Eazy-E’s effect on Hip Hop has been layered and profound. He didn’t only perfect the gangsta rap formula, but the shockwaves of N.W.A and Ruthless Records reflected in the pond of all of West Coast Hip Hop. The early beginnings of G-Funk is there as well as the catapulting consummate artists like Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, and MC Ren into the Hip Hop consciousness.
With the film Straight Outta Compton hitting theaters August 14, the importance of Eazy is sure to be reach a fever pitch around the country. And, if the trailer has anything to say about it, the movie has the chance to be the best Hip Hop film ever done.
*This list is in no particular order
N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton
Straight Outta Compton was a shot to the dome of the establishment, and it stands the test of time as one of the most audacious pieces of Hip Hop ever created. That it came from this crew at this time is its greatest feature, as it took the injustices prevalent in minority communities all over the world and put them on the front page.
Eazy-E- Eazy Duz It
Eazy Duz It is a masterpiece of West Coast gangsta rap, and it established Eazy-E as not just an iconic businessman and member of N.W.A, but an artist ready to carry the load of a performing an LP in his own right. The album was a group effort, to be sure, with the entire team sprinkled voraciously throughout the album. And while Eazy was performing the rhymes, it was clear who was talking when you heard certain bars from MC Ren, The D.O.C, Ice Cube and Eazy himself.
N.W.A – Niggaz4Life
One of the most controversial albums of all-time, this one had everything. The Vice President’s wife got involved when Tipper Gore and her Parent’s Music Resource Center got the RIAA to add the “Parental Advisory” tag to album covers. At the time, there was a real fear that such a label would cut into album sales. Of course, the opposite occurred, and the label ended up helping gangsta rap go mainstream. Then there was the UK obscenity trial, which ended with an overwhelming victory for free expression and music in the country. The Rolling Stone review was scathing, wherein the reviewer mentioned “listening to it is like hearing the loudest guys at a neighborhood barbecue strut, brag, wolf-whistle and lie about sex.”
Bone Thugs N Harmony – Creepin On Ah Come Up
A masterful EP, Creepin On Ah Come Up established the Bone Thugs N Harmony foursome as a fearsome combination of singing and rapping. Literally applying melody to their bars, songs like “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also set the stage for the masterpiece to come, E. 1999 Eternal.
J.J. Fad – Supersonic
The single “Supersonic” was Dre’s first number one hit, and it led the way for the rest of Ruthless to figure out the balance between radio and gangsta rap content. Unfortunately, with the rise of N.W.A J.J. Fad had to wait a while before putting out their second effort Not Just A Fad.
N.W.A – 100 Miles And Runnin’
N.W.A. was handicapped after Ice Cube left. Pushing forward, their first release following the controversy was the 100 Miles and Runnin’ EP. Yes, there are plenty of Cube disses to be laid around but on its own merit, the project still ranks as one of the best bodies of work to come out of the West.
Bone Thugs N Harmony – E. 1999 Eternal
Essentially one of the last projects worked on by Eazy-E before his AIDS-related death, E. 1999 Eternal was darker and bleaker than their Creepin On Ah Come Up debut. Following some chaos and the realization that their mentor was gone, Bone Thugs N Harmony added a few tracks including their crossover hit “Crossroads.” The rest is history.
Above The Law – Livin’ Like Hustlers
Before Suga Free became known as the undisputed King of Pomona, California, Above The Law put on for the city first. Their calling card became Livin’ Like Hustlers. While N.W.A. were more gangsta rap, this West Coast group were players and hustlers more concerned with survival than anything.
Michel’le – Michel’le
Anyone who watches TV One’s R&B Divas understands completely how much of a character Michel’le has become. Regardless, she was an instrumental figure during the early beginnings of Ruthless Records and Death Row. Her debut Michel’le was through and through, a very specific R&B album. And yes, “Something In My Heart” is still a banger.
The D.O.C – No One Can Do It Better
More than any album on this list, there’s a large amount of die-hard West Coast Hip Hop fans who consider The D.O.C.’s No One Can Do It Better. So good, some felt how obvious it became once the Dallas-native became a critical part later on Dr. Dre’s groundbreaking album The Chronic.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.
Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.