One of the most important figures in telling the story of N.W.A did not participate in the making of the forthcoming Straight Outta Compton biopic on the group, which is due in theaters August 14.
Eazy-E, who was a member of the group and released N.W.A’s material on his Ruthless Records, died in 1995 due to complications from AIDS.
But the other members of the group – Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren and DJ Yella – saw first-hand what Eazy-E brought to the table as a businessman.
“Eazy was a genius when it comes to entertainment and promoting and understanding what people want,” Ice Cube says in an interview that is premiering exclusively on HipHopDX.
Eazy-E, Rap’s Pioneering Businessman
Launched in the mid-1980s, Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records was one of Rap’s most significant labels, releasing noteworthy material from J.J. Fad, Eazy-E, N.W.A, The D.O.C., Above The Law, Michel’le and Bone thugs-n-harmony, among others. With Ruthless, the Compton, California artist had the first nationally successful record label owned by a rapper and essentially created the model for the rapper as businessman.
“What Rosa Parks did for the civil rights movement, Eazy-E did for Hip Hop,” Phyllis Pollack, a publicist who represented Eazy-E, told me during a 2005 interview I conducted with her regarding Eazy-E for the Los Angeles Times. “Right now everybody claims to have a label, but Eric [Wright, Eazy-E’s given name] was the first Hip Hop artist to really make this work on the level he did.”
F. Gary Gray, who directed Straight Outta Compton, says that Eazy-E’s impact was profound.
“The world would be different if he didn’t exist and when you shoot these scenes,” he says in the video exclusive to HipHopDX, “you just try to get it as right as you possibly can.”
Straight Outta Compton Is The Story Of N.W.A’s Members
While it focuses on the story of N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton also follows the lives and careers of the group’s members. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, in particular, rocketed to superstardom after they each left N.W.A, Ice Cube in 1989 and Dr. Dre two years later. Ice Cube (“No Vaseline”) and Dr. Dre (“Fuck wit Dre Day [And Everybody’s Celebratin’”]”) both released scathing diss records aimed, in large part, at Eazy-E.
Noethtless, both Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were reportedly talking with Eazy-E before he passed away about reuniting N.W.A. It was an idea left unrealized once Eazy-E died in 1995.
The other members of N.W.A says that Straight Outta Compton properly potrays Eazy-E.
“I wish he was here to see this,” MC Ren says in the exclusive video clip, “because if he were here seeing this, he would love it.”
Adds DJ Yella: “It’s just sad that he couldn’t be here, but there’s some joy coming out of it. Plus, they making him a legend in the movie.”
While Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are among the most successful and influential artists in rap history, they both say that Eazy-E was pivotal to N.W.A’s succes.
“Eazy is the reason why this thing really worked,” Dr. Dre says in the exclusive clip.
“He’s one of the most courageous dudes I ever met,” Ice Cube adds in the video, “and hopefully this is a tribute to him and what he built.”
Watch the exclusive N.W.A Straight Outta Compton clip below: