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Former manager Jerry Heller, who has been skewered relentlessly in song (Ice Cube's dis track "No Vaseline") and video (Dr. Dre's "Dre Day"), calls Eazy "a visionary." Eric's talents weren't as an artist, Heller says, but as a boss. It was behind the scenes where Eric made his mark on Cube, one of the greatest gangsta lyricists, and on Dr. Dre, the greatest record producer of the past 25 years.
"Eazy had the ability to influence you to be better than you were. Even though Ice Cube went to a really good upper-middle-class high school in the San Fernando Valley, and was a great lyricist, he would write the verse and Eric would say to him, 'You know, that's really corny.' He would make him change it to where it had some street credibility," Heller says. "He was an interesting guy because while he may not have been the original creator of things, he had the ability to influence you to achieve things you maybe never would have achieved."
That ability to inspire greatness was a big part of the reason that, at the time of Eric's 1995 death, the West Coast was the center of the hip-hop universe. Everything fell apart in a little over a year. Soon after Eric died, Suge Knight bet the Death Row franchise on Tupac Shakur by bailing him out of jail, alienating Dr. Dre, who then decided to start his own label. Then Pac got shot. With Pac dead, and Dre "in the lab, with a pen and a pad, try'na get this damn label off," there was an opening for the East Coast's Bad Boy Entertainment to steal center stage.
The West has not been best since.
Ren says it all could have been different if Eric had lived.
"I tell people this: If he had been here to see people like Puffy and Master P and all of them, how they had their companies run, he was the type of person who would have wanted to compete with that. If he saw them doing it like that, he would have done anything in his power to have it crackin' like that," says Ren. "It's not like he would have just sat back and watched . . . He would have done that same shit to compete with them."
Yes, everything could have gone a different direction. Maybe "Golden State of Mind" would have been named The Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll's "Song of the Year" last year instead of Jay-Z's tribute to his native New York. Sound crazy? The guys who knew Eric, guys like Ren and Chip, have no doubt about it. Eric worked too hard not to have a huge effect on things.
"Back in the day, he would come get me and Ren, early in the morning, and I can remember jumping in the truck with Eric. We would just go grab some records from Macola and just go out to the swap meets and just give them to people. We would just hand them out, and that gave Eric a lot of street buzz," remembers Chip.
Maybe he couldn't rap with the best of them, but The Greatest Gangsta understood the game better than anyone.
"What people don't realize about Eric is that Eric had an ear, you know? They say people that can see into the future, they create the future. He was one of those people. He had foresight," says Chip. "Eric could see things happening before they happened. If he hadn't passed away, yeah, there's a lot of things that would have been different."
r.i.p eric eazye wright west coast o.g founder of n.w.a eazy duz it classic rap album of all time stll talkin shit luv it eazy e is miss n the rap game rap music is boring now