Left: Album art from N.W.A. Right: Mural on Slauson and Main
Have you ever been late for work? Were you speeding? Did a cop drive by at that precise moment? And did you say, “Fuck Tha Police”?
Congratulations, you are from LA.
And you can thank Eazy-E, COMPTONS N EFFECT YALL!!!
Eric Lynn Wright was born in Compton. He was a Crip, he dropped out of high school, and he sold drugs. According to conventional wisdom, Eazy should have been shot in the street, sent to jail for life, or on death row. When I tell my students that college is the way out of South LA, I neglect to mention Eazy-E’s success.
Eric signed the forefathers of gangsta rap to his label, Ruthless Records: Dr. Dre from the World Class Wreckin’ Cru and Ice Cube from the C.I.A.. Eazy served as executive producer — the financial backbone. Once these latter two penned “Boyz in the Hood” in 1986, Eazy formed N.W.A. along with the Arabian Prince. Eazy extended his talents beyond drug-dealing and bank-rolling and into the studio. He first emerged as an emcee on the tracks “Boyz in the Hood” and “Gangsta, Gangsta.”
The rest of Eazy’s life is well-documented and well-known. Platinum records followed. Controversy followed. Beefs with his former crew followed. Beef with authority followed. According to conventional wisdom, Eazy should have been cut down in the prime of life, either by a rival, a neo-Nazi skinhead group, a petty arrest, or a fall from fame. None of these things happened.
Instead, Eazy was cut down AIDS at the age of 31. He died 10 days after he was admitted to Cedars-Sinai. He is buried at Rose Hills in Whittier. Mayor Bradley declared April 7th to be “Eazy-E Day” in LA, so mark your calendars.
Eazy still resonates. He was not a harlequin gangster, or a little boy singing about rims. Nor was he an east-coast transplant in the Humpty Dance video. He was a true Angeleno. He never left the ‘hood and he never forgot about his home. As he neared death, he looked back on his life:
“…I may not seem like a guy you would pick to preach a sermon. But I feel it is now time to testify because I do have folks who care about me hearing all kinds of stuff about what’s up. Yeah, I was a brother on the streets of Compton doing a lot of things most people look down on — but it did pay off. Then we started rapping about real stuff that shook up the LAPD and the FBI. But we got our message across big time, and everyone in America started paying attention to the boys in the ‘hood. Soon our anger and hope got everyone riled up. […] I’ve got thousands and thousands of young fans that have to learn about what’s real when it comes to AIDS. Like the others before me, I would like to turn my own problem into something good that will reach out to all my homeboys and their kin. Because I want to save their asses before it’s too late.”