" Wright was born September 7, 1964, in Compton, CA, a rough part of the Los Angeles metro area that N.W.A would later make notorious. A high school dropout, Wright turned to drug dealing to support himself, and eventually used the profits to start his own rap label, Ruthless Records, with partner and music-business veteran Jerry Heller. E discovered a major performing talent in the D.O.C., and recruited Ice Cube and Dr. Dre to write songs for his stable of artists. When their composition 'Boyz-N-the Hood' was rejected by Ruthless signee HBO, Cube, Dre, and E formed the first version of N.W.A to record it themselves. Their first album, N.W.A and the Posse, was released in 1987 and largely ignored; after a few tweaks of the lineup and the rough-edged subject matter, 1988's Straight Outta Compton made N.W.A into superstars. E seized the opportunity to release a solo project later in the year, titled Eazy-Duz-It, which would be the only full-length album he would complete; it would sell well over two-million copies.
After Ice Cube's bitter departure from N.W.A toward the end of 1989 (precipitated in part by Heller's business tactics), Eazy-E took over his not inconsiderable share of the rapping and songwriting duties, becoming the group's dominant voice on 1991's Efil4zaggin. His taste for cartoon-ish vulgarity began to undermine the claims of realistic inner-city reporting that the group had used to defend themselves. Disputes between the members led to N.W.A's breakup that summer, and a court battle between Ruthless and Dre's new label Death Row soon followed, with Eazy alleging that Death Row head Suge Knight had coerced Ruthless into releasing Dre from his contract.
The case was eventually thrown out, but a bitter feud between Dre and Eazy raged for the next several years; Dre's seminal solo debut The Chronic made merciless fun of Eazy. E's 1992 solo EP 5150 Home 4 tha Sick sold well, but did little to dispel his increasingly cartoon-ish image; he found more success running the Ruthless label, with a roster that included Above the Law, N.W.A bandmate MC Ren, the poorly received all-female group H.W.A. (Hoez With Attitude), and, eventually, the lucrative Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Eazy addressed his feud with Dre on the 1993 EP It's On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa, which famously included an actual photo of Dre wearing makeup and sequins during his World Class Wreckin' Cru days. Still, save for dissing Dre, Eazy didn't seem to have much to say, and despite healthy record sales, his artistic credibility was declining at an alarming rate. Eazy didn't help matters much when, in early 1993, he spoke out in support of Theodore Briseno, the only LAPD officer involved in the Rodney King beating to express displeasure; later in the year, he paid 2,500 dollars to attend a Republican fund-raiser, which his detractors saw as a further betrayal of his roots.
In early 1995, Eazy entered the hospital with respiratory difficulties, believing he had developed asthma. The diagnosis was far more serious: he had contracted AIDS. Eazy announced his plight to the public shortly thereafter, winning admiration for his straightforward attitude. Sadly, just a few weeks later, on March 26, 1995, the disease claimed his life. The record he had been working on, Str8 Off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton, was released posthumously (in unfinished form) later on in the year. In 2002, on the seventh anniversary of his death, some previously unreleased material from the Ruthless vaults was released as the EP Impact of a Legend, which was accompanied by a DVD.
Words: Steve Huey
Released only a month after Straight Outta Compton (1988), Eazy-Duz-It was the first N.W.A spin-off album. Years before Ice Cube went solo with Amerikkka's Most Wanted (1990), before Dr. Dre changed the rap game with The Chronic (1992), before MC Ren struggled to establish himself with Shock of the Hour (1993), and before Yella simply fell into obscurity, Eazy-E rose to immediate superstar status with this solo debut. It's no wonder why, for the album plays like a humorous, self-centered twist on Straight Outta Compton with Eazy-E, the most charismatic member of N.W.A, front and center while his associates are busy behind the scenes, producing the beats and writing the songs. 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. In terms of songwriting, the D.O.C., Ice Cube, and MC Ren are each credited; plus, Ren performs raps of his own on five of the 12 songs. The collaborative nature of the music -- with Dre and Yella producing; the D.O.C., Ice Cube, and MC Ren writing the songs; MC Ren featured as a guest on half of them; and Eazy-E performing -- fortunately makes Eazy-Duz-It more of an N.W.A effort than a true solo album. This is fortunate because as charismatic as he may be, Eazy-E isn't an especially gifted MC. He's at his best here when he's cracking wise and also when he's overshadowed by Dr. Dre's productions, particularly on the four-song sequence of "Eazy Duz It," "We Want Eazy," "Eazy-er Said Than Dunn," and "Radio" -- all heavily produced songs with layers upon layers of samples and beats competing with Eazy-E's rhymes for attention. Straight Outta Compton is no doubt the more revolutionary album, yet Eazy-Duz-It is a great companion, showcasing N.W.A's sense of humor and, despite the often violent subject matter, casting them in a lighter, more humorous mood.
