Eazy-E (real name Eric Wright) was born on 7 September 1963 in the Compton area of South Central Los Angeles. His father, Richard, was a postal worker, and his mother, Kathie, was a grade school teacher (Eazy himself dropped out of school in 10th grade).
In 1985 he started Ruthless Records, reportedly funding it with money he made from dealing drugs. His 1988 solo debut, Eazy-Duz-It, is widely regarded as a pioneering record in West Coast hardcore rap.
Eazy co-founded N.W.A. (short for Niggaz With Attitude) in the mid-80s with Dr Dre (Andre Young), Ice Cube (Oshea Jackson), MC Ren (Lorenzo Patterson) and Yella (Antoine Carraby).
In 1988, they crashed into the mainstream with a lethal combination of savage rhythms and war-zone rhymes on the double-platinum album, Straight Outta Compton, changing hip hop forever.
This was the beginning of gangsta rap. Cranking up the violence to previously unheard-of levels, suddenly NWA made Public Enemy sound like Herman’s Hermits. The album’s anti-authority anthem, Fuck Tha Police, prompted the FBI to write a letter to Ruthless Records stating that the law enforcement community “took exception” to the song.
Although Eazy-E said NWA were just trying to paint a picture of ghetto life, the group’s explosive record sales were in great part because of its public provocations.
NWA started to splinter by 1990. Ice Cube left the group for a solo career, followed soon after by Dr Dre.
The break with Dre was extremely bitter. In 1992, Eazy-E unsuccessfully sued Dre under federal racketeering laws; Dre, in turn, claimed that he’d been underpaid by Eazy-E and NWA’s manager, Jerry Heller.
Eazy-E died in Los Angeles on 26 March 1995 of AIDS-related complications. He was 31. He had been in critical condition and under sedation in the intensive care unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center since 24 February.
Eazy-E (Eric Wright)
Dr Dre (Andre Young)
Ice Cube (Oshea Jackson)
MC Ren (Lorenzo Patterson)
Yella (Antoine Carraby)