EAZY-E, September 7, 1963-March 26, 1995

Eazy-E (born Eric Wright, son of soul-funk star Charles Wright, in Los Angeles) was one of the most successful entrepreneurial artists in rock history, bar none. In addition to forming the trailblazing gangsta rap group, N.W.A., and later achieving acclaim as a solo act, in 1985 he founded his own label, Ruthless Records (allegedly with illegal profits), which became a major force in the then-emerging West Coast hip-hop scene.

Eazy-Eís first album project, N.W.A. and the Posse (Macola/Rams Horn 5134; 1987), featured core members of N.W.A.óDr. Dre, DJ Yella, Ice Cubeóalong with a supporting cast including, among others, the Doc and Arabian Prince. With the addition of MC Ren, N.W.A. released the landmark LP, Straight Outta Compton (Ruthless 57102; 1999; #37), which almost single-handedly launched the gangsta movement on the strength of incendiary tracks such as "F*** Tha Police" (Ruthless; issued as a CD-single and twelve-inch disc in April 1991) and "Gangsta Gangsta" (Ruthless 191; 1990; #70 UK). The albumís notoriety helped propel the follow-up, Efil4zagginí (Ruthless 57126; 1991; #1), to the top of the charts.

Shortly thereafter, internal differences caused N.W.A. to implode, with individual members all going on to solo careers. Eazy-E had a head start in this regard, having issued an album, Eazy-Duz-It (Ruthless 57100; 1988; #41), which almost predated N.W.A. His first post-N.W.A. release, the mini-CD 5150 Home For Tha Sick (Ruthless 53815; 1993; #70), was a pedestrian affair, apparently due to the distractions of administrative duties. The next release, the mini-CD Itís On (Dr. Dre) 187 Um Killa (Ruthless 5503; 1993; #5), revealed a greater concern for his artistic legacy; "Real Muthaphuckin Gís," later released as a single (Ruthless 5508; 1994; #42), questioned Dr. Dreís role in pioneering the G-funk sound.

Shortly after collaborating with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on "Foe Tha Love Of" (Ruthless; 1995), Eazy-E was diagnosed as having HIV; a month later he died of AIDS. He continues to be represented by posthumous releases, most notably the compilation of previously released material, Eternal E (Ruthless 50544; 1995; #84), and the collection of unreleased tracks, Str8 Off Tha Streetz Of Muthaphukkin Ė E.W. Compton (Ruthless5504; 1995; #3).

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