Words: Jason Birchmeier
Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton is rapper Eazy-E's second and final full-length album. It was released posthumously on November 24, 1995. It contains the singles "Tha Muthaphukkin' Real" and "Just tah Let U Know". The album was certified Platinum. The album was supposed to be released in 1994 as a double album under the title Temporary Insanity. Eazy-E said in early 1995 that the album was set to be released in the summer of that year. It was eventually released eight months after his death. He also said that the album was set to have up to 60 tracks; only 14 tracks made it to the final release. His wife, Tomica Wright, has said that the tracks still exist, but are yet to be released because there are many legal issues that are yet to be settled. Some of the unreleased tracks appear on the 2002 EP Impact of a Legend. The song "Wut Would You Do" was a diss track aimed at Death Row Records. The song makes comments about Dr. Dre, and other various artists on or involved with Death Row, like Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound. On an interview in Lil Eazy-E's documentary The Life and Timez of Eric Wright, Eazy-E mentions on collaborating with such major acts as Bootsy Collins, Guns N' Roses, Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Ice-T, Kool G. Rap, Too $hort, KRS-One, and many more. Numerous rumors about several unreleased tracks are widespread. DJ Yella confirmed an unreleased track, named "Still Fuck'Em'" a "Fuck Tha Police style song" which featured other N.W.A bandmate, MC Ren. This track would have been on the album but remains unreleased because of several legal issues (*a version of "Still Fuck'em appeared on a follow-up release by Ruthless - "Impact of a Legend".)
Released a year after his previous EP (5150 Home 4 tha Sick, 1992) and a long five years since his one and only album to date (Eazy-Duz-It, 1988), It's On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa was both a stopgap release for Eazy-E and a response to the runaway success of Dr. Dre's The Chronic (1992). Eazy had been lambasted on that Dr. Dre album (and especially in the "Dre Day" video), so it's no surprise that he returns the favor here on "Real Muthaphuckkin G's" and "It's On," dissing not only Dre but also Snoop Doggy Dogg. This ugly, mudslinging conflict aside, Eazy truly shines on these eight songs. Granted, eight songs isn't a lot of music, especially since one of the eight is only a minute-long intro and another is yet another remake of "Boyz-in-the Hood" (and too because Eazy had been so AWOL in previous years — five years and still no follow-up album to Eazy-Duz-It!?!). On the little bit of music that is here, however, Eazy proves that he's still one of the best gangsta rappers out there in the early '90s. Sure, he's not an especially gifted MC, and he's not nearly as witty or perversely humorous as he had been previously on Eazy-Duz-It, either, but he has such a singular style and such attitude, he stands out amid the innumerable other gangstas out there at the time. And to elaborate upon his attitude, Eazy seems downright bitter here. The success of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube outside of N.W.A, not to mention the dissolution of that group, seems to have really upset him. So in a way, It's On feels cathartic, as if Eazy were venting all his frustrations. It results in a sharp group of songs: there are the Dre disses, of course, but also the murder fantasy of "Any Last Werdz," the f*ck-the-world nihilism of "Still a N***a," the sexist porno-dance of "Gimmie That Nutt," and the smoke-out of "Down 2 tha Last Roach." In other words, pretty much what you'd expect from Eazy. Yet there's an underlying current of irony here that makes It's On all the more poignant in retrospect. For one, Eazy may be dissing Dre to the extreme here, but pretty much all of the production work is straight from the Chronic playbook — textbook G-funk, to the point it seems almost parodic. And secondly, the heedless promotion of sexism here is downright haunting in the aftermath of Eazy's subsequent death from AIDS complications little more than a year later. So while on the surface It's On may seem like a simple stopgap EP, it's so much more, shedding light on what came of Eazy following his 15 minutes of fame with Eazy-Duz-It.
