Today, March 26th 2020, marks 25 years to the day that the world lost Eazy-E, the pioneering and hugely influential rapper who propelled gangsta rap by leading the now-iconic group N.W.A.
Active from 1987 to 1991, Eazy-E and his N.W.A. bandmates Dr. Dre, Arabian Prince, Ice Cube, DJ Yella and MC Ren, became the major force of West Coast rap when they began releasing their controversial material through their famed label Ruthless Records.
Born and raised in Compton, a location close to Los Angeles that inspired N.W.A.’s critically acclaimed debut album, Eazy-E was branded a “thug” in his youth while selling drugs on the streets to earn enough money—a career path he turned his back on at the age of 22 when his cousin was shot and killed. “The hood where he grew up was a dangerous place,” Eazy-E’s manager Jerry Heller later said on reflection of the rapper’s early life.
“He was a small guy. ‘Thug’ was a role that was widely understood on the street; it gave you a certain level of protection in the sense that people hesitated to fuck with you. Likewise, ‘dope dealer’ was a role that accorded you certain privileges and respect.”
Eazy-E, deciding he will be able to make more money from music in the bright city lights of Los Angeles than on the streets of Compton, set about throwing some of the most explicit lyrics music had ever heard into the mainstream. N.W.A. didn’t hold back and, in no uncertain terms, they were delivering their own message regardless who did or didn’t want to hear it. Despite being banned from most major American radio stations, the group continued to grow in notoriety. With two best-selling studio albums to their names and sold out venues across the country, issues quickly began to surface on a regular basis.
1991’s record Niggaz4Life, just the group’s second album, would be their final completed project. Given their strong personalities and their fast and furious rise to fame, money conflicts ultimately became the downfall of N.W.A. with each member splintering off into their own solo careers. Eazy-E, who was often cited at being amid the centre of the royalty disputes, was already sitting the release of Eazy-Duz-It, his first solo album.
Released in September 1989 through Ruthless Records, Eazy-Duz-It cemented Eazy-E’s stature as one of gangsta raps all time greats—a legacy which would later see him branded ‘The Godfather of Gangsta Rap’. Widely regarded as one of the greatest gangsta rap albums of all time, his solo effort would remain the only full-length individual project Eazy-E would release before his untimely death in 1995.
In a statement released through Eazy-E’s camp in March 1995, he said: “I’m in the biggest fight of my life and it ain’t easy. But I want to say much love to those who have been down with me and thanks for all your support. Just remember: It’s your real time and your real life.” The news had been confirmed that the rapper was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
Just months after admitted to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles with a violent cough, Eazy-E passed away at the age of 30.
Here, on the 25th anniversary of his passing, we’re revising the iconic musician in the studio as he lays down tracks for his debut solo record. Enjoy the footage, below.