"Starring...Eazy-E is a 2007 digital compilation of tracks by the late rapper as well as songs that he featured on. The track-listing is a nicely curated selection of solo songs, N.W.A tracks and collaborations with other artists such as MC Ren ('Ruthless Villain') and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony ('Foe tha Love of $').
"Eternal E: Gangsta Memorial Edition" compiles the singles and album cuts from the late Eazy E (Eric Wright), founder and leader of pioneering west coast hip-hop band N.W.A. 17 cuts deep with a bonus DVD, there's a lot to consider here. The drawbacks to this release depend on one's threshold for rehashing old hits: Priority/Capitol/EMI holds the catalog rights to Eazy's pre-1993 Ruthless Records material, and this is technically the third release of this compilation (the first in 1995, re-released in 2003). Wright died in 1995 from complications of AIDS, initially leaving behind one solo album, two N.W.A. studio albums, and several EPs to his legacy. No less than seven songs from his debut album "Eazy Duz It" are included here, starting off with the Ice Cube-penned "Boyz N the Hood (remix)". A slow-rolling, synthesizer-punctuated funk ride, Eazy's high-pitched deadpan rap delivers several anecdotes about ghetto misadventure. Continuing variations on a theme, "8 Ball" canonizes Olde English brand malt liquor and "Nobody Move" is a bank-heist narrative. "We Want Eazy" and "Radio" are not gangster in theme, but make the most of shouting out his home base of Compton, California. Dr. Dre's production techniques made a name for himself here, incorporating more live instrument-based riff interpolations rather than straight samples. "I'd Rather F*** You", based on Funkadelic's "I'd Rather Be with You", was pioneering in the sense that it is essentially the first full-blown dirty love song by a rap band. Sure, other rappers cursed in songs, but here was Eazy (and the backup singers, including future Death Row siren Jewell) belting out "I'd rather f**k with you..." without a hint of irony. It's as close to balladry as Eazy and the group ever came (no pun intended). "Automobile" covers a more obscure George Clinton piece, extolling back-seat naughtiness to a country-piano riff. In addition to the Priority-era Eazy cuts, "Eternal" includes a pair of songs from the EP It's On (Dr. Dre) 187'um Killa. Closing out the CD is "A Lil' Eazier Said" by Eazy's eldest son, rapper Lil'E--it's nice nod, but unessential. The bonus DVD, the most substantive addition to this release, contains all of the Eazy E and N.W.A. music video clips, most of which are the uncensored versions. In addition, it includes three short PSA's from the Kaiser Family Foundation about HIV awareness. In this, the sobering reality of Eazy's early passing hits home. The pros of this compilation are somewhat self-explanatory- all of the hits, plus music videos. What about the cons? Again, it depends on one's threshold--the post-Dr. Dre songs suffer somewhat in quality by comparison, though Bobcat and others keep the synthesizer-heavy funk style intact (the sole standout is the Naughty By Nature contribution "Only If You Want It"). Also, it would be careless not to point out the sexism in much of the material. Eazy and N.W.A. took misogyny to colossal heights; and while the group dynamited the floodgates for self-expression, they also arguably short-circuited the trend of gender parity in rap that one-time Eazy protégé's J.J. Fad helped to arouse. In fairness, Eazy does slip in a line criticizing Dre's embarrassing assault on a female TV host, and lady rapper Sylk joins the party on "Ole School S***". But as an aggregate collection of work, it's hard to completely dismiss all the bi*ch-baiting as just `guy talk'. Especially in light of Eazy's STD-related demise, several songs now have a discomforting irony to them. If one isn't particularly interested in any of the N.W.A./Eazy studio albums, this is a can't miss.
Words: Hype Currie